During the ’80s, action-packed shows filled with detectives and crime fighters dominated the airwaves. One of those popular shows was MacGyver, which made its debut in 1985. Created by Lee David Zlotoff and produced by Henry Winkler and John Rich, the series centered on the title character, Angus MacGyver, a secret agent who is fully armed with an unlimited supply of scientific resources and gadgets to wipe out any and all wrongdoings. Unlike other TV heroes who rely on guns and physical combat to resolve situations, MacGyver was renowned for his adept problem-solving.
MacGyver ran for seven seasons on ABC, ending in 1992, and was rebooted with a brand-new cast in 2016 on CBS. Let’s touch base with the original team and see what they’ve been up to.
Richard Dean Anderson as Angus MacGyver
Paging Dr. Jeff Weber! Long before becoming a primetime action hero on MacGyver, Richard Dean Anderson played the Port Charles physician on the ABC soap opera General Hospital from 1976 to 1981. After leaving the daytime drama, Anderson secured guest appearances on The Facts of Life and The Love Boat. His first two steady gigs were on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Emerald Point N.A.S. with actress Susan Dey. (Get the latest on Susan Dey.)
When MacGyver wrapped in 1992, Anderson went on to star as Jack O’Neill in the series Stargate SG-1 from 1997 to 2007. The role earned him great respect from the military, and he was made an honorary Air Force brigadier general.
In 1995, Anderson appeared in 12 episodes of Legend. As ’80s nostalgia became popular in the ’00s, MacGyver came back into the cultural conversation, and Anderson reprised the role in a 2006 Super Bowl for MasterCard. A recurring Saturday Night Live around the time, “MacGruber” paid hilarious homage to the character and helped introduce MacGyver to a new generation.
Anderson’s most recent credits include appearances on Fairly Legal, Raising Hope and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. Now 73, Anderson retired from acting in 2013.
Dana Elcar as Peter Thornton
Dana Elcar was a gifted character actor with a 50-year career. He began his career on daytime TV, playing Los Angeles District Attorney Andrew Murray on Guiding Light. From there Elcar had guest appearances on many shows and joined the cast of the cult favorite Dark Shadows.
Other popular shows followed, including Baretta, Gunsmoke, Get Smart, The Partridge Family, Hill Street Blues, The A-Team, Trapper John, M.D., Law & Order and ER. On the silver screen, Elcar was in The Sting, The Champ, The Nude Bomb, All of Me, and Inside Out. Sadly, Elcar died at age 77 in 2005.
Bruce McGill as Jack Dalton
Who can ever forget Bruce McGill‘s entrance in the classic 1978 comedy Animal House? Dressed in leather, he rides a motorcycle up the stairs of the college frat house to perform the William Tell Overture on his windpipe. From there, the skies have had no limit for McGill, as he’s continually worked in television and film with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. (Click through to catch up with Animal House co-star Tim Matheson!)
McGill’s cinematic resume includes Silkwood with Cher, The Secret of My Success with Michael J. Fox, My Cousin Vinny with Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei, The Insider with Russell Crowe, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde with Reese Witherspoon and many more.
In 1986, McGill joined the MacGyver cast for 18 episodes as Jack Dalton, a pilot and close pal of MacGyver who is a bit of a handful. After leaving the series, McGill went on to appear in shows like Quantum Leap, Home Improvement, Babylon 5, Numb3rs, Psych, Law & Order: SVU, Rizzoli & Isles, The Good Wife, Blue Bloods and Suits. Now 73, he’s still keeping busy with regular TV roles.
Elyssa Davalos as Nikki Carpenter
Elyssa Davalos decided to keep it all in the family by following in her famous father’s footsteps and pursuing a career in showbusiness. Her dad was Richard Davalos, an actor who famously starred opposite James Dean in East of Eden. Elyssa spent most of her career making one-time guest appearances on shows like Charlie’s Angels, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, How the West Was Won, Hawaii Five-O and more.
Playing Richard Dean Anderson’s love interest, Nikki Carpenter, on MacGyver was her biggest role. Now 64, her last acting appearance was in the 2007 Nancy Drew movie. Davalos’ daughter, Alexa, is now an actress like her mom and grandpa before her.
Teri Hatcher as Penny Parker
Before settling into the world famous cul-de-sac on Wisteria Lane as a star of Desperate Housewives, Teri Hatcher had a recurring role as MacGyver’s friend Penny Parker, who just happens to be an actress. After leaving the series, Hatcher appeared on Night Court, Star Trek: The Next Generation, L.A. Law, Quantum Leap and Murphy Brown. Then in 1993, Hatcher landed the title role on the ABC series, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman for 87 episodes opposite Dean Cain. Hatcher also had a memorable guest role on the episode of Seinfeld titled, “The Implant,” where before leaving Seinfeld’s apartment in a huff she looks and him and says, “They’re real and they’re spectacular.”
In the 2000s, Hatcher starred as Susan Mayer Delfino on the juicy drama Desperate Housewives, which ran from 2004 to 2012. Now 58, Hatcher has also acted in movies like in Soapdish, Tango & Cash, Tomorrow Never Dies and Spy Kids.
Cuba Gooding Jr. as Billy Colton
Long before telling Tom Cruise to, “Show me the money,” in the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, which earned him an Oscar, Cuba Gooding Jr. could be seen in four guest spots on MacGyver. Gooding scored his first major role on the big screen in John Singleton’s critically acclaimed film, Boyz n the Hood, a story centered around Gooding’s character going to live with his dad in the gang-filled section of Los Angeles. Gooding also had roles in A Few Good Men, Rat Race, The Fighting Temptations, Daddy Day Camp, and Selma. In 2016, Gooding had a recurring role for 10 episodes on the TV series, American Crime Story and American Horror Story. Now 55, the actor recently appeared in the 2023 action film The Weapon.
Click through for more classic ’80s TV!