HomeVietnamese AmericanMaggie Q stars in Protege with Samuel Jackson & Michael Keaton
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Maggie Q stars in Protege with Samuel Jackson & Michael Keaton

Interview By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Writer

Maggie Q stars in the 2021 action thriller, The Protégé, as a Vietnamese orphan, Anna, who is taken in by a professional assassin named Moody played by Samuel L. Jackson. Moody is murdered and Anna tracks down the men responsible, becoming entangled with Michael Keaton’s mysterious and murderous Rembrandt. In a recent Zoom interview with AsAmNews, Maggie Q described her experiences in the making of the film. 

What made you select this project?

I would say it was very director motivated and luckily writer motivated as well. Then obviously after I read it, and I knew who was directing (Martin Mangle). So everything very nicely dovetailed into something that I thought was positive. 

Describe what it was like working with Samuel L. Jackson?

I love Sam. It was really interesting. It was important that we have a chemistry that you don’t often see on screen–an adopted father-daughter love that they shared together. There’s a delicate balance with that. It’s not a romantic relationship. It had to affect people, otherwise, they don’t care about the people in the film. It was natural. It was very easy. We met and we instantly liked each other.  

Describe what it was like working with Michael Keaton?

He’s amazing. He’s a legend. He’s one of my favorite actors. Slightly nerve-wracking but totally enjoyable.

You  were actually a protege of Jackie Chan, did you draw from your experiences with Chan in any way for this film?

I didn’t. I get my work ethic from where I started in film. I work hard. I was trained properly. I think you naturally draw from that. Not so much a personal inspiration but more like my work values and everything I gained from that experience,  I definitely brought into this film. 

Tell me about the stunts for this film. Did you perform all your own stunts? Any funny or interesting behind the scenes stories about that?

I mostly did. There are a few things I didn’t do, that my double did. She did a great job on. I did about 95 percent of what you see in the film. Every single day was a tough day when it comes to stunts, a long day, but it was very gratifying. I think we got a good product. 

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So which stunts did you use your stunt double for?

A couple that involve glass and she does all my rehearsals. And there’s a car hit, that we don’t do. We don’t hit females with cars. We only hit men with cars so we had a guy do my car hit. It’s like the one thing we don’t have to suffer. We suffer everything else. 

Lastly, any pandemic stories? Have you personally or professionally been impacted by the pandemic?

We got about 90 percent of the film done. For that really important ten percent, 15 percent we had left, we had to wait a few months until we were able to go back to film. Because Asia was on lockdown, we actually had to go back to Europe to finish up the film. 

I am really excited that we are getting released in August. We had (planned) an earlier release, but we wanted to keep it theatrical. Yes, we aren’t able to promote it the way we normally do. We aren’t able to have our premieres. You’re not able to sit in the room with me which would always nice and is always nicer, but to get it theatrical which is what we were aiming for and the film we made is for the big screen, for me, I’m super grateful. I’m just glad people are going to be able to see it the way we want them to see it. 

Any interesting anecdotes or funny stories about filming in  Bucharest, London and Da Nang?

We were basically shut-down by COVID in every country, but shut-down right when we needed to be. We were finished and in two of the countries, as we were leaving, they were shutting the doors on us, closing down the country, like full lockdowns. We got very lucky, but COVID was chasing us a little bit. 

The whole experience was very funny (laughs). Making a film in Eastern Europe in the dead of winter is definitely not easy. We had a lot of mishaps and a lot of things that did go wrong. Like, we built a street set for Vietnam, and that morning, it starts snowing. Obviously, that gets cancelled and you’re running to another set, trying to re-organize your day. We did go to Vietnam, but we had to film some of the sets in Europe just because of the pandemic, we were boxed in and we couldn’t go there and do big street scenes with extras and all of that. It’s film and you just got to roll with it and I think everybody had a really good attitude. We were excited to be making what we were making, so it was great. 

What are your favorite scenes in the movie?

I guess in a big action movie, people are always expecting which big action scenes are your favorite. For me, a lot of the dialogue scenes with Michael were challenging in the best way and very fun, because he’s super collaborative. We have this scene in the film that’s seven or eight pages long. I think people’s attention spans have shrunk, with the advent of social media and everything else that people do. You’re not getting this scripts that have these longer, sort of drawn out, really dialogue-driven scenes where you really go deeper with these characters to see their dynamics? And Michael and I, we have a couple of those.  And it’s so gratifying as a creative person, to create these arcs within a scene because they just don’t write them that long any more. They don’t go that in depth. This writer was really exceptional. It’s really nuanced, this cat-and-mouse that’s going on between the two of them. It’s complex and you can’t have that in a page, or two pages. When you have something tactical, you have to really see it from a birds eye view and so that’s what he did with these longer scenes.

What do you want the audience to take away from this film?

At the end of the day, we’re entertainers. We’re not curing cancer. It’s nice at the end of the summer for people to see something that’s number one is entertaining, but number two really did create and flesh out these characters properly so that relationships really matter in it. And I’ve heard this already that people are going away from it, getting a lot more from it than they expected. 

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