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These women like to kick some tail

The heroic action figure gets a feminine touch this season, with Kelli Giddish's U.S. marshal, Maggie Q's assassin and Gugu Mbatha-Raw's spy leading the brawls.

September 19, 2010|By Chris Mann, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Kelli Giddish is downright confident the gal she calls "Queen Bee" — the flesh-and-blood U.S. marshal training her to trail fugitives for NBC's new Jerry Bruckheimer drama "Chase" — means business.

"She weighs about a buck 15," the gravelly voiced, sunny-haired actress said of the petite Houstonian. "She's a blondie. She wears her mascara. And she can kick your...."

The Georgia-born Giddish, 30, is also describing her Texas-size TV alter ego, U.S. Marshal Annie Frost, one of the 2010-11 season's empowered, action-adventure tough chicks whose job is to take charge, take names and take down the bad guys.

In the "Chase" premiere on Monday, Giddish jumps out of a helicopter to tackle a man twice her size, leaps off a bridge to river-wrestle a serial killer and flips a dude over her shoulder with his own belt — which she rips off his waist while he has her headlocked. "Take on Annie's ponytail," she said, "and she'll take you down, buddy."

The CW offers Craig Silverstein's rebooted and stilettoed "Nikita" (which premiered Sept. 9), starring Maggie Q ("Mission: Impossible III") as a rogue assassin seeking vengeance against a corrupt government agency. And Gugu Mbatha-Raw holds her own as a butt-whoopin' married spy on J.J. Abrams' NBC series "Undercovers," premiering Wednesday.

Mid-season is slated to bring the Jennifer Beals vehicle "Ride-Along" on Fox. The "Flashdance" actress stars as Chicago's first female police superintendent in the gritty Shawn Ryan-written drama. And the 1976-81 series "Charlie's Angels" may return to ABC next spring, reimagined by "Smallville" creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough.

But don't expect your mother's "Police Woman" — pound for pounding, 2010's action grrrls are more Angelina Jolie's lioness Salt than Angie Dickinson's sex kittenish Pepper.

"There's something about a strength in women that's sexy," Q, who's 31, said. The CW's Nikita-as-dominatrix print ad campaign "doesn't have much to do with the actual meat of the show. The real friction [is] this woman can handle herself in any situation."

Q's trained operative takes no prisoners in this follow up to the 1990 French film "La Femme Nikita." In upcoming episodes, this chick kicks, pummels and otherwise obliterates six guys at once and has a "huge, massive fight with someone from her past — sort of master against student," said Q, who insists on doing her own stunts.

"Nikita is only fighting these physical battles to get from point A to point B," Q added. "She's got a mission to do. It's really smart and never gratuitous."

"I get giddy every time I see Kelli Giddish jump off the bridge," said "Chase" executive producer Jennifer Johnson. "Inside I feel liberated … because we don't get to see women do that. Annie jumps first and then worries about the consequences. She never once considers herself inferior to men, so there's nothing to stop her."

Giddish, who is trained on location by Chuck Norris' son Eric, does her own stunts. An on-set stuntwoman first tests each big feat and "gets it safe for me," she said. And safe for guest stars. In Episode 2, "I end up breaking a boot off in some guy's face."

Johnson hopes empowered, intelligent and compassionate action heroines will serve as role models, especially for young girls.

"I'm making this for my 41/2-year-old daughter," added the former "Cold Case" showrunner. "I grew up watching 'Charlie's Angels' and always wanted to be Kate Jackson because she was the smart one. She could do it all. That's what I gravitate to. [Annie's] gonna have to beat these guys with physical prowess combined with a smart plan of attack."

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