Interview: Maggie Q Talks The Protégé, Working With Michael Keaton & Samuel L. Jackson

By | August 18, 2021

The latest action film from legendary director Martin Campbell is out August 20, 2021, in theaters. The Protégé features a star-studded cast that includes Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Keaton in the lead roles.

“Rescued as a child by the legendary assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) and trained in the family business, Anna (Maggie Q) is the world’s most skilled contract killer,” says the official synopsis. “But when Moody – the man who was like a father to her and taught her everything she needs to know about trust and survival – is brutally killed, Anna vows revenge. As she becomes entangled with an enigmatic killer (Michael Keaton) whose attraction to her goes way beyond cat and mouse, their confrontation turns deadly and the loose ends of a life spent killing will weave themselves even tighter.”

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese got to speak with The Protégé star Maggie Q about the film, her chemistry with Keaton, and getting to work with Campbell.

Tyler Treese: Martin Campbell, talk about a legendary director. He’s helmed so many great action films. How exciting was it to get the chance to work with him?

Maggie Q: Martin Campbell was the magic word because they sort of called me about this script and said, well, we’ve got this. It was formerly called The Asset. Just turn the title already. I’m like, oh, here we go another action movie, whatever shallow piece of, and then they started dropping the names. They’re like Martin is directing, Richard Wenk wrote the script and I’m like, “Oh, wow, these are the major players in this genre.” One of the things I told my agents, I was like, I don’t want to do an action movie. I specifically said those words. Then this came up with a team that was really undeniable. If you’re going to do an action movie, you do it at this level. But it’s true. I did [say that].

Your chemistry with Michael Keaton is so great throughout the film, whether it’s romantic tension or a life or death action scene. Was that there from the get-go or did you have to kind of develop that chemistry on set?

I think it’s both. I think you kind of have to, I think number one, I want to give credit to the people who cast films because it’s not easy. I mean it’s not easy to have to cast a film and just say, “Hey, I guess that’ll work.” Good casting director, good directors have instincts on cast. They’re very good at what they do and it’s not random. So I think them putting it together already was a blessing. So they give us a leg up, I think Michael and I, and he’s such a great guy. He’s a great human. He’s easy to collaborate with, and trust me, I have worked with people at Michael Keaton’s level. I worked with movie stars. Now, movie stars, easy is not the word I would use on any level. So when you have someone who’s just focused on the work, who just wants to make the chemistry what it should be and give the film the best chance that it has. Working with someone like Michael is such a dream because that’s his focus. I mean, there’s no ego, there’s no me and my accomplishments. It’s really like, what’s the work at hand and how do we do this? Right. Let’s put the work in, and we did. We did a lot of work together.

I love the beginning of the film. It just starts off with some really great action scenes and there are so many more to come. Did any of the stunts really stand out or any of the sequences particularly fun to do?

Yeah, I think the jump from inside the building and then the car hits. My fight with Michael was really fun because Michael, he did a great job too. I was so impressed with him. He would always go, “Well, obviously, you’re a lot better,” or whatever. I’d say that makes no sense to me because we’re doing this together and we’re good together. That’s what matters. He was really funny about how hard he worked. He’d get these sequences down and he really did really well. He’s great in the movie, like his physicality is believable, and that’s hard to do. None of us are spring chickens in this movie, so we’re working with what we got. I thought he was awesome, and also not a likely suspect for an action piece like this. That is Martin Campbell for having that vision.

Over your career, you’ve gotten to play a lot of bad-ass women that can serve as inspirations. As an actress, what does that mean to you to that you keep landing such empowering roles?

I just want to play women that women like and want to be. I mean, I want to be like a character that I play [laughs]. I have goals too. With women like this because a lot of the women that I play they’re really survivors. They really took the hand they were dealt, which was not a great one, and they turn it into something for themselves. That’s kind of something that I know that women are entirely capable of. I also had seen it and I think that portraying it is not only inspiring, but it also gives due credit to the women who have done that. It is a very female thing to pick up and just keep driving forward. I love that about women and I like portraying women like that.

One thing I really like about your character in the film is that sure, she’s the student of Samuel L. Jackson’s character, but they’re treated as total equals. Can you discuss that relationship and what it was like working with a professional like Jackson?

I love their relationship. Martin was so adamant about the chemistry for them. The opposite type of chemistry, obviously, that I have with Michael where you, you really feel that love that bond. It’s platonic, like I raised this girl as my equal and she’s my partner. This is not somebody who works for me. This is not somebody who owed me anything. This is someone who I molded that I’m proud of. I look at her and I go, yeah, that’s my girl. That’s really kind of the relationship they have and what they do have is very strong is they have a really great friendship. Martin and I were very adamant that it showed because you have to love the two of them together. You have to feel and know that there’s history, right? The last thing you want to feel when you’re looking at her relationship like that is that you don’t feel the history. You don’t feel like these two people come from many, many years together. I think with them, you do feel it, or I hope you do.

In storyline, a good bit of the film takes place in Vietnam. What did it mean for you to get the film there?

I wish more things were shot there. Unfortunately, what happened is they did go to Vietnam and film, Martin and our DP. I ended up not being able to go there and Michael ended up not being on that because of the pandemic. So we had all our plans to shoot in Eastern Europe, in London and in Asia that became a no-go because of what happened with the pandemic. So we had to scramble to, while we couldn’t bring a whole crew there, I mean, obviously, we had a small crew go there to do certain things, but we couldn’t bring a hundred people there during a pandemic. It would have been a really bad decision. But I really am excited to portray Vietnam in a movie because it’s been a long time. Really the only movies you see Vietnam in them are war movies.

You mentioned you didn’t really want to do an action film next, but how can you resist with such an amazing cast. Now that this is over, what do you want to do next as an actress?

I’m doing it. I am going to do a comedy for Fox called Pivoting that starts next month. We’re doing a cable run, like 10 episodes. We premiere in January and I work with this actress, Ginnifer Goodwin, and this other actress in Eliza Coupe. We just have so much fun. I mean, you go to work and it’s not work. I would love a break from these highly stressful, big action movies to hanging out with a bunch of girlfriends, having fun and making a comedy. So I’m really happy about that. Then next, I think film-wise, I can’t really talk about it yet, but what I hope to do is I hope to combine the two genres, if that makes sense.

Definitely. One of the more unique things you did in your career was you starred in the video game Need for Speed: Undercover. That has such a cult following, so many people love that game. Was that a fun experience for you to do and would you want to do another video game in the future?

It was really fun. I’m not a game person, so I had no clue what that world was like. So like EA kind of introduced me to this whole world of their lineup. Then what we did was like, we cut this like little caper, this little like movie into the video game. If you pass a level, then you’d know what happened in the story. It was new to them too, to even be doing this. So they had fun with it too. Yeah, I really liked it. I thought it was really fun. I don’t know if they still do that. Maybe you could tell me with video games, but I thought it was a cool experience. It was very unique and something, something I’ve ever done before.

Yeah. They do a lot more mo-cap stuff now, so it’s kind of evolved even more. Then my last question for you, this is such a fun action-packed film, and it’s going to be made better by seeing it with others. You mentioned having the difficulties of the pandemic impact the filming, how exciting are you that it does get that theatrical release?

I can’t believe it because we were supposed to be out obviously much earlier before the summer. It was disappointing that we couldn’t do it and we had to push it. I mean, initially, it was very briefly, and then I knew that better things were coming and that if we were going to hold, it would be for a reason. I think we really did. The fact that we can get this into theaters, which was our dream and our vision, is it’s really everything. I know Martin and I called each other about it. We were so, so happy. I mean, you don’t really want to work this hard and make something for the big screen that never gets seen on the big screen. So I think that no matter how it does, we are so grateful that that’s the way people are going to see it.