Masala: Maggie Q Returns to Action in ‘The Protégé’

Maggie Q is no stranger to kicking ass or taking names as she’s best known for her work in various action roles both in Asia and in Hollywood. After a few years away from the genre, she returns with other legendary names in a woman of color-led thriller. 

Q plays Anna in “The Protégé,” a skilled contract killer who vows vengeance when her beloved mentor is brutally murdered by opposing forces. The film boasts a supporting cast of Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson, and is directed by “GoldenEye” and “Casino Royale”’s Martin Campbell. “I wasn’t looking to do any action movies anymore … [Then] I got the call about this,” she revealed, “[They] were like, ‘Let me lead with … I know you’re not looking for this but.’ And then there were all these ‘buts’ and the ‘buts’ were pretty incredible … this is a lot more elevated than anything I’d done before.” 

The concept of “The Protégé” is certainly unique with its focus centered around a woman of color—and an Asian one at that—but as someone who was boxed into the Asian martial artist trope for a long time, Q’s hesitations were understandable. “If they put Asians in a movie, then there has to be a level of martial arts or physicality, and that’s just ridiculously not true,” Q explained, recounting a moment in her career when someone asked about her non-existent martial arts background. “When you’re Asian, they just assume you know martial arts.” 

She went on to discuss how she has been able to stand her ground when it comes to how Hollywood has portrayed minorities. “I think as a minority and with the lack of opportunity, it’s … about what you don’t do because they can’t perpetuate stereotypes on their own,” Q said. “We have to be involved in that, and so it’s important to say no. It’s important to say, ‘That seems degrading to me’ or “No, I don’t believe that’s true so I’m not going to portray it in that way.’” 

With the rise in AAPI representation in the entertainment industry in recent years, Q is glad that there are now roles for those who never had them before, regardless of Hollywood’s intentions. “I’m an optimist by nature. I don’t care why people do things, but I know that if the opportunities start to present [themselves], then it’s our job to go in there and make those opportunities our own and create more because of who we are,” she expressed. “You can’t control people’s intentions so forget that and really focus on what your responsibility is.” 

Watch the full interview to hear more about Q’s experience working on “The Protégé” and what it was like to film on location in Vietnam, and watch the movie out now in theaters.