We’ve all heard the phrase “MacGyver it,” but not everyone knows the expression came from a popular television show.
The name, which is synonymous with fixing something in an improvised or inventive way, came to be thanks to Richard Dean Anderson’s portrayal of Angus “Mac” MacGyver on the show MacGyver.
Aside from playing MacGyver, Anderson is also known for playing Jack O’Neil on the science fiction series Stargate SG-1.
Not long after his departure from the Stargate universe, Anderson made the choice to retire from acting, but why did he decide to leave the limelight?
Let’s find out and see what he has been up to post retirement!
Anderson was born on January 30, 1950 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Growing up, Anderson had aspirations to be a professional hockey player someday. Unfortunately, that dream was shattered when Anderson broke both arms three weeks apart.
Anderson then shifted his interest to music and for a time tried to become a jazz musician. Eventually, he decided to give acting a whirl and attended St. Cloud State University followed by Ohio University to study acting.
Failing to find fulfillment, Anderson dropped out of college before receiving his degree. At this time, he tried his hand at various jobs and skills. Anderson worked as a whale handler, a director of entertainment at an aquarium, a street mime, a juggler, and a musician at a medieval-themed dinner theater.
After taking time to explore different interests Anderson ultimately returned to acting.
Anderson’s first on-screen role was in the short film The Birthday Party in 1975. The film was to recognize the anniversary of when the United States Marine Corps was founded.
From there, Anderson was cast to play Dr. Jeff Weber in the long running soap opera series General Hospital. Anderson played Dr. Weber on the show from 1976 to 1981. Anderson continued to appear or star in various television shows including The Facts of Life, The Love Boat, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Emerald Boat N.A.S.
Anderson’s big break would come in 1985 when he was cast to play the titular role of Angus MacGyver in the adventure series MacGyver. MacGyver was a secret agent who used his ingenuity to solve problems out in the field with whatever he could get his hands on except guns. Anderson was very drawn to the role because of MacGyver’s aversion to guns, which differed from many action stars at the time.
The series ran from 1985 to 1992 and, during that time, gained a loyal following of viewers. Fans of the show coined the term “MacGyverism,” which means an invention created from simple items to solve a problem.
While the world MacGyverism isn’t in the dictionary, the term MacGyver gained enough popularity over the years that, in 2015, it was finally was added to the Oxford Dictionaries as a verb meaning “make or repair (an object) in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever items are at hand.”
Anderson reprised his role as MacGyver in 2006 when he starred in a MacGyver-themed Mastercard commercial that aired during the Superbowl.
One day, Anderson got a phone call from the president of MGM asking if he would be interested in a part on an upcoming series. The show would be called Stargate SG-1, a series based on the movie Stargate starring Kurt Russell.
After watching the Stargate movie over and over again, Anderson decided to take on the role of Jack O’Neil, the role Russell played in the film. Jack O’Neil is the leader of the SG-1 team whose goal is to explore the galaxy and defend against extraterrestrial threats.
Accepting the role as O’Neil didn’t come without some demands from Anderson. Anderson wanted his portrayal as O’Neil to have more comedic elements than Russell’s portrayal of the character. Additionally, he didn’t want him to be the focus of the show but rather a part of an ensemble.
In 2005, Anderson completed his last mission with the SG-1 team and made the decision to leave the show. After his departure, fans speculated online as to why.
On the Stargate Reddit page a fan asked why Anderson left the series and was met with a myriad of responses–
“In some videos he had talked about how his knees were pretty banged up, and all that running and fighting was starting to be too rough on his body,” one commenter said.
Another response stated “Spend time with his daughter, ride motorcycles & not have to keep fit & take it easy on the body he has said in many interviews.”
Another fan considered that Anderson left the show due to his opposition of his character using guns, “I recall reading in a magazine somewhere that as a huge gun control advocate he did not want to have to explain to his kids why their dad was on TV using guns. It was not the only reason, but it played a role in his decision…”
Post Stargate Roles
After Anderson left the Stargate series, he appeared on a few shows like Fairly Legal and Raising Hope. He only starred in one film, which was Stargate: Continuum where he reprised his role as Jack O’Neil.
His last role was when he played himself in an episode of Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 in 2013.
Anderson’s desire to spend more time with his family drove his decision to retire from acting.
At a Stargate Q & A panel in 2019, Anderson was asked to share his thoughts about the CBS reboot of MacGyver.
First, Anderson revealed that he was approached by the show to make an appearance which he ultimately turned down. According to Cinema Blend, Anderson said “I’m not real crazy about it, I’ll be honest. They approached me at some point early on – they had done some testing for the show, and found out that it wasn’t as attractive as they wanted it to be – and then they called and asked if I wanted to have anything to do with it. And I said, ‘Noooo.’ And I’m glad.”
Anderson didn’t hold back his feelings about the reboot, which he felt was disingenuous to the original. Anderson continued, “Once I saw the product, I wasn’t offended, because it’s a business, and I don’t own the title; they can do whatever they want. But I don’t think they’ve been fair in continuing the franchise [while] being true to the franchise. They’re shooting up everybody, there’s so much going on, but you don’t see the thought process that we prided ourselves on being able to institute into our show…”
As far as Anderson seems to be concerned, not even MacGyver could fix the problems with the reboot.
What is Anderson doing now?
Even though Anderson has been enjoying his retirement, it hasn’t stopped him from occasionally making public appearances to show fans some appreciation.
In 2022, Anderson and fellow co-star Amanda Tapping had a mini Stargate reunion at the Paris Manga Sci-Fi Show. They treated fans to a Q & A, signed autographs, and posed for pictures.
Also in 2022, the website Companion hosted an event where Anderson and other former cast members of Stargate SG-1 would do a table read of a script, except the script wasn’t penned by professional writers or even loyal fans of the show; it was written by Google AI.
The Stargate AI 2.0 event was the first time in almost a decade that Anderson had done any performing. Companion brought Anderson back again for an online conversation between him and Brad Wright (co-creator of the Stargate SG-1 series) which was followed by a live Q & A with Anderson.
Currently, Anderson is taking advantage of his retirement by splitting his time between Vancouver and Los Angeles. Despite injuries he incurred when he was younger, Anderson is still playing ice hockey.
Anderson was married from 1996 to 2003. He and his former wife share one daughter together, Wylie Quinn Annarose Anderson.
Speaking of his daughter in 2009, Anderson said, “Being a father, well, I don’t know if this is a change, but it makes me want to get out of here faster. Get off the clock. Just ’cause the baby is my reason for living, my reason for coming to work.”
For fans who like to keep up with what Anderson is doing, he posts updates to his personal website, Richard Dean Anderson Website, where he shares upcoming events, appearances, and pictures of his beloved dogs.