MacGyver creator Lee Zlotoff reveals the personal reasons he fought to reboot the show


Old MacGyver. Photo Courtesy: CBS

Old MacGyver. Photo Courtesy: CBS

In an era of remakes, reboots and sequels, it’s not surprising that the much admired (and spoofed) character of secret agent Angus MacGyver – whose quirky ability to think himself out of a sticky situation – is returning to television after two decades.

But will the crafty hunk skilled at surviving any deadly situation using duct tape and a paper clip resonate with today’s more sophisticated, tech-focused audience?

We sat down with MacGyver creator Lee Zlotoff to find out why he thinks MacGyver is more relevant now than ever before.

Played by Richard Dean Anderson from 1985 to 1992, with the dirty blond mullet and sexy leather jacket, MacGyver was an iconic American hero. He represented true American ingenuity and self-reliance. And since then, even the word “MacGyver” has become a verb, used to describe an improvised solution to a problem.

But in today’s world, where new challenges seem to appear every day, Zlotoff thinks MacGyver can offer a new generation a spirit of hope and resilience.

New MacGyver. Photo Courtesy: CBS

New MacGyver. Photo Courtesy: CBS

“I think MacGyver is the perfect icon for this century,” says Zlotoff. “He’s not about ‘How quick can I reach a gun and kill the bad guy?’ He’s about ‘How do I figure out how to use what I have to turn it into what I need?’”

MacGyver also approaches problems with humor and humility, something Zlotoff feels is extremely important. “A laughing and open mind is scientifically more apt to come up with an inventive solution than a frightened and closed mind.”

But here’s where it gets personal for Zlotoff. He sees a split in our country with people on both sides of the divide angry and frightened. He hopes MacGyver can be an inspiration.

“I have children and grandchildren, and they’re probably going to have children, so I said, ‘Since I have the rights to this character – who’s literally been seen by billions of people because the show has never been off the air in 30 years, it’s run continuously around the world in 70 plus countries in god knows how many languages – all I have to do is remind people that they love this character.’”

Lucas Till as the new MacGyver. Photo courtesy: CBS

Lucas Till as the new MacGyver. Photo courtesy: CBS

Of course there are a few changes to the franchise. MacGyver is now played by 26-year-old Lucas Till (Havok in the X-Men movies) and he’s part of a team that includes his boss, Patricia (Sandrine Thornton), his muscle Jack Dalton (George Eads), his buddy Wilt, (Justin Hires) and computer hacker Riley (Tristan Mays).

But Zlotoff says giving MacGyver a team has to do with replicating other hit shows on CBS like Scorpion more than anything else. But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In CBS’s first version of the reboot pilot, Lucas Till had long, scraggly hair. It turns out the fans prefer MacGyver’s famous ‘do that’s all business in the front and party in the back.  Till got a modern-version of a mullet and producers re-wrote and reshot the pilot, to make it sizzle.

Check out the trailer where Till had long hair:

But he wouldn’t be MacGyver without his trusty Swiss Army knife. I asked Zlotoff if he’s using one of the new knives that includes a fancy flash drive.  ”As far as I know, the one in the show doesn’t have a USB drive on it, but don’t hold me to that, because he may whip it out in one episode.”

Many fans are also wondering if Richard Dean Anderson will appear on new show, but according to this cryptic note he left on his website, it doesn’t seem likely.

“And all I can say is, I’m not considering being a part of a project that has overlooked the insanely LOYAL FANS of the original character and has proceeded without considering how and why they all became and STAYED loyal fans…”

Zlotoff admits he doesn’t understand the meaning behind the note. “I know Peter Linkov, who’s the new show runner/executive producer, has reached out to him on numerous occasions, and so far he hasn’t wanted to play. It’s a shame, it would be nice if he did. I don’t think CBS or Peter was dismissive of the fans, to the contrary. I hope Richie comes around, that’s all I can say.”

If you’ve ever admired MacGyver’s problem solving ability, Zlotoff is getting ready to launch a brand new book and video series called, The MacGyver Secret, which he says will help anyone access the Swiss Army knife of their own mind.

“Inside all of us, there is an inner MacGyver. The deeper problem-solving abilities that everyone has can be applied to any kind of problem, whether it’s technical, creative, professional or personal.” Check for more details and updates.

MacGyver premieres Friday, September 23 at 8 p.m. on CBS.

What do you think of the new look ?

10 Replies to "MacGyver creator Lee Zlotoff reveals the personal reasons he fought to reboot the show"

  • comment-avatar
    Mamie M. September 22, 2016 (6:41 am)

    Terrific. He’s darling!

  • comment-avatar
    AW September 22, 2016 (8:23 am)

    It’s sad that you’ve gone so far away from what made the original series so wonderful and engaging to watch. The original character would be too humble to say “see you in 29” when a guy says “you have 30 minutes.” The original Mac hated guns and here he seems to embrace his gun loving team member, relying on him to “have his back.” The original Mac wouldn’t have needed a computer hacker full time. And why the need to “womenize” Peter Thornton? Oh well, perhaps you can use this show to at least close some loop holes like Murdoc.

  • comment-avatar
    Philip McKinney September 22, 2016 (9:07 am)

    The “muscle” uses guns. MacGyver hated guns, and never used them precisely because his MIND was the weapon, and he didn’t need a gun. It’s bullshit that they put a gun-toting idiot on the team.

  • comment-avatar
    Dona General September 22, 2016 (10:00 am)

    I’ll watch the pilot, but from the info here, the new show will be more like Scorpion and all the other ‘team’ procedurals. Original MacGyver was the iconic American hero: The talented guy who is his own man, a self-confident original personality with a code all his own, needing no one to lean on, whose mind and spirit are an inspiration model for all Americans to emulate. Think Gary Cooper in High Noon. Personally, I’m bored with high action foot races, car chases, hackers, high level government villains and impossible action tactics no one can do or live through. Movies and TV today feature cartoon heroes for adolescent boys, not adults who face real global problems and relationships.

  • comment-avatar
    TK Blackburn September 22, 2016 (2:53 pm)

    I don’t usually agree with “purists” on things like this, but just viscerally, that trailer does NOTHING for me. Arrogant, too young to really know anything & backed up by a team that removes all the sense of danger. MacGyver’s original appeal lay in his “real” attitude toward danger – he was scared!

    That iconic intro to the original series had all the adventure & pyrotechnics, but it also had a humble MacGyver going through it all as if we were watching ourselves.

    The real MacGyver used hit wits, not the cocky wit of this new iteration.

    Definitely won’t see a second season.

  • comment-avatar
    Dan Wolfson September 22, 2016 (5:00 pm)

    As I recall, MacGyver never killed anyone, and whenever he punched a bad guy in the jaw, he always waggled his hand to show that it hurts to do that. Violence was the last resort. I think the show inspired generations of young people to use their minds to solve problems. I’m glad to see the show come back and hope that it will have some of the same qualities.

  • comment-avatar
    Truth September 22, 2016 (5:17 pm)

    Correction: Sandrine Holt plays Patricia Thornton.

  • comment-avatar
    AW September 22, 2016 (6:14 pm)

    A few other inconsistencies between old and new show: 1) Good old Mac was afraid of heights. In the new trailer he is dangling from an airplane giggling like he’s having the time of his life. 2) In the teaser they talk about plan B being the need to improvise. Really??? The whole point of the original show was that ALL the plans were improvised. That was the point! The more you plan ahead the more chances there are that something will go wrong. Who is in charge of continuity in this new version???

  • comment-avatar
    R. Michael Palmer October 5, 2016 (2:31 pm)

    Series should be brought back with a female lead (daughter of MacGyver). That way you can have the conflict of father/daughter, old/new.

  • comment-avatar
    Patrecia Kay Jackson-McCurdy March 23, 2017 (12:45 pm)

    If there were no changes – people would be saying – “Same old seven and six. Seen it all before. ” I say, don’t watch, if you don’t like – I like, so I’m watching – I like the other one also. Be a little forgiving, for crying out Pete’s sake.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

Join Our Magazine
Get a free subscription to Screenwriting Magazine and download over 40 Academy Nominated screenplays.
No Thanks
Thanks for Joining ScreenwritingU Magazine!
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Join today!