Before he became a verb — as in “he MacGyvered it” — the TV character of Angus MacGyver was a secret agent who refused to carry a gun, instead using whatever he had at hand to manufacture a weapon, tool or means of escape as a member of the Department Of External Services (DXS). Portrayed by Richard Dean Anderson from 1985-92 in the original series, MacGyver is back this fall as a reboot with Lucas Till, perhaps best known as the mutant Havok in X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days Of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse, in the title role.
This MacGyver is a twentysomething agent who, rather than operating on his own, is part of a team engaged in high-risk missions that take them around the world. Other cast members include George Eads as Jack Dalton, Tristin Mays as Riley Davis, Justin Hires (late of the TV version of Rush Hour) as Wilt Bozer and Sandrine Holt as Patricia Thornton. In the following exclusive interview, Till shares his feelings on leaving the X-Men franchise behind him and embarking on what could be a whole new adventure as a television leading man.
So what drew you to MacGyver? What was the thing that made you say, "God, this is a series I want to do”?
There are worse reasons for doing something.
I'm joking. Truthfully, in the beginning this could have gone either way, and as it turned out there was a version that was done wrong, which I’m not even going to get into. It was a pretty good idea and I liked where it was going, but then we got a chance to restart with Peter Lenkov [as executive producer/showrunner], who brought his vision to it. I remember reading his pilot script and it was just so exciting that I started hopping around my room. My buddy, who was over, was, like, “Dude, what is going on?” I had to reenact, out loud, the last two pages I had just read, because I was so excited. It took me forever to get through it, because I would keep throwing the script down, going, “Aw, we get to go where? We get to do what?”
On this pilot, the one that we're going to see, there were a lot of reshoots, correct?
I will say this: basically there was an idea and it was executed with a bunch of different things in mind, and that's where I will stop talking, because if I were to continue it might sound like I would be slagging off all of these people that I worked closely with, who did such a great and amazing job in their own right. With that being said, Peter’s idea is completely different. The original plan was that James Wan would direct the pilot but it didn’t work out, and then it did, which is great. I’m a huge fan.
How do you view this guy? Who is MacGyver?
Pretty much the exact same guy from the original, only about 10 years younger. He's got a heart, he's loyal, he's always trying to do the right thing. He still doesn't use guns, even though he's getting in these dangerous situations. He's always trying to use what he has around him to get out of stuff. In the first episode, there's this opportunity where Jack throws me a gun and I use it to hit someone in the head instead of shooting the guy. No matter how dangerous it gets, he's still not going to compromise that about himself, so he's a pretty stand-up guy and cares about people. James Bond cares about the mission and getting laid, but he’s not known for being a kind-hearted dude. I mean, he doesn't have to be. I'm not slagging James Bond off, but...
Hey, you don't want to be be slagging James Bond!
Oh, man, what am I doing? This is going downhill fast….. [laughs]
You can still salvage it.
He’s just a guy who cares about people and the human element. That’s something that was really important to the original, and we're not leaving that behind.
MacGyver as a premise is very plot-based. Is there an opportunity to explore the character?
Actually there were a lot of things about the original that focused on the character, but not too many people seem to remember that. They’re, like, “Don’t really remember anything about him except for the MacGyver stuff.” But, to answer your question, yes, we're exploring the characters. There's a lot more opportunity to do that and it’s something we’re taking the time to do in each episode.
You’re a guy who’s appeared in a lot of films, but a television series could keep you tied to one gig for a number of years.
That’s true, but I'm enjoying it because it’s this project. I don't know that I could do a procedural legal drama and spend all my time in a courtroom talking legal jargon that I don't necessarily understand. But with this we're on location everywhere and it’s a pretty ambitious show. It can get, like, “Aw, are we going to be able to pull this off? This is so big,” but we do it. I may have seven pages of dialogue to learn by tomorrow, but then I'll get there and do that, followed by a major fight scene. Each day is so different…I never know when I’ll find myself jumping out of a helicopter or something. It’s like we’re making a new action movie every week, which is pretty thrilling.
Do you feel any sort of connection to MacGyver? Are you a tech guy?
We called my dad MacGyver when I was a kid, and I learned a lot from him. He just enjoys problem solving in that way. I do, too, which is something I inherited. My mom's a chemist, so she's pretty smart. I love technology and I can handle myself around a computer. I'm also a video game addict, so I’m always looking to support my addiction.
Switching gears, in the new wave of X-Men films you played the mutant Havok. How cool was that experience?
Man, you have no idea. What’s funny is we were doing some fire at work the other day and it was reminding me of all the firework I got to do as Havok, because a lot of that was as practical as you could get. On the first one, X-Men: First Class, it would be James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult and I. I’d basically inhale, there would be a red flashing light, and then the stuff at the end of the hallway would just blow up. It really felt like I could do those things, but, sadly, I can’t. It was a lot of fun; I got to play a superhero that I was familiar with since I was a kid. It doesn’t really get much better than that.
What was your reaction when you read the script for X-Men: Apocalypse and saw that you would be playing your death scene? Were you bummed?
I figured it was just a matter of time. The producer and writers were kind of feeling me out with, “Are you okay with the fact that you die?” and I was, like, “Yes.” That’s something that people would talk about, so I thought it was cool that I died. Havok was in three movies and then I get to be remembered. It ended a chapter of my life and I get to start a new one with MacGyver.