EA’s forthcoming Need for Speed: Undercover thankfully rolls back the NFS odometer to the Most Wanted days, offering quite a bit more in the way of form and structure than ProStreet had to offer. And they’re taking ‘form and structure’ to heart this time around, enlisting the, um, ‘form’ of American actress-hottie Maggie Q (Mission Impossible III, Balls of Fury, and Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon, to name a few).
In a series of slickly-produced, live-action cutscenes, Maggie plays federal agent Chase Linh, guiding players in an undercover infiltration of the underground street-racing scene. Game Revolution recently got an all-too-brief chance to hang out and chat with Maggie Q at The Bubble Lounge in San Francisco; in her own perky, good-natured way, she started screwing with my head—my geeky, sci-fi nerd head—immediately.
Of course, it’s any actor or actress’s job to ‘charm’ people—particularly those who are trying to interview them; it’s like some Charisma-based magical attack, a smile-for-the-camera assault on whatever jaded-audience resistance you might be sitting on. Maggie Q really hit your humble interviewer below the geek-belt—hard, and precisely in the vulnerable bits—before I’d even taken two full strides into the room:
“Oh, hey!” she says, with that big smile of hers. “Is that a Star Fleet symbol on your jacket?”
Now, that just isn’t fair; I was so surprised that I immediately, fatally blanked on at least two of the might-have-been-actually-insightful questions I’d been planning to ask her, right there—bzzzat, gone. Well, hell.
It was kinda hard to be the Crusty, Grizzled, Hard-Hitting Journalist after that—I mean, the woman recognized and acknowledged a small (and fairly obscure) Trek insignia from across the room, Roddenberry bless her little heart:
CHRIS HUDAK: So, before you were involved in this project, had you ever even considered anything like ‘Oh, I’d like to be in a video game’? Had that ever been something on your mind?
MAGGIE Q: Never! I mean, I also didn’t realize the level of where video games are now. I didn’t even know this collaboration was possible; I hadn’t seen anything like this. And what we’re doing here for Need for Speed: Undercover is definitely something completely different than anything that’s been done, so there’s really nothing to compare it to.
CH: The process of acting in something that’s a game, as opposed to a movie—like, were there any real major differences? You know, you’re used to doing films of various calibers—what’s the difference for you?
MQ: For this specifically, I’m a very solo sort of character; you know, she’s kind of overseeing what the player’s doing, and guiding the player. She’s got situations involving the other characters—but she’s sort of on her own. So I have less interaction than you normally would if you were doing a film, or a TV show, or whatever it is.
CH: So you have to more aware of—
MQ: [Immediately groks where I’m going] Yeah, exactly! So there’s a kind of foresight that goes on that you have to be very aware of, technically—otherwise none of it makes sense. In that sense, when you’re doing this from scene to scene, you have to sit down and make sure that everything is right before you go ahead—motivation-wise and just, well, everything: Logistics, everything.
CH: Now that you’ve done this, are you thinking ‘Oh yeah, I want to be in more games’? What was the experience like? Would you do it again?
MQ: Definitely. With these guys? I’d definitely do it again. The experience that I’ve had with EA and Need for Speed: Undercover has been something that I honestly didn’t think happened, you know? These two worlds kind of working together—in a nice marriage, actually. In a marriage where people don’t fight. [she breaks into laughter]. A happy marriage! And it has been a really happy marriage so far. It’s been very smooth, I think everybody sort of understood what they brought to the table—everybody knew their part, so it just kind of dovetailed very nicely.
CH: Were you surprised at the level of ‘darkness,’ or maturity, of the subject matter, considering that it was a game? Like you were saying, games really get serious now, and a lot of people, if they’ve been out of touch with them for a while…
MQ: Well it’s interesting; in Need for Speed: Undercover, you’re in an entirely different world that they’ve created. A city—a fake city—where there’s police, enforcement, and actions and consequences; it’s very cool that they’ve created this virtual world that you can immerse yourself in, and leave behind when you’re done with it, and not kind of—well, draw that distinction, you know what I mean?. It’s kind of nice—I think it’s really interesting, and fun.
CH: You looked like you were having a little trouble at the wheel, up there [at the gameplay station upstairs]—you know, we were facing you, and couldn’t really watch what you were doing onscreen…but I heard a lot of crashing, and a lot of screaming…
MQ: [laughs] Oh, man! It’s kinda fun to hit people, too! And also, I didn’t realize—well in games, I mean! [laughs, shaking her head] Oh, I can totally see, like, a cop who’s going to be reading this, going ‘waaaiiiit a minute…’
CH: There’s my excerpt, right there.
MQ: Exactly—but cars just pop up randomly on the road, cars you didn’t see earlier, and you’re constantly having to swerve. But I’m getting used to using a controller. I mean, for a fighting game, yes, stuff like that—but I’m old-school; I’m used to having a wheel, clearly.
CH: Glad you brought up games—are there any that were into before, you know, some old favorites?
MQ: Well, yeah, the old-school—I mean, Atari? I’m totally into Atari, I’m totally into Pac-Man and all that stuff. But you know, I was a kid, and there’s been a big gap from me being a kid, now coming into these games that EA’s making now—it’s just incomparable. It’s definitely something very cool for me.
CH: Since you’re going to be supporting the roll-out of this game, are you going to work on—you know, getting good at it?
MQ: Oh, definitely, now that I have the tools to; I’ve got the consoles, I’ve got my games, I’ve got time. I’m sort of between projects, and I’ve got a little time to spend having fun doing stuff like this. And also, I’ve got nieces and nephews, and they’re totally into this stuff—and by the way, I am the coolest auntie ever, now! I mean, I was kind of—I did movies and stuff, that’s kind of cool…but now? I am the coolest. Kids eat this up, they love the fact—my nieces cannot believe I am in a game. They can’t wait—they’re so excited. I’m not showing them anything until the game comes out—and then I’m going to buy it for them!
CH: Excellent. Thank you very much.
MQ: Thank you so much! And I’m excited for you—for Star Trek, next summer! I’ve seen a lot of footage.
CH [totally pole-axed by this revelation]: You…you have?
MG: Oh yeah!
CH: Damn, I guess you are the coolest.