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It has been 24 years since MacGyver was on the air. The original series ran for seven years between 1985 - 1992. Then played by Richard Dean Anderson, MacGyver would rely on his knowledge and resources to save the day, not guns or strength. His scientific knowledge enabled MacGyver to break free from capture or survive disasters, and it was all real. You could try this at home.

CBS is reinventing MacGyver for a new generation. This fall, Lucas Till plays MacGyver, the hero with real scientific knowledge. A fan of the original show, Till wanted to be sure his MacGyver has the same qualities that made the original so successful.
MacGyver


“I think there’s a lot of things,” Till
said. “World travel and the fun and the MacGyverisms, those are what we did get right, and having fun.”

MacGyverisms are any time MacGyver creates something out of nothing in a pinch. In the ‘80s, these seemed like amazing inventions. Today, technology could almost make everyone a MacGyver, with all the abilities our phones have. Perhaps the new MacGyver will show that good old fashioned ingenuity is still superior to technology.

MacGyver“We make sure that the show is about me doing the same things that he used to do and not about necessarily the technology,” Till said. “But you have to acknowledge it because it’s the world we live in.”

Besides the MacGyverisms, there are important character traits Till must bring to MacGyver. “He was an understanding individual,” Till said. “He's charismatic, and he was always compassionate. There's lots of episodes where he's helping out street orphans. So I think those are important. He's a nice guy, and just because he has a different girl on each episode doesn't mean he's a bad dude, because it's his lifestyle. He can't keep them. But, anyway, there's a couple of things that you just have to nail, and really, I'm discovering new ones every day as I talk to people on the streets, and they are, like, ‘Well, just make sure you do this right.’ And I'm like, ‘Put it on my tab. It's another thing I'm thinking about.’”

It’s clear that Till knows what it takes to be MacGyver, but for a reinvention of the series, producers wanted him to be more like himself. “I think more and more I’ve been encouraged to be a little more myself,” Till said. “I think I was kind of a little stiff on the first episode because I’m trying to be more like him. Then they’re like, ‘As an actor, you’ve got to find the balance somewhere between him and you and you find out where that naturally fits and puts together.’”

Till, at 26, has a lot of experience to bring to the role. He has been acting since 2003 and appeared in movies like Walk the Line, Hannah Montana and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Growing up in Atlanta, GA, his father was an Army lieutenant colonel, so his background gives him a healthy mix of real heroes and screen heroes.
Till

“I think I only wanted to be in the military every third day for the first two years I lived in L.A. and I wanted to give up,” Till recalled. “It was like, ‘All right. I’m just going to go join the military. This sucks.’ No, but my dad was like, ‘You’re not getting in the military. You’re not getting in the military,’ which is funny. I grew up with firearms. I’m actually very proficient with them, and I don’t touch them on the show.”

Even when he’s got his inventions, MacGyver cannot always avoid a fight. The new show promises to be action packed with Till hanging from an airplane, fighting bad guys on a moving speedboat, or in a fancy mansion using serving trays as weapons. Till performs as many of his stunts as he can.

“A lot is me,” Till said. “I try to do as much as I can, but if I’m jumping out of a helicopter, which actually was me too but it wasn’t a real helicopter. We’ve gotten a lot better technology-wise at being able to make it safe. I have been on the back of several moving vehicles at this point. All the fights are me so far. I love it. It would be kind of unfortunate for me to be on a crime drama like a law drama or something where you’ve got to speak technically all the time and be in one room all the time. I like being on location doing stuff, keeping it live, keeping it hot.”

Having experience in action movies helps, because he does not have a lot of time to prepare for action scenes on TV. “[They say], ‘Hey look, there’s a fight scene coming up in 20 minutes. There’s 30 moves to learn. All right, here we go.’” Till said. “That’s about the prep that we get because honestly the schedule is ambitious and we want to make it good and that’s what we’ve got tim to do. I hate to brag about myself but I’ve picked it up. Like I said, it’s something I enjoy doing so over the years I’ve picked it up I guess. X-Men was a lot of stunt work but other movies throughout have been a lot of fighting stuff. That’s what I do.”

MacGyver

Sometimes the action becomes far more intense than Till anticipated when he read it in the script. There’s a big difference between a simple scene description and performing it in real life.

“It will just say, ‘MacGyver runs through the street, blah, blah, blah.’” Till said. “Then, it's, like, 90 degrees outside, and it's really humid, and you are in a leather jacket. You are, like, ‘Man, this is taxing.’ And I didn't even chalk this on the list of things that I was going to be doing stunt-wise, but at the same time, I don't know if I'd survive if I didn't enjoy it, and I do.”
MacGyver

The crew often does not want Till to do the stunts, for fear he might get hurt. Perhaps it is a testament to his infectious personality that he can convince them to put him in the middle of intense scenes.

“I mean, you've got to protect the guy,” Till acknowledged. “Otherwise, everyone loses their jobs if I break an arm or whatever. So you do need to be protected, but at the same time, I love getting in there and doing it because it looks better when you can see the guy doing it. So I convinced them to let this 250 pound man slam me into the ground, and all in one take, he picks me up, chokes me, slams me into the ground. That's just one of many things that we do on MacGyver."

While the new MacGyver doesn’t change anything inherent about MacGyver, it does build upon the world of MacGyver. MacGyver always had a few allies on whom he could rely, but now he has a whole team. George Eads plays Jack Dalton, who was a character on the original show. Sandrine Holt plays Patricia Thornton, who used to be Pete Thornton on the original show. New allies include computer expert Riley Davis (Tristan Mays) and MacGyver’s roommate Wilt Bozer (Justin Hires).

“Bozer provides, I wouldn’t say the audience’s view, but a third person perspective on what’s going on,” Till said. “We could be done with these crazy missions and we come home, Bozer’s like, ‘I’m making waffles.’ It’s like oh, right, these guys are part of a clandestine organization. They aren’t normal people obviously because they’re doing all these crazy stuff, but you know.”

MacGyver leaves anything technological to Davis. “If you don't have her doing all of the technological stuff, then we end up muddying some of the stuff that makes MacGyver MacGyver,“ Till said. “That’s what she’s for. That’s what Riley’s for. She kind of takes over, ‘Oh, I’ve got the satellite image of the computer, blah blah blah.’ And I’m like well, I’m going to take this rod and put it inside a map and tell this guy, ‘Hey, what up?’ and hit him across the face.”

Till is easily the most enthusiastic person in the room. In a world where he gets to pretend for a living, Till has relished all the opportunities to play heroes or love interests. MacGyver brings out the genuine enthusiasm in Till.

“The X-Men movies were pretty awesome,” Till said. “There was times when I would go like this and the red light would flash, but minus the laser coming out of my chest, everything happened in real life. The things would explode at the end of the hallway, so it actually felt like I was a superhero. Now MacGyver is kind of a dream because I get to fight. I get to do stunts. I get to have banter back and forth with George that should be funny. I don’t know if it actually is. Then I get to do MacGyver stuff which is pretty fun because you just get to keep on doing gadgets.”

MacGyver premieres Friday, September 23 at 8PM on CBS.
MacGyver

 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 184 - September 2018
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