The CBS series MacGyver is a reimagining of the classic action-adventure about Angus “Mac” MacGyver (Lucas Till), who is part of a clandestine organization within the U.S. government. MacGyver uses his extraordinary talent for unconventional problem solving on high-risk missions that save lives, and he gets helps from former CIA agent Jack Dalton (George Eads), Director of Operations Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt), and computer hacker Riley Davis (Tristin Mays).
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actor Lucas Till talked about why MacGyver appealed to him, adjusting to the TV schedule, the challenges of being #1 on the call sheet, what’s most impressed him about the high quality of action on the show, what James Wan brought to the pilot, and why Peter Lenkov is the right guy to be the showrunner.
Collider: How did this come to you, and what did you think about the idea of it?
LUCAS TILL: I remember being really unemployed, at the moment, and then MacGyver came up. I’d never really done TV. The 22-episode season of TV is not really something I watch, and I haven’t even had cable in my house for eight years, so I don’t really know what’s out there. I also never really thought I’d be a part of something like that, so I didn’t really know if I wanted to do it. But, it was MacGyver. So, I read the pilot and thought it was good, and just kept moving on with it. It’s just been a gradual incline, to this point. It’s cool.
If you’re going to do a TV show, you want to be #1 on the call sheet. What are the biggest challenges and surprises that come along with that?
TILL: I almost don’t want to talk about them because it will just sound like I’m complaining. It’s challenging, but it’s equally rewarding. The show is called MacGyver, even though it’s me and George [Eads], all the time. I’ll do a scene, and then in between set-ups, I’ll go do a fitting and then come back and do pre-voice overs. I don’t have a break for hours, even a chance to sit down. But, that will smooth itself out eventually and we’ll hit a stride. Some days, we’re doing action, and I really love doing action and I go for it, but then I’m beat up the next morning and we’ve got 10 pages of dialogue to do, after a 16-hour day of getting beaten up. But, all the hard work means something. That’s all you can really ask for, as an actor. Money is cool, but being proud of yourself is something that’s so rare.
There’s a certain level of expectation that people have for action. What has most impressed you about the action on this show?
TILL: The fact that they let me do it. I’m working a lot harder than I’ve ever worked, as far as hours there. Talking about it, as if it’s not me, you’ve gotta protect the person who’s #1. You don’t want them to burn out or get hurt because then everyone loses a job, and I get that. But, I also want to do the best job I can. I want you to see me in there, doing all of the stuff. A goal I want to hit is making it the coolest action, making it one of the funnier shows, and making sure it has a lot of heart. If we get that formula, maybe we’ll be a success.
Is this action very different from the action you’ve done, in the past? Have you had to learn a lot of unique skills for this show?
TILL: I’ve always done a lot of stunts in the past, and I sound like I’m tooting my own horn here, but I’ve always impressed the people I’ve worked with and they’ve let me do more and more. I took Jujitsu for four years, which has no striking. My dad had me in Taekwondo when I was a kid, but I didn’t retain much of that. I just like making action look good, but there have been very little rehearsals. A lot of times, they expect that we’ll go do the dialogue, and then they’ll let second unit shoot the stunt stuff. But then, we end up merging and have 20 minutes to learn 30 moves of choreography. It’s fortunate that I enjoy doing that kind of thing, otherwise it wouldn’t look very good.
You shot a pilot for this show, but then that was re-shot with a new director (James Wan) and new showrunner (Peter Lenkov). What’s it been like for you to have to find the character again?
TILL: It’s been crazy. I don’t even want to speak too much about it because it’s something we’ve moved on from, but it’s tough. You do all of this stuff with these people that you get to know, and then it’s only you and George [Eads] left. It’s been crazy because it was like this really big, expensive dress rehearsal, and then we got to start all over. We learned a lot.
What did James Wan bring to the pilot, as far as helping set the tone for the series?
TILL: He brought something different. He’s a feature guy, and that helped me because I’m a feature guy. It was a lot for us both to be able to handle, and I think we could relate, in that way. There were no real hiccups, performance wise or getting along. We just understood each other. He brings something that’s not TV. We’re making a new action movie with each episode. It takes a minute to get use to the TV thing, and I have so much more respect for TV actors now. But, I really like it.
Peter Lenkov had great success with Hawaii 5-O, so does that reassure you that he knows what he’s doing, as the showrunner of this show?
TILL: He does. And he wrote Demolition Man. When I found that out, I was like, “Are you kidding me?! You wrote that?!” He’s got the tone exactly right. He respects the original so much, but he also has to contemporize it. He’s gotta make me want to watch it. I don’t want to be a part of something I don’t want to watch. I don’t really like to watch myself, but if it was someone else, I’d watch this show. Peter has got the vision, and that’s key.
MacGyver airs on Friday nights on CBS.