When Maggie Q shot the high-octane thriller “The Protégé” in January 2020, the 42-year-old actress was still recovering from a major operation on her spine two months prior. That didn’t stop her from kicking ass, jumping off balconies and being hit by a speeding car to play a vengeful assassin named Anna.
“I didn’t have time to train because I had come out of surgery, and then I was on bed rest and then I had to go right into making this film,” she told The Post. “I wish I’d had the opportunity to hit [training] hard, and learn 500 moves and have five months to [learn them].”
But she didn’t. So Q relied on her years of conditioning work with Jackie Chan in the late ’90s and early aughts to quickly get into fighting form for the new film, out Friday.
“Because of my background and my 20 years of experience, I was able to bring to the table that muscle memory,” she said. “It was intense.”
Born Margaret Quigley in Honolulu, Q was raised in Hawaii by her Vietnamese mother and Polish and Irish-American father. After high school, she moved to China to pursue acting and modeling. There, she found locals sometimes struggled to pronounce “Quigley,” so she shortened her name to “Q” and went on to memorable roles in “Mission: Impossible III” and the CW television series “Nikita.”
In her new film, “The Protégé,” Q’s Anna is forced to relive the trauma of her childhood by returning to her motherland of Da Nang, Vietnam, to avenge the murder of her adopted father, a contract-killer played by Samuel L. Jackson.
The actress drew inspiration from the limitless tenacity she has observed in her mother and other Vietnamese women.
“These women are so super strong,” she said. “Nothing knocks them down. And that’s Anna’s stock, that’s what she comes from.”
Q is similarly tough. She refused to let her medical woes hinder her own pulsating performance.
“Life doesn’t wait for you. The opportunity is happening, and you either make it happen or you don’t,” she said.
“My audience is not going, ‘Oh, you know, she’s probably still in pain’ . . . No one is thinking about that,” she added. “You either bring it or you don’t. There’s no excuses.”
Q also got to show her softer side, working with Jackson, now 72.
“In the movie, [we share] this really beautiful and platonic love,” she explained. “He plays somebody who really cares about [Anna] and takes her into the world, under his wing, because it was the right thing to do. She’s everything to him, and he’s literally her world.”
Then there’s the cat-and-mouse spark of lust ignited between Q’s character and her devilishly hot rival Rembrandt, played by Michael Keaton, 69.
“Anna and Rembrandt are both very smart and very powerful,” Q said. “And when they meet, it’s as if they have finally each met their match, in both senses of the word.”
The passion between the star-crossed cutthroats reaches a climax towards the end of the film, as they vie to outwit one another in a battle of wills.
But for Q, the greatest victories are those she’s scoring off-screen, getting cast in meatier, more complex roles.
“As a woman and a minority, you’re constantly fighting to keep your head above water, because the opportunities that are presented to other people aren’t always presented to you. . . Now I’m beginning to see more representation,” she said. “To me, that’s everything.”