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Maggie Q on Her Sexual Chemistry with Michael Keaton in ‘The Protégé’

Just two months after major back surgery, Maggie Q was ready to get back in action for Martin Campbell’s latest.
Maggie Q In The Protege
By  · Published on August 30th, 2021

Entering the Discourse is a thrice-weekly column where we dig into who is saying what about new releases and upcoming projects. Today, hear from Maggie Q on The Protégé, her on-screen relationship with Michael Keaton, and her return to action movies.

In Martin Campbell‘s The Protégé, actor Maggie Q plays Anna, the world’s most skilled assassin, who is seeking revenge after the death of her mentor, Moody (Samuel L. Jackson). Along the way, she meets contract killer Rembrandt (Michael Keaton), and they quickly become enamored with one another.

But of course, their relationship becomes complicated. What else can you expect when two assassins fall in love?

Sexual Chemistry in The Protégé

The sexual chemistry and tension between Maggie Q and Michael Keaton in The Protégé go deeper than just physical attraction. In an interview with Screen Rant, Q talks about how she and Keaton worked together to make this an attraction based on “a battle of wits.” She says:

“It’s funny to be able to bring that to life in that way, where you have these two people who come together and they’re not really sure what just happened. They meet and they’re like, ‘Wait a minute, why was I affected by this person?’

“That’s very hard to do. It’s so much more interesting to me than just meeting someone and being like, ‘You’re attractive, I’m attractive. We should probably get physical because we’re both kind of attractive.’

“It’s not that relationship whatsoever. It’s two people playing this game with very high stakes. And that was what Michael and I focused on.”

Maggie Q explains that this dynamic worked out so well because of the work both she and Keaton put into it. She says:

“People have different work ethics, and Michael was so dedicated to our chemistry and so dedicated to the written word. He had so much respect for me and the writer [Richard Wenk], and we were able to all work together. It was so collaborative, and that meant a lot to me. You can be in environments that are that, and you can be in environments that aren’t, and you’re not going to get the result you want if the environment isn’t that.”

Maggie Q Back in Action

The Protégé marks Maggie Q’s return to the action-thriller genre after pivoting to less physical roles. She previously trained under Jackie Chan and starred in several Hong Kong martial arts films doing her own stunts. She brought her talents to American movies such as Mission: Impossible III and TV shows such as Nikita.

While she came up in action films, though, Q was hesitant to join the cast of The Protégé. In an interview with Salon, she acknowledges:

“This genre, it’s not the best-written genre in that there’s not a lot of character development . . . The relationships don’t matter.” 

The Protégé Promised Something Different for Maggie Q

But after Maggie Q read the script for The Protégé, she knew director Martin Campbell wanted to do something different. He is no stranger to the genre, either, having helmed such movies as Casino Royale, GoldenEye, and Green Lantern. Like Q, he wanted to break out of the typical action movie mold. As she puts it:

“We set out to make something that was very different, and it wasn’t until I got onto my first call with Martin about not only what he wanted to do, but more importantly, what he didn’t want to do — the things that we saw in the genre that we just didn’t like, like these movies that are just one-note and you’re not invested in the people.

“When I heard his take on it, I was so thrilled, and it wasn’t just because he was someone I admired. He was a big director, but he could be all those things and still have the wrong take on the movie and it wouldn’t have been a match.”

Against the Doctor’s Orders

Maggie Q continues to do her own stunts, even after receiving major back surgery just two months before starting to film The Protégé. But that didn’t bother her. In the Screen Rant interview, she says:

“When I jumped into this film, I was not on doctor’s orders ready to start an action film. But I didn’t care, so I did it anyway.”

The Protégé is now playing in theaters. 

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Mary Beth McAndrews thinks found footage is good and will fight you if you say otherwise. When she's not writing, she's searching for Mothman with her two cats. Follow her on Twitter @mbmcandrews. (She/Her)