'Nikita' delivers a new TV action hero

Chuck Barney
Contra Costa Times (MCT)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Surely it is written somewhere in the vast television bylaws that prime time needs to be routinely restocked with stunningly beautiful, lethal women. Buffy, Xena, Sydney Bristow — they're all gone now, but the remarkable kick-butt-itude they fostered must live on.

And so The CW has graciously stepped up to fill the quota with a high-octane new fall series called "Nikita" starring Maggie Q. Perhaps you've seen her in one of the show's red-hot promotional posters: Legs that go on forever and a sleek body adorned in an artsy tattoo and just a touch of leather.

Oh, and she's brandishing a gun.

"Nikita" is a reboot (TV execs just love that word) of the USA cable hit "La Femme Nikita," which itself was a remake of the original French film, which also inspired an American flick starring Bridget Fonda. Clearly, in pop culture, what goes around comes around.

The Hawaiian-born Maggie got her start in a series of Hong Kong action films and has shown off her skills in American flicks such as "Mission Impossible III," so the woman can brawl with the best of them.

Still, the grueling pace of television presents a heightened challenge.

"I'm half Asian, so (people) immediately go, 'Oh, well, you do kung fu,'" she told TV critics gathered here for their summer press tour. "Like that's what we all do. We wake up. We brush our teeth and do kung fu. So it's just assumed that you're not working your butt off to make this believable and great. And we absolutely are."

In "Nikita," which premieres on Sept. 9, Maggie plays a former spy and assassin who has vowed to bring down the shadowy government agency that trained her. She is instantly captivating. The pilot episode bursts with vibrant action sequences and surprising twists that set it apart from other versions of the saga.

"That was my first challenge ... to find a way to do it fresh," says executive producer Craig Silverstein. " ... Could we have a take where you didn't know how this story was going to end? ... So it's not a rehash."

Like Jennifer Garner in "Alias," Maggie will need to go undercover a lot, meaning she'll be forced to don everything from skimpy swimwear to gorgeous evening gowns. It's something she doesn't exactly crave.

"I've gotten to that point," she says, "where I'm so used to being sort of sweaty and wearing pants and sitting like a guy in boots and the whole thing, that when I'm dressed up and people are touching me up, I'm less comfortable. I like to wear less makeup and be tougher."



—Angela Bromstad, entertainment chief for NBC, says producers of "The Office" have a plan to replace Steve Carell, which will be worked into this season's episodes.

"There will be a lot of story lines leading up to it," she said. "And a lot of mystery as to who it will be."

Bromstad said there has been no thought given to ending the series when Carell leaves.

"Would we have ended 'ER' when George Clooney left? That would have been a shame," she said. "We have a great ensemble in place. ... I couldn't go home and face my 14-year-old son if we ended it."

—In the age of Obama comes a new spy series from NBC called "Undercovers" that features two black leads in Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw — something virtually unheard of in broadcast television. Kodjoe realizes it's a big deal, but wishes it wasn't.

"It's not the norm, but it should be the norm because the world is diverse ...," he says. "We get to be trailblazers, but let's inspire people to think of it as normal."

—More from NBC: The network is moving up the premiere dates of several shows, including "Parenthood" (Sept. 14), "Outlaw" (Sept. 15), and "The Apprentice" (Sept. 16). In addition, "30 Rock" will do a live episode on Oct. 14 and Rob Lowe is joining "Parks & Recreation" as a series regular. "Law & Order: SVU" will open the season on Sept. 22 with a two-hour episode.

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