Maggie Q's story through her tattoos.
Jose Duran tube top; Patricia Field suspender briefs; Raphael Young shoes.
Like her character the rogue agent Nikita, Maggie Q has remained an enigma. While Nikita begins to reveal herself throughout the second season of the CW show of the same name, Maggie tells her story through her tattoos.
In 2010, the ad for the debut of the CW Network show Nikita featured Maggie Q lying seductively across a leather chair; her gun is drawn, her legs are taut (her feet in non-spy-sensible heels), and the phoenix tattoo on her thigh is in the center of the photo. When it first splashed across billboards and internet ads, tattoo aficionados wondered if the ink was real or an accessory from the CW's makeup department. “I got it in my mid-20s,” says Q, who turns 33 this month. “I always had it hidden because I don't get tattoos for any other reason than they mean something deep to me.” But the creators of Nikita thought that the ink fit Q's character. “Nikita grew up in a bad situation,” she explains. “She was on the streets, was a drug addict, and ended up in prison. Just being tattooed worked for Nikita.”
Throughout Q's journey, fortune-tellers and the clairvoyant have told her that she's a bird, that her spirit is free. “I was told that the man I end up with one day needs to provide a cage but leave the door open,” she says. “Once that guy closes the door, my spirit withers.” To commemorate her essence she had Joshua Johnson at Next!, in Vancouver, Canada, tattoo the mythical bird onto her hip. “Rising from the ashes is so my journey,” she says.
Q was born Margaret Quigley to a Polish- and Irish-American father and Vietnamese mother in Hawaii, an archipelago formed by volcanic ash. At 17 she moved to Japan in pursuit of a modeling or acting career. “Quigley” was difficult for Asian speakers to pronounce, so she dropped the “uigley.” “I didn't know the language, I had never been to Asia, and I really only had $20 in my pocket.” But she left the nest and soared.
“Six years ago when my best friend died, I got her name on my wrist from Charlie Roberts [at Spotlight Tattoo] on Melrose,” Q says. She has a strong bond with the people in her life, and the reason we don't know much about them, or her, is because in this strange new TMZ world where cameras are trained on the latest hot mess, Q keeps it low-key with her friends. “I know as a celebrity I am supposed to go to parties and events, but it's gotten to the point where my publicist doesn't even forward me the invites anymore,” Q says. “Rather than going to someplace fake where I can't even carry a conversation, I think going out should be having people over to your house and drinking wine while really getting to know each other and connecting.”
One such connection is with Jackie Chan, who took her under his wing when she began her career in Asia. “He was a good mentor,” Q says. “But funnily enough I really didn't get good at the action until I came back to the States because I wasn't focusing on it over there.” Q didn't set out to be an action starlet, but that's the specialty Hollywood forged for her—and one in which she excels. “I'm sure Jennifer Aniston would die to do an action movie because they are so fun, but nobody will ever give her the opportunity because she is the funny girl next door.” Although Q lit up the screen opposite Ethan Hawke without a single roundhouse kick in New York, I Love You, she knows she's a natural fit for frenetic, physical fight films like Rush Hour 2, Mission Impossible III, Live Free or Die Hard, and Priest. “With Nikita there needed to be a believability factor. That's why I don't paint my nails or have a hairdo. I also try to block out the scenes and choreograph the fight scenes so that they are stimulating but not so over-the-top that they aren't believable.”
She credits Chan, along with her mother, for bestowing a ridiculous work ethic on her. When she's filming the one-hour episodes of Nikita, Q works longshoremen days, six times a week. She could cut them short, but she says she would then feel like the viewer wouldn't connect. “I took the role of Nikita as a challenge,” she says. “To be honest I didn't really feel impressed by the CW. It was all girly and fashion, and I saw an opportunity to grow a viewership and change the perception of a network.”