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When Nikita premieres on the CW tomorrow night, audiences will get a chance to see Mission: Impossible III and Live Free Or Die Hard‘s Maggie Q take on the mantle of the Division’s rogue operative as Luc Besson’s creation gets rebooted for a new generation. But it’s Besson’s original movie that drew the star to the role.< For those who haven't seen any of the prior versions of the story (Besson's 1990 French movie, La Femme Nikita was remade in the US as Point Of No Return in 1993, then turned into a US TV series called La Femme Nikita four years later), Maggie Q explained the set-up behind the series when we spoke to her during this summer’s Comic-Con:
Basically, Nikita was a kid that grew up pretty rough, lived on the streets and didn’t have much, and the government looked at her and thought, “That’ll work for us. Nobody’s going to miss her.” And so they plucked her off the streets and turned her into this incredible operative, to do all the dirty things a government does when we’re not looking. And the minute that Nikita got to a level where she can hightail it out of there and use what she’s learned against them, she did. And that’s where we start.
As she told us, it was her love of the original version of the character that brought her on board the new series:
I loved the original movie. I’ve not seen [any other versions apart from] the original movie. That was my inspiration. That’s what I was to pay homage to, Luc Besson’s version, it’s the truest version. So we’re trying to be as authentic as he was [with the series]. It’s just something I loved as a kid. It wasn’t something I was supposed to watch, but I loved Wonder Woman, I loved all the strong female characters as a kid, I just did. Nikita was… the reason that she fascinated me was, she was incredibly flawed. She was this broken human being who was climbing out of this very very dark hole that she didn’t put herself in. It was something that happened without her consent. She’s a survivor. I love the survivors. That’s why I took it, I wanted to be part of that, I wanted to tell that story.
Describing what to expect from the new series, Q talked about a fast-moving show that would focus as much on the characters’ pasts as on the present day action, as Nikita’s former employers go to war with their former star operative:
Throughout season one, we’re going to explore the very tangled web that surrounds, by choice or by chance, the characters and see how they got there. There’s some unrequited love, that’s really nice, and a lot of weapons, a lot of fighting. It’s really hardcore. This network has never done anything like this before, it’s really different for them. Which I love because, that’s the point.
While being hardcore makes for great television, it’s not necessarily so much fun for the people involved in making it happen:
I took three weeks before I left for the series to do a bunch of different martial arts stuff to get me more limber: Some weight training, boxing, parkour, repelling, weapons – There’s nothing that I wasn’t doing. And now that I’m [filming]… TV is so quick, I’ve never done TV, so for me this is shocking. I have a fight on Friday, and they’re like on Thursday, “Okay, so we’re going to teach you these forty moves, and can you be great on the day, because you’re Nikita?” and you’re like [nervously] “Okay… sure…” There’s no more time to train. When you’re in a $100 million movie, you get a few months to get it all down, with this, if you’re not at the level… There’s a little pressure, because if Nikita’s not good, then everything else goes to shit.
And, of course, accidents may happen…
In the pilot, I gave a guy a black eye by accident. Kinda cool, right? [Laughs] He didn’t duck! Do you like how I go directly to saying it’s his fault? Well, if you don’t want to get hit, you gotta duck! We’d rehearsed it, and rehearsed it, and rehearsed it, and then on the day, not only did he not duck, but he leaned forward into it – and he actually needed to lean back, that was the whole point of it – and I hit him and I just stood there. He’s on the ground, and I was just like, “What just happened?” And to make it worse, he was an actor. He had [a speaking role] and they had to cut it. He’s still in the pilot, but he had more of a role. His eye was swollen shut! I tried to make it up to him, I bought him flowers, I kissed his ass, the whole thing. It’s my shout out apology to him, if he’s reading.
Despite the physical strain, though, there’s no doubt that Q is loving being involved in the show; her excitement about the process is visible when you talk to her – and, she promises, it’s not a series that will disappoint after its fast and furious opening episode. She should know – she’s not just the star, but also involved in the plotting of the series:
The writers have been so open to [me], saying, “This is your baby – Well, it’s our baby, but we want to make it your baby. We want to make it real for you.” We have a team of eight writers, and we had a big meeting, and mapped it all out and gave our own input, and it was great. They’re on set everyday, so if something happens or I have a problem, they’re there. I know more than anyone [where it’s going].
Nikita premieres tomorrow on the CW at 9pm.