In Lockout (in theaters April 13), Maggie Grace plays the U.S. president’s daughter, a humanitarian type on a mission to an outerspace prison reserved for the country’s worst offenders. The criminals stage a violent revolt upon the First Daughter’s visit, holding her hostage until ex–CIA operative Guy Pearce can bust in to set her free. Vulture spoke with Grace, who is best known for her two-season (and series-finale-worthy) role as Shannon on Lost, about her days at Comic-Con, the craziest fan tattoo ever, and action movies.
I was surprised that this movie is actually self-aware and funny.
That’s what drew me to it in the first place: I loved how funny it was. The dialogue had that throwback quality to eighties and nineties action movies. It’s funny, I’ve done quite a few action movies lately, almost five in a row [including the sequel to Taken], but I’m kind of educating myself on the genre. I grew up in a Christian household where it was Middlemarch or bust. I just saw Die Hard for the first time, believe it or not, like a year ago. So yeah, I have gaps in my action movie education. I went to a Christian school, and as a kid, we weren’t allowed to really watch anything violent, even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
So how did you adjust to being part of Comic-Con?
I love community, wherever you find it. There’s a shorthand, you know? And certainly passion. When I’d go as part of Lost, there was a really smart fanbase. They keep track of everything. I actually had a funny fan experience where a guy had a tattoo of my character on Lost at a really odd moment in the show, where the plane had just crashed and [Shannon] screams bloody murder in a tennis skirt, with my face all scrunched up. He had this tattoo across his entire leg. I got a picture to send to my parents. They were a little discomfited by the idea, I think. The picture he had tattooed is just such an odd image. But I guess it makes sense from a storytelling standpoint; that’s a big moment.
The Lost finale still divides fans. What do you hear from people?
Mostly it’s pretty positive. I certainly can’t explain anything to anyone — the story is your experience. But I will say it’s nice being part of a pop-culture reference. The fun part of it for me is — I love to travel, but I’m also kind of shy. And I’ve had these crazy experiences where I’ll walk into a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend’s dinner party in some distant country, and immediately there’s kind of a common ground because there’s a Lost fan there at the dinner. It’s an icebreaker.
Do people come up to you all over the world and go, “Shannon!” Or did your role as Liam Neeson’s daughter in Taken change things?
Sometimes in airports [where people speak] other languages, the only word I understand is “Taken.”
And soon they’ll know you for the sequel —
I was shooting in Istanbul for Taken 2, and everywhere I went people would say something in Turkish, and then they’d say “36 Hours” in English, and I kept thinking I was getting mistaken for someone else — like in L.A., I’m sure there are a bunch of actresses where we seem interchangeable until they get to know us better. And I thought I was being mistaken for someone, but it turns out Taken was released in that area under that title. It took me a second.
I read that in casting Shannon, the producers specified they wanted someone Paris Hilton–y.
Yeah, very much so. It was at the apex of Paris Hilton–ism in pop culture, which thank god has settled down a bit since.
Was your blonde humanitarian First Daughter in Lockout at all based on the Bush twins?
No, I’m not really familiar with them. I don’t know who I was inspired by; everyone sort of wants to look at presidential daughters of the recent past.
Well, unlike the Bush daughters, you get very ass-kicky. What was your training like?
Guy and I both wanted to arrive in Belgrade [where they shot the movie] a little bit early to work on the wires [which were used for certain zero-gravity scenes]. That was definitely a movie-magic moment getting to work up there like a trapeze artist. It’s like flying, very freeing. You can do flips. It’s fun when you’re just up there in your workout clothes experimenting. But, you know, eventually we were up there in our costumes, which are equivalent to your body weight and hard, immovable. We had to be drilled into it piece by piece. So once we were in, it was pretty tricky to maneuver.
My favorite scene is when Guy thinks you’ll be safer if you can pass for a male inmate, so he chops off your hair and dyes it brown with some homemade sludge. Did you feel like you were really supposed to pass for a man in that scene?
Ah, my “Viola in Twelfth Night” moment. There’s a fine line, of course, to pass as a boy without being too convincing, I suppose. But trust me, I could have gone a lot further with that.
There are hundreds of convicts. What was it like being the only woman around so many male actors on set?
It takes attention. We had a lot of 6-foot-5, burly extras fighting each other in containment. It was a pretty crazy scene to walk through, even during breaks. A lot of testosterone pent up right there.