KIDSDAY: TALKING WITH RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON
We interviewed handsome actor Richard Dean Anderson at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan, recently. Anderson, 37, stars as "MacGyver" (Mondays, Ch. 7 at 8 p.m.), the nonviolent hero who relies on science and ingenuity rather than violence. Soap fans may remember him as Dr. Jeff Webber of General Hospital. Like his character, he is an outdoorsman and enjoys sports. Girls, he is single and lives in Los Angeles.
Q. How did you get the role of MacGyver?
A. I met the producers, Henry Winkler (The Fonz) and John Rich. Henry is an actor first, so he put his arm around me and calmed me down. He has an enormous heart and makes you feel comfortable. He handed me a script and I couldn't read it because I have terrible eyes. I put on my glasses and that's when he decided I was right for the part. He said I was unpretentious and very down to earth, and that's what they wanted.
Q. What do you like about your character?
A. I'm happy with MacGyver; he is a relatively nonviolent character that uses his brain and not his brawn to solve problems. Anytime MacGyver makes a bomb, it's a diversionary tactic. If he does blow up some bad guys, you'll see them getting up, dusting themselves off. No one dies at the hand of MacGyver.
Q. We tried one of your experiments and it worked. Does someone test them for you?
A. We have the greatest crew. In the special effects department, Bill Myatt is the real "MacGyver." There is a 40-foot trailer, the effects truck, and you never know what goes on in there. They're great guys from Oklahoma and they'll come out of the trailer and say "How ya doin', Ricky Dean? We're gonna blow up somethin' today."
Q. Does "MacGyver" give a good image?
A. I'm 37 and it took me a long way to come a short distance correctly. Someone asked me last year if I knew I was a role model, and it took me back for a second. I'm ready for it now and it feels good.
Q. We read that you were a "troubled" kid as a teenager. Is that true?
A. I started leaving home early on. I jumped freights and traveled a lot. By 1969, there was a big political and hippie thing going on and I was on the edge of it. I wasn't into the drug scene, but I was on the road, hitchhiking around, so it sounds worse than it was.
Q. What's the most exciting thing you've done?
A. At 17, I bought a Schwinn bicycle for $50 and took a bicycle trip over the summer with two friends. We left the day school ended and got back the day before it started. We rode up north to Alaska for three months, 5,601 miles, and it changed my life. When I left, I had a chip on my shoulder and I was a very angry young man. When I came back, I was more conscious of my environment and the people around me. I spent $130 all summer, $50 of it for a train ride from White Horse in the Yukon to Skagway, Alaska.
Q. What do you do now for excitement?
A. I started car racing recently, driving in the Toyota Grand Prix in Long Beach and I got to skate with the New York Rangers last year. I also skydive and scuba dive.
Q. If you weren't an actor, what would you be?
A. I'd love being a hockey player. I have a hockey team now called the "Celebrity All Stars," and we play pre-games in various cities to raise money for charities. I play with guys like Dennis Hull, Michael Fox and Michael Keaton.
Q. Did popularity change your lifestyle?
A. The financial aspect can change things. In General Hospital, I wasn't making a lot of money, but it was more than many people in other professions. But I'm from Minnesota and I like to have fun. I'm a 37-year-old kid and it drives everyone crazy. The only thing that's changed is that I'm more a private person. I'm not a Hollywood partier.
Q. Do people call you just MacGyver?
A. Most of the guys who recognize me in New York are the cabbies and construction workers. They yell out, "Yo, MacGyver, make me a bomb."
Q. Who are you friends with on the set?
A. My boss, the producer is Henry Winkler and I'm also friends with the prop guys, the camera man and the other producers. I get along better with the crew than other actors.
Q. What's your most treasured possession?
A. My dog. I know I sound like every other dog owner, but I have an Australian shepherd named Whiskey. She's 11 and we've been together since she was 5 weeks old -- I held her paw when she gave birth to puppies. She's just always there when I need her.
Write to Richard c/o "MacGyver," Paramount Studios, 5555 Melrose Ave., Building B, Annex 1, Hollywood, Calif. 90038.