Playgirl. May, 1986
By Karre Slafkin
Ya gotta love him. He's successfully avoided falling into the Tinsel Town trap, whereby TV series actors begin to take themselves as seriously as heart transplant surgeons. Richard Dean Anderson, star of ABC-TV's MacGyver, and late of the same network's No. 1-rated soap, General Hospital, has a clear perspective on his life and profession.
Lunching with him is like going a round at a comedy club. Besides all-American good looks, the man has wit, a dry, almost self-mocking sense of humor and good old-fashion Midwestern niceness.
His realistic self-image may be due to his role on a nighttime series, something the public perceives as being glamorous, but a notion Anderson immediately corrects. "I get up at 4 or 5 a.m., and am on the set by 6 or 6:30. I go to makeup and wardrobe and, of course, I then have to learn those infamous lines."
Granted, a career in television sets an exhaustive pace, but the five years Anderson spent as Dr. Jeff Webber on General Hospital prepared him well. "It [the soap] was a real learning experience, the best training I ever got." He left behind the security of a weekly paycheck because, he says, "You run the risk of becoming an institution. Plus, I have too much creative energy to be put in a back-burner storyline."
Anderson didn't have anything waiting for him post-G.H. "I did some guest shots, including an episode of Facts of Life that was treated as a possible spin-off." He finally landed two successful nighttime television series: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Emerald Point, N.A.S., where he met his current lady, Sela Ward.
"I have a wonderful relationship with her and the idea of babies is strong." But, "if she asked me to marry her, I'd say, 'Not until our children have therapy.'"
MacGyver is the 35-year-old actor's best shot at becoming a household name. In the action-packed show, he plays a former Special Forces agent called upon to triumph in impossible missions. If the show fails, however, Anderson has his first feature film in the can awaiting a summer '86 release. In Ordinary Heroes, a remake of the 1945 movie Pride of the Marines, Anderson plays a soldier who is blinded three days before he is scheduled to come home from Vietnam.
Anderson didn't always have a yen to act. As a boy he dreamed of one day playing in the National Hockey League. His heroes weren't Olivier, Cary Grant or James Stewart, but men named Howe, Orr and Hull. Fate intervened, however, when he broke both arms in separate games. "After that I lost my competitive fire. It was one of my major lost dreams, not being able to realize my potential."
Nowadays, he holds on to a piece of his dream by playing pickup hockey Monday and Thursday nights at a local ice rink. He also plays on a celebrity team with two of Hollywood's best-known Canadians: Alan Thicke and Michael J. Fox.
When the busy actor has downtime, he prefers spending his evenings dining at home with a lady. "A glass of champagne, showering -- preferably together, and if you get distracted along the way, that's fine -- dressing, being together, simply dining properly, ordering a good wine, making it an event."
Anderson terms himself "incurably romantic, which softened my attitudes toward a lot of things. I used to be a potentially great juvenile delinquent when I was growing up. I made some conscientious transitions in life to bring myself to where I am today."
This new self-ease may be one reason he is now able to consider marriage and family life without laughing. "It took longer than the norm, but I've begun to think, 'What would my babies be like?'"
Slafkin, Karre. "Richard Dean Anderson -- Cover Close-Up." Playgirl Magazine. May, 1986: p.11.