Brainpower Foils the Bad Guys.
MacGyver is the most unusual hero on TV. He’s a combination of Albert Einstein and Batman, a human Swiss Army Knife with a Boy Scout “Handbook” for a brain.
Richard Dean Anderson, the actor who plays MacGyver wishes he could be more like his TV character. “MacGyver is a guy who uses his mind to solve a problem,” he says. “He doesn’t take out a gun and shoot somebody. Instead, MacGyver slumps in a corner and devises a way to get out of his predicament.”
Snooping for groceries in a supermarket, MacGyver spots two robbers cleaning out cash registers, and threatening customers. Armed with only the items in his cart, MacGyver makes a fire extinguisher by mixing vinegar and baking soda in a hot-water bottle. Then he squirts the stuff at the robbers to subdue them.
In other episodes, MacGyver is seen assembling a telescope from a newspaper, watch crystal, and map light. He turns bed springs into a giant slingshot, and a flare gun into a rocket booster. He uses the power from a lamp to open an electric lock.
It’s this cleverness that makes the “MacGyver” series, seen on ABC-TV, so entertaining.
Actor Richard Anderson, who was once a Boy Scout himself, says the character he plays could be the ultimate Scout.
“MacGyver is just a clever sort of science mind in maverick’s clothing, with a real sense of logic,” Anderson says. “As the series progresses, we keep finding out more about MacGyver and where he gets his knowledge. Some of it is practical book learning, and of course he was a prodigy in science and physics and such.”
Anderson says he has noticed small similarities between himself and MacGyver. “I’m a chronic observer. I’m always in my own mind, and a lot of times I’ll do something weird before I can think about it,” he says. “I’ve got a bit of curiosity about how things work, but I don’t have the education that a true MacGyver would have.
If the actor isn’t as brainy as the character he plays, he is certainly more athletic. When he was a boy, Anderson bicycled 5,600 miles from Minnesota to Alaska and back. A native of Minneapolis, he first wanted to become a professional hockey player. But he broke an arm after being tripped on the ice, then three weeks later broke his other arm. “I then decided to look for a less dangerous job,” he jokes.
In college Anderson settled upon acting, and he worked as a juggler and a mime between roles in stage plays. Anderson’s biggest break came in 1976, when he won the role of Dr. Jeff Webber on “General Hospital.” He stayed with the daytime series for five years, and had supporting roles in “Emerald Point N.A.S.” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”
As he’s found success as an actor, Anderson has continued to play hockey. “I love it. It’s the best sport in the world,” he says. “There’s is a certain grace about hockey. But it is a contact sport, and you have to be aggressive to play it well.”
Anderson often appears on celebrity hockey teams with fellow actors Michael J. Fox and Michael Keaton. He also regularly participates in scuba diving, skydiving, and show skiing.
Anderson says he was first attracted to “MacGyver” because it was an action show. But there is more to the character than just action. “You have to see MacGyver thinking . . . you have to see . . . the whole building process in his head.”
MacGyver is a fictional character, but all of his qualities are the result of hard work and just being a good person. “That is the real part, the human side, of what would otherwise be just a comic-book character, Anderson says.
Denny Angelle, Boys’ Life, August 1988.