Interview: The New MacGyver, Lucas Till

We talk to X-Men series star Lucas Till about stepping into an iconic role on CBS' new MacGyver.

MacGyver is back this Friday with an all new series on CBS. Lucas Till is Angus MacGyver, the Phoenix Federation agent able to invent something helpful out of any common item available to him. The creative genius goes on deadly missions backed by his team, Jack Dalton (George Eads), Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt) and Riley Davis (Tristin Mays).

The cast of this MacGyver is taking it seriously, but Till still made MacGruber jokes on a panel for the Television Critics Association. Action is in his wheelhouse having played Havok in the X-Men movies and taking part upcoming Monster Trucks. Later that night, we got to speak with Till one on one at the CBS party. MacGyver premieres Friday at 8PM on CBS.

Was action hero something you always wanted to do when you became an actor?

Yes, that was exactly. People would ask me that question so many times. You just finally gave me the correct answer. Yes, that was it. When I was a kid, I think I wanted to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Most actors are like, “I want to be more like Marlon Brando.” But then I grew up and my interests were different. When I was a little kid, I just wanted to be an action hero.

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When they let you do some of the MacGyver stunts, what has challenged you and pushed you?

Just doing them period. You want to do it any you want to make it look good so you don’t really think about it until after. George got punched in the face. I got a knee to the side that I wasn’t expecting and it hurt my ribs for a while. I cut myself. You’re hurting yourself over and over again. It’s kind of fun though. It’s not kind of fun. It is what I wanted to do.

There’s a larger ensemble cast in this MacGyver so how much is he still a lone wolf?

Well, he’s the leader of the group because he goes out. Jack looks after his back and Riley takes care of the overseeing of the technological stuff. Thornton is the boss who can’t control us. Then we’ve got Justin [Hires] who comes in as a third person perspective and I am still the leader. I guess that’s kind of like the lone wolf. He’ll go out and maybe possibly do his own thing. Yeah, but it still is an ensemble show.

MacGyver is international but CBS couldn’t afford to send you to all the exotic countries so have you shot it all here?

I don’t think anyone could afford to send us to all these different countries. We’ve done it all in Atlanta.

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What has Atlanta doubled for?

Atlanta’s doubled for Caracas, North Korea, a bunch of different places, but I don’t want to ruin them all.

Does the set dressing and production design make it feel like you’re stepping into South America or Asia in Atlanta?

Oh, of course, it helps. We’re not going to fake it for something if it doesn’t look like that, you know what I mean? It’s your job.

Have they updated MacGyver’s education, how he knows all this stuff?

Yeah, for sure. We haven’t gotten too far into it yet, but everything about it just makes more sense for the day and age that we live in now.

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We know he can invent things, but is the improvising weapons in fights more new to this MacGyver?

Oh yeah, oh yeah, and he’s also fighting in general. A lot of times, I’m running out and accidentally clotheslining a guy. Even real quick in the way that his whole thing is improvising, the way he fights is improvisational as it always is. His approach to everything is one constant throughline.

Is the explaining of how each invention works a challenge for you to memorize and deliver?

Nah. Whatever. I guess it may be but it’s what I do every day so I don’t really have time to think about whether it is or not.

Do you look at any of the old action movies differently now that you’ve experienced it?

Oh yeah. Well, Wesley Snipes had to slow his kicks down, he was so fast. Now I get it. A lot of stuff you think, “Oh man, go for it.” But all I have to do is try half as hard and it looks twice as cool a lot of the time. You discover new things, like any job.

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When you carried the missile over your shoulder, did you feel like MacGyver in that moment?

That day, there was another day when I was basically using a car battery to make an arc welder and I was like, “I actually feel like MacGyver right now.”

I don’t remember the episode, but there’s a picture of Richard Dean Anderson carrying the missile. That is the MacGyver shot, isn’t it?

Oh yeah, exactly. That was the goal. That was the intention of it. You’ll see how it plays out in the episode. That’ll be explained.

I know they’re trying to get him, but have you ever met Richard Dean Anderson?

I haven’t met him, no. 

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When you do, what would you ask him?

Man, how did you do all this? How’d you keep up? He was doing a lot of the stunts. You can tell in the episodes. I know it’s not all of them. You can’t ask somebody to get on top of a horse and be carried up by a helicopter, but he was doing a lot of his own stunts. He was doing all that stuff. He carried the show. It was just him every time. I have an ensemble show so at least I get a scene off every now and then, but he’s every scene of the show really. I just want to ask him how he dealt with it all.

How long did you have to shoot the speedboat chase in the pilot?

That was a night. No, it was several days actually now that I think about it. It depends, between stunts and what we did.