‘Designated Survivor’ star Maggie Q talks to us about not living your life for compliments

ABC’s ‘Designated Survivor,’ a popular political thriller, is heading into its season finale and was just renewed for a second season. Among the show’s stars, which include Kiefer Sutherland, is Maggie Q, a breakout star whose success may have caught you by surprise if you’re not a devoted fan of the new action series.

All of us know the sudden need to be grounded when success hits, so we reached out to Maggie Q to learn from her.

The first thing to know is that she’s no overnight sensation: Maggie Q has had been a female action star for the past fifteen years.  First known for her role in “Rush Hour 2”, she played agile heroines in movies and shows including “Nikita,” “Mission: Impossible III,” and most recently on ABC’s smash hit “Designated Survivor.” 

I spoke with Maggie at the top of the Empire State Building yesterday, where she was promoting “Designated Survivor,” to find out what we can learn from her about handling success that comes both fast and slow, even when your job sometimes requires an IV drip. 

Ladders: How did you take the role on Designated Survivor?

MQ: You know, it’s interesting because when I was first pitched the show, I didn’t want to do it.  I had just gotten off two network experiences, and they were grueling.  I mean, it’s ten months out of the year, being the lead where you wrap on the first show I ever did and then being on an IV [drip] for four weeks after.  It was no joke.  I had no fluids left in my body, everything shut down, so I take it very seriously and as I’m getting older I want to spend more time with my family, you know what I mean?  I don’t want to be working all year, I really don’t, and so I wasn’t sure about this role, I really wasn’t sold.

It was then meeting David Guggenheim, our creator, that really got me because…I don’t care what anyone says about Hollywood, I want to work with good humans.  You know?  It’s too short, life, and I’ve worked on shows where I didn’t like the people that I worked for, and it wasn’t worth it.  

Ladders: You’ve had success in different mediums, from television to movies.  How do you handle success as it comes?

MQ: It’s funny because I’m so far removed from being successful/not successful, seen/not seen because when I’m in my work… I’m in my work.  And when I’m not, I’m an activist, so for me, those words are separate.  I’m not a big partier, I don’t go to many events, I really don’t.  

I mean, I was an answer on Jeopardy once, and that I wasn’t able to handle!  My parents, however, were thrilled.  

I don’t indulge in the part of the industry where you are very visible, I indulge in the work and then I indulge in the things I care about that the industry allows me to do on a certain level.  So those are my two worlds.

Ladders: Over your career, I’m sure you’ve had to deal naysayers who said you were in the wrong industry, or thought you should do something else, even when these words come from a place of love.  How did you deal with those people?

MQ: I love naysayers, I love when people doubt you, I love when people don’t think you’re good, because I think that they add to a very healthy balance.  I was never on Twitter, and then I got on because Warner Brothers asked me to.  Before I ever knew what it was, I remember a costar showing me his Twitter account, and he was like a young, hot Hollywood dude.  So he shows me his account and says “Look Maggie, Twitter’s positive!”  

So I’m scrolling through, and it’s like “You’re hot!” or “I love you!” or “I want to marry you!” and I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t think this is healthy,” to which he said “No, it’s all positive!” and I replied “exactly.”  

It can’t all be positive, and people kissing your butt all day long, it’s boring and it’s weird.  It’s not real.  I need someone to tell me to stop, or wish you did this in your work.  Even if what they are saying has good or bad intentions, there is still some value in it.  

Ladders: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to have longevity & success in their careers?

MQ: Honestly, I would say do it for the right reasons.  Because for me, it’s always been that.  If I did this to want to be famous, I don’t know if it would’ve worked out this way.  I don’t know if my energy would’ve affected people in the way that it does now.  I really think that intention is something you cannot fake.