People Weekly. January 19, 1987
By Suzanne Stevens
Richard Dean Anderson
says he knew his TV series
was a hit when some hard
hats yelled, "Yo, MacGyver,
you're cool, man."
MacGyver is that kind of show; Anderson that kind of guy. Star posturing doesn't fit the picture. After a slow start, the series -- now in its second season -- is shaping up as a hit for ABC. Anderson doesn't hide his regard for the character he plays. "He's not one of those supermacho guys with their shirts unbuttoned to their navels, who bounce bullets off their chests and wear 400 tons of gold," he says. "Our show teaches a different attitude," he adds, "which is that you think before you punch someone in the face."
Critics have hailed MacGyver as an "adventure series for thinkers" and praised Anderson's shy sexiness and aw-shucks charm. Says one crew member, "Other TV actors, after two years on a hit show, develop an attitude. But not Ricky Dean." The co-executive producer, Henry (the Fonz) Winkler, concurs: "We went through about 100 actors, and then Richard came in to audition. He immediately had to go into his briefcase to find his glasses so he could read the script. I thought, 'We've got something here.'"
"MacGyver doesn't carry weapons,"
says Anderson, who uses his
wits - and sometimes his feet -
to whup the bad guys.
Ironically, Anderson injured his back last September, while filming a MacGyver stunt. Running toward the camera, he accidentally tripped into a hole. "I did a perfect shoulder roll, but I knew I had tweaked something," he says. A few months later, his left leg still felt partly paralyzed. Diagnosed as having traumatized his spinal cord, he underwent medical treatment. He is still in pain and has even tried acupuncture to expedite a healing process he finds "too slow for my level of patience."
Anderson, whose mother is an artist and father a jazz bass player (they're now divorced), was raised in Minneapolis. Dad, when not accompanying the likes of George Shearing and Mel Tormé, supplemented his income by teaching. He also directed school plays, and Richard, the eldest of four sons, hung around backstage. But the boy was more at home outdoors. At 16, he broke both his arms playing hockey, and that killed his No. 1 career goal. At 17, he rode his bicycle nearly 6,000 miles through Canada to Alaska (his cautious father sent spare tires to cities along the way). Richard spent three years at two colleges, but quit and moved to the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco. "Drugs were rampant, and I was living in the middle of it," he says (but adds that he's now totally anti-drugs). Anderson later moved to L.A., where he joined a troupe performing at Marineland. Several times a day, he stood on a ladder and "had a mackerel snatched out of my teeth by a pair of killer whales." Jokes Anderson: "I still have an aversion to sushi."
Actress Sela Ward says she
sees her non-live-in love as
"sensitive, sexy and
intelligent, but not a real
macho type of guy."
Anderson does not qualify as a big spender. "I have a very protective attitude about money," he admits. His only luxury is a new Jeep. He still lives in a two-bedroom West Hollywood apartment, unshared -- by mutual agreement -- with girlfriend Ward, who lives around the corner. "I've never been big on living together," she says, "unless you're ready to get married. Neither one of us is ready." Still, Anderson longs for fatherhood. "I want two children," he says. "I'm almost jealous that I can't have a baby myself." Let's see you try that one, MacGyver.
Stevens, Suzanne. "In a Fix? Call MacGyver, Not the Average Joe Who Plays Him." People Weekly. January 19, 1987: p.57-58.