In 2010 in the opening sequence of the first episode of “Nikita,” Maggie Q is wearing a slinky bathing suit while fighting bad guys. Really? She’s so thin that I’m pretty sure they could just blow on her and run away. In the second episode, she’s wearing more clothes but they mostly consist of skintight leggings. This only seems to emphasize that her legs are about the same size as her arms. Fast forward to 2012 and Nikita version 2.0 is the same. Still rail thin. Still kicking butt. Still making it hard to suspend my disbelief.

In 2010 in the opening sequence of the first episode of “Nikita,” Maggie Q is wearing a slinky bathing suit while fighting bad guys. Really? She’s so thin that I’m pretty sure they could just blow on her and run away. In the second episode, she’s wearing more clothes but they mostly consist of skintight leggings. This only seems to emphasize that her legs are about the same size as her arms. Fast forward to 2012 and Nikita version 2.0 is the same. Still rail thin. Still kicking butt. Still making it hard to suspend my disbelief.


Despite my feelings that Maggie Q should gain a few pounds, I'm not going to argue about Hollywood standards of beauty. For all I know, she has a hearty appetite and an enviable metabolism. I also don’t want to debate body image as presented in the media and its effect on women. If a woman is watching “Nikita” and searching for a role model, she should take note that an actor of Asian descent is the lead on an American TV series. What I do want to briefly examine is the issue of physicality and its relationship to the credibility of a character and his/her story.


Unless the producers are trying to be ironic, putting an actor who has little muscle tone into an action part doesn’t work. Like it or not, muscles symbolize strength. This is a visual language upon which we have all agreed. We see muscular biceps and we believe that the actor who is playing the action part can actually defeat the person she or he is fighting. We need this kernel of knowledge to get us past other plot points that force us to suspend our disbelief (See: Most action sequences in most action movies). Certainly, an actor who has never lifted a weight in the gym can shoot a gun and be believably tough. When they, like the Nikita character, have to shoot a gun and deliver credible martial arts moves to stop an onslaught of attackers, they need to have a certain physical appearance that says: “This could really happen. Trust me.”


Think about the change that Linda Hamilton makes as Sarah Connor from “The Terminator” to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” When she has to fight the machines, she transforms herself physically. It’s an important change because it tells us she can hold her own, but it’s also a physical manifestation of her mental toughness. Both are necessary to make us want to go with her on her journey.


Actors often talk about bringing an emotional authenticity to the characters they play. A physical authenticity should also be required if the part involves a weekly round of fighting off scary Russian operatives or shady government spies who know jiu jitsu. Unfortunately, a genuine physical presence is missing in “Nikita.” As a result, I’m stuck on Maggie Q the actor when I want to focus on Nikita the character.


Melissa Crawley credits her love of all things small screen to her parents, who never used the line, "Or no TV!" as a punishment. Her book, “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing,’” was published in 2006. She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at staytuned2011@hotmail.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.