Quite fittingly, CBS’s reboot of MacGyver premieres this September following the network’s successful reboot of Hawaii Five‑0 on Friday nights. Though this MacGyver, naturally, comes with a few updates. Ditching the “lone wolf” aspects of the original ’80s series, a markedly younger MacGyver (Lucas Till) is now surrounded by a support team of operatives as part of a clandestine organization within the U.S. government.
Executive producer Peter Lenkov (24, Hawaii Five‑0) and director/executive producer James Wan (Saw, Furious 7, Aquaman) appeared at the Television Critics Association summer press tour to explain how they chose to bring the famous TV character into the 21st Century. “I wanted it to stand out a little bit from the original show,” Lenkov said. “I wanted that character to have a family around him, people that he relies on. I feel that TV shows nowadays are very character‑driven, so I really wanted to sort of explore his character. And how do you do that? By really having him interact with people close to him.”
Lenkov then described the emotional journey that MacGyver goes on – an arc that begins in the pilot episode. “He’s betrayed by one of the members of his team and somebody he was very fond of,” he said. “And you see him go on this journey of suffering a loss and then a betrayal. And it’s a storyline that’s going to play over the course of the first season of the series.”
Despite all the massive updates in technology over the past three decades, MacGyver will still use duct tape and paper clips whenever necessary. “Whatever’s in front of him,” Leskov smiled. “Whatever he needs he’ll use to get out of whatever situation. He’s a cerebral hero. His superpower is his brain. It’s just the fact that technology is so prevalent these days, it’s so part of our lives, that it’s clearly going to play a role in the show. But paper clip is still No. 6 on the call sheet, so we’ll make sure we service that.”
Wan, who directed the pilot, then revealed that what made the original series so interesting was that it wasn’t just about big‑action set pieces every episode. “There were some episodes with some storylines where it was very contained,” he said. “It was more cerebral, but it was still really cool in some respect. I remember there were episodes where he just had to break out of a jail in South America, or it’s a heist story where he has to go and steal something out of a bank vault. So in a lot of ways, I think each episode could almost be like it’s a standalone little action film based.”
“Some episodes can be more played like thrillers,” Wan added. “Other episodes can be bigger set pieces. And I think at the end of the day, it really is about giving a platform for the characters to do what they do because, you know, we want to really love them.”
As for callbacks to the original series, yes, there will be an update of the MacGyver theme. “We’re actually incorporating the original theme with a sort of a piece of a new theme,” Leskov shared. “We’re sort of blending, combining them both in a main title sequence.” And as for, perhaps, a cameo by original MacGyver Richard Dean Anderson? “We actually have a role in mind for him,” Leskov said, “and we’ve had this since we started prep on the pilot. So we are hoping he says yes.”
MacGyver premieres Friday, September 23rd on CBS.
By Matt Fowler