'The Protégé' 's Maggie Q 'Would Never Play a Bond Girl': 'I'm Not Going to Suppress Skillsets'

Maggie Q talks to PEOPLE about portraying a contract killer in The Protégé and why she'd rather play Bond than a Bond girl

Maggie Q takes no prisoners — both in life and in her new action movie The Protégé.

Her latest film, from Casino Royale director Martin Campbell, sees the actress, 42, playing Anna, a fierce contract killer with a mysterious past who's out to avenge the brutal murder of her lifelong mentor (Samuel L. Jackson). It's a role the longtime action star (she's starred in the Mission: Impossible and Die Hard franchises) was born to play and arguably the best showcase yet for her blistering talents.

In a revealing interview with PEOPLE, Q, who was born and raised in Hawaii, opens up about her personal ties to the film, why The Protégé felt like an opportunity she couldn't pass up, and why she won't be making a Bond movie anytime soon.

Maggie Q The Protege
Lionsgate /Courtesy Everett Collection

PEOPLE: Did you feel like you were leveling up with this movie?

Maggie Q: First of all, thank you for saying that. Funnily enough, before this script came to me, I told my agent explicitly that I didn't want to do an action movie. I was like, "I'm moving in a different direction." And then obviously, it all came together. The elements came together. Martin Campbell came together and [costar] Michael Keaton came together. Sam came much later, but that was sort of the initial package. And I thought, "Well, that's not an action movie. That's a really high-quality film that has action in it."

Maggie Q

It just felt like, "Oh, okay. This is a moment where I can actually take this vehicle and really make it something that's going to matter to me." And leveling up is such a great way to put it. You can only really take all your experiences that you've had over the years — I've been in the business for 20 years, which is so scary — and sometimes in your career, it'll culminate into something where you get to actually use everything that you know and feel and bring it in one film. And so that's kind of how I felt about it. So you're right, a 100 percent right.

What does that say to you, that you had to wait until this stage of your career, at 42, to get a vehicle finally worthy of you?

It's a very sort of male-dominated genre, obviously. And what happens is, you're in other people's movies for many years. And by the way, happy to be there, excited about the opportunity, super grateful. But at the end of the day, it's not your vehicle. You're always in someone else's vehicle. There's always, like, the big A-list male guy who has the thing. And then you're there as a supporting player, which as I said, there's nothing wrong with that. But when you say there's very few of these things, it's because they're usually driven in that way. And it's all about bottom line. It just is. That's what Hollywood is. If they put us more in these positions and we're able to drive box office and have successes, it's going to provide more opportunities, obviously.

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But the issue with female-driven, if it doesn't work it's like, "Oh, well maybe women starring in movies doesn't work." You never say that when a movie with a male star flops, it never happens. They're not like, "Oh, well. We can't make a male-driven action film again." They just make another one, sometimes with the same guy. So I think that we should be given the same considerations and the same amount of chances. By the way, we should be able to do that independent of a comic book, because those are obviously going to have fan bases. But outside of that, we should also be given opportunities to show that we can move mountains in this space too.

Maggie Q

Your character in The Protégé is biracial, like you. [Q's father is of Irish and Polish descent and her mother is Vietnamese.] Did Anna speak to you on a more personal level than other roles you've played?

She really did. Interestingly enough, they don't make a lot of space for mixed race characters, it's usually very black or white. I mean, not literally, but I mean, if there's an Asian character in a film, it's an Asian character. And when they came to me, in the script it was a different type of family dynamic. I sat down with the director and I said, "You have to change this because I'm a mixed-race person. We have to bring an element of reality into this." And so they changed the father character and they made the dynamic closer to like who I am and what the reality of me really is.

Your director Martin Campbell is famous for directing one of the best Bond films ever. There's been talk of making the next Bond a female spy. Is that something you'd be interested in?

I wish. That would be great. Actually, the Bond people did look at me once and they said I wasn't Bond material.

As a Bond girl?

Oh, I would never play a Bond girl. I personally wouldn't make that choice. I think Bond girls are awesome. I would rather be Bond. I'm sorry, I'm not going to suppress skillsets because they need somebody to look good in a film.

What was the nature of the discussion they had with you?

They're playing with different things, obviously because the franchise has to evolve. I was put in front of them and they were like, "She's not Bond material. We don't see it." I actually like when people say stuff like that, it's really motivating for me. I don't get down. I don't get sad. I'm like, "Alright, cool."

And then you make a film like The Protégé and they watch that and go, "Oh, whoops."

Yeah, exactly. So really all you have to do really in this industry is keep moving forward. I mean it shouldn't be your primary motivation, but just prove people wrong, if you can.

The Protégé is in theaters Friday.

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