Like her character the rouge agent Nikita, Maggie Q has remained an enigma. While Nikita begins to reveal herself throughout the second season of the show of the same name, Maggie tells her story through her tattoos.
In 2010, the ad for the debut of the hit show Nikita featured Maggie Q lying seductively across a leather chair; her gun drawn, her legs taut (her feet in non-spy-sensible heels), and the phoenix tattoo on her thigh is in the centre of the photo. When it first splashed across internet ads, tattoo aficionados wondered if the ink was real or an accessory from the shows 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 modelling 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.”
“I was raised Catholic but have been studying Buddhism for eight years,” Q says. “No matter what religion you [practice], who wouldn’t respect the Buddhist principles?” The last time Q visited Tibet, the head of a monastery wrote out a mantra of the compassionate Buddha. She has “Compassion to All Living Beings” on her right wrist as a constant reminder of the sentiment.
Q is a vegan who made the transition from omnivore after an epiphany at a Bryan Ferry concert in Hong Kong. While she was waiting for a friend to show up, she spotted a woman tabling. “People were rushing to get into the concert and were ignoring her, so I walked up and asked what she was doing.” The woman was starting the awareness of PETA in Asia and sent Q some pamphlets. “I always considered myself an animal lover, but after reading through the literature I was done eating meat and I stopped cold turkey.” Q has since worked hand-in-hand with PETA and is planning on speaking out against animal cruelty in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, an unfortunately named town with a plethora of puppy mills. To this day, she still stops when she sees someone on the street working for nonprofits, and if she sees people protesting on behalf of animals, she says, “I try to give them money for lunch and tell them thank you for standing up for the voiceless!”
Q, who has more than her fair share of rescue dogs and demanded that her wardrobe in Priest have no animal skins or fur, is compassionate when it comes to coworkers, too. “Action comes second nature to me. I don’t mess around — I could kill somebody,” she says. “During filming for the pilot of Nikita I dropped this guy who was 6´4´´ with a left hook. This massive dude didn’t duck when he was supposed to and I was throwing it blind. The poor guy wasn’t even a stuntman — he was an actor with a speaking role — but because his eye wouldn’t open we had to cut his part. I felt so bad I bought him flowers.”
Her Next Tattoos
The free spirit who doesn’t think that birds or animals should be caged isn’t going to let future tattoos hinder her Hollywood career. She’s going to express herself and is thrilled her current job embraces her creativity and skin art. “I want more tattoos,” she says. “I told the creator that I’m going to get more and he said, ‘Okay, just let me know what you are going to get so that we can write it into the show.’”
Words by: Rocky Rakovic
Photos by: Sarah McColgan
Stylist: Rose Garcia, Forrest & Bob tank top; Cosabella bra and underwear.
Hair: Seiji at The Wall Group
Makeup: Mathew Nigara for Nars
Manicure: Julie Kandalec at ba-reps.com
Location: Fast Ashley’s