“What’s really great about the ‘MacGyver’ format is that it can be anything,” says production designer Rex Raglan. “We’ve done futuristic shows that have kind of encroached on science-fiction, and we’ve discovered that MacGyver can dream. He doesn’t have to be in contemporary time — he can go anywhere in time, really.”
Raglan has studied everything from Egyptian hieroglyphics to medieval torture devices during his three years on “MacGyver.” In one episode, he designed a Titan missile, including a nuclear warhead. “That was real interesting research,” Raglan remembers fondly. “We got stuff that was kind of sensitive information and not through the proper channels. I understand we did get a call from the Pentagon asking us how we knew that stuff. That’s kind of a compliment.”
Raglan works closely with set designer Fauquet-Lemaitre. “I try to be as accurate as I can,” Fauquet-Lemaitre says. “There is always creative license, but we try to really stay with facts and reality which touches us on a daily basis. We live in that reality and so it’s good to have it there in our stories.”
Fauquet-Lemaitre, a native of France, draws many ideas from his extensive travels and his background in film and visual arts. But often, the show is set in a location or time he knows nothing about. When that occurs, Fauquet-Lemaitre heads for the library or the phone. “When we did a show set in Switzerland, I made phone calls to Switzerland to get some research done on police cars,” he recalls. “It was tricky because the Swiss police didn’t want us to take any pictures in case somebody would want to duplicate a Swiss police car or impersonate a Swiss policeman.”
Fauquet-Lemaitre believes that accurate detail makes the “MacGyver” series unique. “People may not be really aware of the fine details, but I think you must get the right image overall,” he says. “You have looked at television shows yourself where you are not convinced and you don’t believe it. Then you lose some of your attention. We try to avoid that. Even though the awareness of the audience may not be highly sophisticated, you can’t fool people. There is a certain respect for the audience that you have to have.”
By Kevin McKelvey, The Hollywood Reporter. March 5, 1990: p.S-1 to S-24.