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"Some day, I can actually do this all the time...not just after school!"
"I was lucky and became hip pocketed by a good agent my first week."
"The suspense was held brilliantly taut every page of the way."
"If you thrive on documentaries on the stages of insect larvae, this may have the wrong elements for you."
"Maybe I could come back for two episodes with supernatural powers?"
"Sometimes the bird in the hand that you truly gauge as a really nifty bird, dies a prolonged independent financing related death."
Maggie Grace  

Interviewed by Mark Sells
January 2009

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Maggie Grace has the perfect blend of beauty pageant looks and worldly smarts. Like many aspiring actors, she began by working the school and community theater circuit. And after a brief trip to L.A., landed an agent in just her first week - at the tender age of 16! "So, I was officially signed. I enrolled in more acting classes and prepared to enter into the venerable City of Angels School of Hard Knocks and Rolling with the Punches - a fine institution!"

And roll with the punches, she did. Moving quickly into television, she landed roles in "Murder in Greenwich" and "12 Mile Road." And appearances on episodes of "Law and Order: Special Victim's Unit," "CSI: Miami," and "Cold Case." All before her break out role, as Shannon Rutherford, on the ABC hit series, "Lost." Sadly, however, the role was short lived. And in the 2nd season, at the pinnacle of its popularity, Maggie's character was killed off.

Fortunately, all was not lost. In parallel, Maggie had branched out into feature films, with "Shop Club," "Creature Unknown," and a remake of John Carpenter's "The Fog." And currently, she stars alongside Liam Neeson and Famke Janssen in the thriller, "Taken." In the film, she plays the kidnapped daughter of a former spy. Says Grace, "It's an unrelenting, smart, international thriller. If you like such things, please enjoy!" And enjoy we will. No longer trapped on a secluded island, it's great to see Maggie venturing out into the brave new world.

"Taken" Review   |  "Taken" Trailer

Reel Questions, Reel Answers

I'm always curious how actors/actresses outside of L.A. and N.Y. get their start and land into the profession. Hailing from Columbus, OH, how did you get yours?

I started in school and community theatre; it was the joy of my life. They even let me join the JCC theatre group even though I'm not Jewish, which was wonderful. And I also learned to make a fabulous noodle Kugel and still say "Oy!" a lot. When I was 16, my mom and I visited LA over the summer and I tried my hand at breaking in professionally. I was lucky and became hip pocketed by a good agent my first week.

I proved my mettle sufficiently in how I did on the first few auditions by getting studio tests, etc. So, I was officially signed. I enrolled in more acting classes and prepared to enter into our venerable City of Angels School of Hard Knocks and Rolling with the Punches - a fine institution!

Did you always want to be an actress when you were a little girl?

I did, but I also wanted to do other things - writing, anthropology, law school, etc. And I believe even public relations were mulled over as possible acceptable answers to the all-important "What do you want to do when you grow up?" question.

Hollywood and Broadway didn't seem like real possibilities as a kid in Ohio, or even real people. The first time I saw adults making a living in this profession was when I was 13, at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival across the Canadian border, and then it was like a light bulb went off! Some day, I can actually do this all the time...not just after school!

What films made an impression on you growing up and what made them special?

One of my favorites was Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet," which I first saw when I was about 13. I watched it over and over, developed a terrible crush on its fair Romeo, Leonard Whiting, and I learned the song, and had a cringe-worthy outfit cobbled together from garage sale finds that I actually referred to by character name. As in, "Mom, I wanna wear my Juliet outfit to the first day of school, have you seen the velvet vest?"

I was really confused when we had to watch a stiff, taped, anachronistically set stage version in English class instead, because of the briefest flash of nudity (shocking!)! In Zeffirelli's version, which I may have secretly rewound and watched several times on my own anyway, at the time, it seemed to be really pushing the envelope!

Talk to me a little about "Rachel's Room." What was that experience like, how much input did you have in the evolution of the character, and how did it influence your career?

Good Lord! I was probably 17 and thrilled to have an acting job that paid me actual dollars and didn't just cover gas mileage! Also, I remember I really liked the director, Ellie Kanner, who had a lot of experience as a casting director and was great with actors. I still remember some of the things she taught me. And I am still friends with Jules Nagle, who played my best friend Chloe!

Other than that, my memory is a bit fuzzy. Obviously, exclusively internet dramatic content back then was a bit ahead of the curve and is only now beginning to get some traction.

Today, you're starring in "Taken," opposite Liam Neeson and Famke Janssen. What's the premise behind the film? And how is your character involved?

Liam plays Bryan Mills, a former spy who's now leading a pretty peaceful existence and trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter (moi), but is forced to return to his violent past when she is abducted by an Albanian sex trafficking ring while traveling in Europe...

Luc Besson has written many thrillers, from "The Fifth Element" to "La Femme Nikita" and "The Professional." Was there something about the script that stood out in your mind? What attracted you to the film?

Besides the obvious attraction of working with all the stellar people involved, it was such a tight script, as one would expect. The suspense was held brilliantly taut every page of the way.

Why should audiences watch the movie?

It's an unrelenting, smart, international thriller. If you like such things, please enjoy! If you thrive on documentaries on the stages of insect larvae, this may have the wrong elements for you, and that's cool too!

What relevance does it have in today's environment?

That many parents would literally do anything to protect their children really resonates, I think. Unfortunately, sex trafficking is a horrible, global problem in reality. But there are some incredible organizations to support, which are working for rescue and recovery and legislative change (Somaly Mam Foundation, The Action Group, International Crisis Aid, Vital Voices, IRC), and certainly a lot more awareness than there was even ten years ago.

In addition to being extremely talented, you are an extremely beautiful young woman. In 2005, you made the Maxim and FHM lists for Hot and Sexiest Women of the World. Additionally, you've earned the nickname, Miss America. How has beauty helped or hindered your pursuit of good roles?

I'm grateful for the opportunities I've gotten. If some of them were playing characters that were overmuch defined by sensuality, so be it. It's not as if all of them have been, and its entree. A great company like Patagonia started by producing only a tiny rock climbing accessory. And Charlize Theron played her share of cute love interests before she had roles like the one in "Monster." Just as long as you don't believe you are only capable of that one thing, because it certainly doesn't have longevity.

Who or what inspires you today as an actress?

Recently? Ummm...Mary Gaitskill's novel Veronica, seeing a "Harper Reagan" at the National in London, Radiohead albums, Philip Larkin poetry, the way Liam Neeson thinks, attending a Q and A with Tom Stoppard, etc. Or historical anecdotes, especially about women who make bids for power in whatever ways they can in the context of their culture, which often appear bizarre to us now, like that orange seller who became mistress to King Charles II or the Mata Hari or some interpretations of Joan of Arc and many queens who acted through their sons...

After 2 short seasons on "Lost" at the height of Shannon Rutherford's popularity on the show, she met her demise. Did you know it was coming? How did you react to her departure?

Yup, had four months to stage the exit. Well, you know, it all worked out for the best, but it's tough to leave Hawaii and people you think of as family. No two ways about it. It was about a year of trying really hard to readjust.

Based on the "mysteries" or "special characteristics" of the island, is there a possibility your character will return to the show?

Who knows? Maybe I could come back for two episodes with supernatural powers? Or special characteristics that make me not the same creature, possessed somehow, or re-appropriated by the Others? Haha!

Do you have any regrets about your career and your choices?

Sure. But this business is so vague with so many variables that you just make the best decisions you can with the information you have at the time. There's a lot of bird in the hand or two in the bush scenarios, and sometimes the bird in the hand that you truly gauge as a really nifty bird, dies a prolonged independent financing related death. Sorry, I really love badly stretched metaphors.

What are you currently working on? What's next in the pipeline?

Well, I've just finished a lovely, offbeat British indie called "Malice in Wonderland" - a twisted modern take on the classic Alice Through the Looking Glass tale. And got to work with some very cool Brits!

Lastly, what's the one thing about you that most people would be surprised to learn?

Hmmmm...this is a hard question to answer about yourself, and I'm a bit bored by the chip on my shoulder that I'm actually literate and not the dancing on tables type (Aren't we all tired of that realization from actors? In addition to our universally shared geek status in high school?). Ummm, okay, right now at this moment, I am answering this question from an island in a very remote corner of Patagonia, where I'm on a fly fishing trip. Bet that wasn't your first guess!



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