After you’ve played Liam Neeson’s daughter and been abducted by villains, playing the president’s daughter abducted by villains might not seem a stretch…unless you’re abducted in a space prison. In Lockout, opening Friday, Maggie Grace is out of this world, and all the worst of the worst on board the orbiting penal colony know it. Yes, Guy Pearce comes to the rescue – but we have a feeling Maggie knows a trick or two of her own by now. It was one of many things we recently had a chance to ask her about.
Maggie Grace: Nerdist – the Treehugger of nerd-dom, right?
Nerdist: The treehugger?
MG: Well, it’s like an aggregator of what’s cool in that space.
N: It’s funny, I moved recently and just unpacked your action figure from Lost.
MG: No way! Yes, the one that’s all figure, no action?
MG: I believe she comes with sunscreen. No weapons.
N: And the sunglasses that you can’t get to stay on.
MG: Oh no…
N: Is it weird to have a little thing that talks in your voice?
MG: It is. Well, it’s not really my voice, at least I hope not. It’s that really nasal Shannon voice that’s like, “Meh. I’m spoiled.” That one.
N: It was interesting that after you do a role like that, and The Jane Austen Book Club, you then play Liam Neeson’s teenage daughter. How do you go back and forth from teenage girl to adult roles like that?
MG: I don’t know but I’ve gone back and forth ten years this week between roles. Let’s just hope it’s not like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Right?
N: So in Lockout, how old is the character?
MG: I’d say mid to late twenties.
N: Tell us a little bit about her.
MG: It’s not really a story point, her age, but she’s an accomplished young woman, so she had to have some time to accomplish.
N: It seems like in the trailer she’s going into a prison with a purpose, looks like she’s interrogating the guy…
MG: Yeah. She’s a bit more capable, which is great, and good under pressure, so I would credit her with some life experience.
N: And what is she doing in the prison?
MG: She’s there on a humanitarian mission. She’s heard some rumors that they’re not treating the prisoners in the ways they should, so she’s sent up to MS1 for humanitarian purposes.
N: Does it turn out that she has a secret ass-kicking background that comes into play?
MG: No, she’s not an undercover La Femme Nikita.
N: Are you anxious to do some ass-kicking? Because a lot of times you’re the person who gets rescued in these movies.
MG: I am. I’ll put that out there, if any directors are reading this, I think I’m ready to hit the gym and kick a little more ass myself.
N: Both you and Liam Neeson have done some Taken-esque roles after Taken, but when will we see you doing an actual follow-up with the same characters?
MG: We just finished the sequel a few weeks ago. We shot in Istanbul and Paris since October, so it’s been pretty intense but pretty fun.
N: Do you get to kick any ass in that one?
MG: More so. It’s kind of an inversion in some ways. I think it’s great that they kept the elements that worked about the first one, but in this one, Liam and Famke’s characters are taken, and I have to help rescue them. So it’s certainly not a coincidence, it’s a personal vendetta.
N: You figure after the first one he’d probably teach her a thing or two.
MG: She is her father’s daughter, so there is that. But she’s still very much true to the character we created in the first one.
N: So what else can you tell us about Lockout? What was it like on the set? Was it fairly claustrophobic getting yourself into a prison mindset?
MG: Sometimes. It is funny, when you haven’t seen daylight in months, there’s that kind of peeking out into the world, like a little chick hatching. It’s obviously shot in mostly stages. We shot in Serbia, because they could build these really beautiful sets, so it was a few months out there, which was an interesting experience. Belgrade’s a really interesting place.
N: Yeah, what’s Serbia like? Did you get out much?
MG: I didn’t get out much. I do remember there’s a local apricot brandy called Dunya that the crew was a pretty big fan of on the weekends. But we worked so much, I think we were just leveled by the time we had a day off. I did pick up tennis there, though, which I figured was the perfect place. There’s quite a national fervor for the sport right now, with Djokovic and everything. So it’s easy to find good coaches. I learned tennis over what they say is Vlad the Impaler’s grave, and this moat around this Roman ruins. And they happened to have red clay tennis courts in them. It’s the perfect place to learn.
N: That’s like a Stephen King book in the making.
MG: Right? Yeah, that was my Sundays.
N: Or like a really weird comedy, Vlad the Impaler’s ghost comes back as a tennis champ.
MG: You should write movies.
N: I should. But I don’t know if anyone would buy that one.
MG: Stranger ones have been greenlit, let me tell you.
N: What do you have coming up next, other than Taken 2?
MG: Lockout comes out April 13, Friday the 13th, and Taken’s in October, and then Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2, in November, and an indie called Decoding Annie Parker, so it’s been a busy last year, that’s for sure.
N: How was that, doing the Twilight movie? You’re coming into an ensemble that obviously knows each other very well, how is that?
MG: Honestly, I met some of my best friends on that movie. It really is a bonding experience to shoot over a long period of time, and we were in Baton Rouge for a while, and Squamish, BC, so I made a couple of girlfriends on that that are just dear. Cross-country skiing out there on our days off was a good way to get to know someone, and it was a good group, a really good group.
N: And what did you think of the ending of Lost, when it finally happened?
MG: I thought it was lovely. You know, you’re never going to please all the fans all the time, especially with something that’s become so personal to so many people, but for me, it was really lovely that so many of us came back, and we had a final guitar circle just like the good old days, you know, waiting for the lighting to be set up; it was really a beautiful experience and a kind of nice way to end a period of my life that I have a lot of affection for. I grew up a bit on that show, I was twenty when we started, and moving to Hawaii and living on my own for the first time…so it was just really great to come back and see everybody and it was kind of like a college reunion for me.
N: Did you know you were going to come back after they killed you off?
MG: Yeah, we talked about it, maybe in some flashbacks and that kind of thing. So yeah, I knew it was goodbye, but maybe not a hundred percent.
N: My editor wanted me to say that because of The Jane Austen Book Club, he has started reading Jane Austen. We wondered if that was a common story you ever hear.
MG: Oh, I love that. I’m a true Jane-ite, and that’s kind of how I relate to conventions like WonderCon and Comic-Con, because I understand how it is to really have affection for characters and feel like you know them inside and out. I grew up with those books, and the BBC miniseries too. I can quote line-for-line. So it was so fun for me, making a fan film about something I’m really a fan of. Yeah, this whole convention scene, huh? There actually is a Jane Austen convention in Bath once a year. I’ve thought about going.
N: How about getting into a film adaptation of one of the books, have you tried?
MG: I would just lose it. Honestly, I would make something that I could be proud of for the rest of my life if that happened. I wish they’d hire more Americans, but it’s not usually the case.
N: Or you could combine it with the action genre you’re more known for: be in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
MG: I’ve heard that’s being done. I know Emma Campbell Webster wrote a book that’s really popular as well on that subject. It’s funny how the worlds kind of mirror one another, sci-fi fans and Jane-ites, in a way, they do come together.
N: It’s always interesting how a lot of the fervor is mirrored in other areas. Sports fans also get into their sports and get passionate and paint themselves up.
MG: Community’s a big part of it, we all want to be part of a tribe right? And there’s a sense of some shared enthusiasm and some shared values and any time you see that, there’s a really kind of sweet motivation at the center of it. So I certainly appreciate that. But I’ve spent maybe too much time in convention halls lately. WonderCon was my third convention in a while. I went to the TED conference, which was – that’s my true geek-out moment, I lose my mind. TED talks are incredible, if you get a chance to download some. Beautiful. Incredible. I mean, if you’re ever gonna nerd out about something, at least it’s people at the top of every field in the world coming together to share what they’re passionate about and share ideas. It’s an incredible experience. And then I went to the Natural Foods Expo for fun, to see some friends’ projects. So I can identify with the people attending as well, the whole convention experience.
N: It’s interesting, you don’t hear a lot of people identify that common thread within very different passions.
MG: I think the purity of desire at the center of it is the same, and you know, it’s really a sense of pride and community, and there’s a little bit of Burning Man in it. It would also be interesting to see the Venn diagram that is Burning Man and Comic-Con. Like to see who attends both, and what costumes transfer from one to the other. That would be a beautiful coffee table book.
Lockout opens in theaters Friday.