ARCHIVES

Television
The Screen Savers on TechTV. June 11, 2002
Host: Martin Sargent


THE SCREEN SAVERS TELEVISION INTERVIEW

RDA Martin Sargent of "The Screen Savers" on TechTV visted Richard on the set of Stargate SG-1 to talk about his series, and his familiarity (or unfamiliarity) with computers and technology. The interview was taped on May 9th, to air on June 11th. The complete interview can be viewed online at the TechTV website.

Martin Sargent:
[Speaking in a very deep broadcaster’s voice]
Richard Dean Anderson... let's chat.

Richard Dean Anderson:
Nice voice!

Martin Sargent:
There are rumors that you’re a gadget nut. Can you confirm or deny that?

Richard Dean Anderson:
I can totally deny it. I'm so not a gadget guy, despite roles that I've played in the past where I was gadgetry oriented. I tend not to like gimmicks. I run rivers in rafts, I ski a lot, I cycle. Any time there’s, like, gimmickry around any given established way of doing something, I start to be suspect. I like the simplicity of the mechanics and physics of things. Actually what it is, I'm basically old fashioned. That might be borne of my heritage, but things that have proven to work for me in the past, say, in the mountains somewhere, I tend to stick with rather than layering on the latest stuff. I hesitate to call it crap, because I like what's going on, the evolution of technology. I appreciate it, but boy, I've gotten lost. I've gotten just caught in the wake. And there's no catching up at my age, I just kind of, like, watch it go by.

Martin Sargent:
So in your role as MacGyver, which of course you're just internationally famous for, that was actually quite of bit of acting then, because he was a gadget freak.

Richard Dean Anderson:
Well, he was... I don't know what to call him. He was aware of the way things worked. This is one of the only things that he and I had in common.

[There is the sound coming from off-camera in the background, of someone shoveling. Richard turns toward the sound, and calls out jokingly.]

Richard Dean Anderson:
Go ahead, shovel away!
[Turning toward the camera] The old fashioned shovel works.
[Returning to the interview] MacGyver had a way of thinking that was more logical, he would piece puzzles together with ostensibly things that were available to him. He wasn't like into gadgets. The Swiss Army knife was his one and only gadget, which remains to this day virtually the only thing that I have that I kept from the show. But it was a mode of thought, a way of solving problems, regardless of how complicated they might have been. I, in real life, you know, I have one tool that I take when I'm cycling, and it's called the MacGyver tool, oddly enough. [Turning toward the camera once again and smiling] And I expect to get a gross of them for saying that.

Martin Sargent:
MacGyver has sort of become a verb. In fact in the first episode of Stargate SG-1, somebody said, "Can you MacGyver this thing together?"

Richard Dean Anderson:
Yeah, it was a quiet little homage apparently that got snuck in there. That was nice. It was quite a compliment.

Martin Sargent:
So do you think if MacGyver were being produced today, let's just say hypothetically, do you think things would be different, he would use things like little GPS transceivers and various other gadgets to help him solve problems non-violently?

Richard Dean Anderson:
There's a chance, because of the concept of the show and the character, that rather than using a Global Positioning Satellite that he would make one, or find some way of... What we would do as writers and producers is tear apart one of those things, see how it works, and then fashion something out of common everyday stuff that might be laying around. And I have no idea of what it would be, but that was the concept behind MacGyver. Rather than using the actual key to open the door, he'd have the key, take a bar of soap, and carve out of soap a key. In fact "Mad Magazine" did a sendup some years ago, Ed DeBartolo put together a "MacGimmick," was the title of it. And that was an homage to some degree, but it just skewered us perfectly. It was like my career was complete. That and the allusion on The Simpsons to MacGyver. "Mad Magazine" got it right.

Martin Sargent:
Once you make it on The Simpsons...

Martin Sargent:
So you're the Executive Producer and the star of the show Stargate SG-1.

Richard Dean Anderson:
I'm an Executive Producer, not the Executive Producer.

Martin Sargent:
An Executive Producer, all right. What's the basic premise of the show?

Richard Dean Anderson:
Did you see the movie? [Smiling]

Martin Sargent:
Yes. I've seen the movie.

Richard Dean Anderson:
There ya go.

Martin Sargent:
I don't know if they have.

Richard Dean Anderson:
Um, well the basic concept is based around... God, that's such an unfortunate question. [Hanging his head and smiling] It's about a big round [gesturing something large and round] circle of water in which we pass and go to ancient lands. I don't know, it's convoluted and complicated for me. What if I just said, "I don't know"?

Martin Sargent:
That’s fine!

Richard Dean Anderson:
As the concept goes, as the story goes, there was a discovery of an ancient relic, the "stargate," as we deemed it, that was buried in Egypt a few millennia ago, and some Ancients had left it there. It was discovered in modern day, and, as the movie set up, we were able to get it to work. And by passing through it, we go to these different worlds, planets, stars, whatever, where we discover different civilizations that were born of Earth or other parts... all humanoids, oddly enough, mostly humanoids, and speaking English. Very weird!

Martin Sargent:
Kind of like in Star Trek.

Richard Dean Anderson:
Not too unlike that, except this is modern day. And therein all the fun begins. We discover these civilizations that were plucked from different parts of Earth's history, or the galaxy's history, and settled in colonies by the bad guys, the Goa'ulds. And that's basically it. Good vs. Evil. "E-vil."

Martin Sargent:
So in being one of the producers and the star of the show, has your knowledge of science through science fiction increased any? Have you...

Richard Dean Anderson:
My awareness of it. I've always been fascinated by things of science, and physics and all that stuff. I have no aptitude to comprehend beyond awe. But just by association, I've been able to... If nothing else, I've been surrounded by brilliant special effects and visual effects technology, which helps me in the real world. But beyond that, it's all conceptual, and theory. And I'm fascinated by people of that mindset, and of that ilk. I have no business conversing with them, other than to say, "God, how’d you think of that? What do you mean by that?"

Martin Sargent:
The special effects on the show are amazing. Can you pick one scene from the show and tell us sort of how you did it?

Richard Dean Anderson:
Nnn-o. [Laughing] I couldn’t.

Martin Sargent:
Let's take the stargate, for example. We've all seen the stargate, and it looks like there's this huge burst of water coming through it. You're one of the producers. Sort of, how is that done? Is that all blue screen, is it all computer generated?

Richard Dean Anderson:
I'm not sure I'm supposed to tell you these things.

Martin Sargent:
Oh, it's like the magician's secret.

Richard Dean Anderson:
I may have to let James tell you the technical end of it. I do know how the original stargate was made. Apparently it actually is a, I don’t know, a glass of water shot from an angle, where a BB or a steel ball is dropped into it, and then they reverse the film. Something bizarre like that. But us passing through it, yeah, it's a pretty basic green screen process, where the mattes are all put in, and we walk into a green screen, and put the water in later. So that's about as complicated as... I do know that I did do an episode where I aged from my age to about 100, which is about a 15 year gap, and it was just pure and simple makeup. Genius makeup.

Martin Sargent:
A couple of years back, I was in an online chat with you for Stargate fans, and you said, "This Web world tends to confuse me." Since then, have you become a little more comfortable with the world of the Internet and cyberspace?

Richard Dean Anderson:
Nah. No. I own... I have a couple of computers, one of which should still be back in the box. It's the G4 Mac that I got specifically to edit a lot of footage that I've been taking around the world. And I can't figure it out. I can't even do I-movie on it. I'm such a damn idiot. I've got this beautiful piece of machinery that I don't know how to run. My other stuff is just, uh... I thought that I was going to... This, this is the way I think. I wanted a laptop so I could... because I travel every weekend back to Los Angeles and do a variety of different global travelings. I thought I should have a computer with me, so I’ll get a good laptop. So I got the Notebook, the IBM thing. But I got the biggest screen possible at the time, whatever, it was like 36 inches. [Gesturing an unusually large laptop, and grinning] It's a laptop. So I might as well be bringing this mainframe on board. You open it up and it's, like, bigger than the tray. I don't know what I'm doing with it. Thankfully I have friends who are brilliant, who are computer people and really know what they're doing, and they take pity, and come say, you know, it's ALT, DELETE, SEND, or whatever.

Martin Sargent:
So you got the G4 because you want to edit footage that you've been taking around the world. You're involved in this class 5 rapids thing, is that the project you're involved in?

Richard Dean Anderson:
Well, that's not we're calling it. It's actually called... We're loosely calling it the River Project, and it's a project that involves chronicling some of the great rivers of the world, their current condition, and the potential condition they may be in down the road, depending on what issue might be surrounding them. Rio Futaleufu in Chile I’ve been to a couple of times. We've been filming that. There's threatened damming down there by big a hydroelectric corporation. I went to the Yangtze in Tibet, I guess last year, last summer. That was more of a cultural piece. We’re going to Peru. That's a big adventure, the Colca, being a big adventure, a whitewater, class 5 run. There's some issues surrounding some rivers in Alaska, and British Columbia and Quebec, all of which we'll be chronicling. Right now, it's in a state of accumulating a library of footage that we'll be able to cut together for pieces. Possibly... It's so loose structured now that I can only say that I would hope that Discovery would look at us, or National Geographic, or one of those types, mostly for education and enlightenment. There's no... you know... it's... I'm on the verge of retiring, let's put it that way, out of commercial television. And I've been involved in environmental causes for some time, but more peripherally than I'd like to be. So this is my effort to make a more creative contribution to that world. And I'm new to the documentary world. But it's sure affording me great travel and great adventures, which I've done as well. So I'm kind of combining my two interests in the world, in life.

Martin Sargent:
And you had the notion that you'd be able to put some of this footage together using your new Mac G4. What was it about it that you just couldn't grasp? You're MacGyver! Come on!

Richard Dean Anderson:
What do you mean? How to plug it in! What, are you kidding?

Martin Sargent:
It comes with an instruction manual.

Richard Dean Anderson:
Yeah, that would entail actually reading it! You know what? I can... I can sort of describe what my aptitude is basically about computers and technology by describing what it would be like to fly with my father. My father is a pilot, owns his own plane, he flies around. I can fly that airplane. Once we get it up, and it's flying, I can fly it. I've tried to do loops and snap rolls in a twin Comanche Cheyenne. I have no problem with it once it's going. But to get it up in the air and to land it, you know, I just don't have the aptitude to learn about ground school. It's like, please, give me the wheel. I can drive. I used to race cars. I was a fairly okay driver, mediocre at best. But open that hood and I'm dead meat. That's the bottom line to it all.

Martin Sargent:
It's pretty amazing, though I mean, here we’re on this pretty lavish television set here, with all the latest in camera equipment and what not, yet you can, for $1500 dollars, buy a DV mini camera and a computer like you have, and make pretty good footage.

Richard Dean Anderson:
Sure, yeah. I mean, I don't want to make myself out to be a total idiot. I'm a virtual idiot, let's put it that way, when it comes to all this stuff. [Laughing] I have such respect for... I remember Garry Marshall, who I've known and met a long time ago, but he said twenty years ago, he said, "Learn computers." He said, "If you don't know how to run a computer down the road, you're going to be lost in this business." And it's true, it's absolutely true. There's not a movie made today that doesn't use some element of - well, they all do, let's put it that way - of computerized mechanisms and such. So that's not to say that I'm lost in the business, but I think I might be easing out just in time, to go to school or something to learn how to do it properly.

Martin Sargent:
You should watch the "The Screen Savers on TechTV." We'll teach you everything you need to know.

Richard Dean Anderson:
[Speaking as if doing an endorsement] On TechTV? "Screen Savers?" Sounds like a great idea!

Martin Sargent:
Besides the video camera stuff, you're sort of a shutter bug. You take still photography, right?

Richard Dean Anderson:
Yeah.

Martin Sargent:
You’re still using film or have you considered moving to the digital cameras?

Richard Dean Anderson:
I've got my little Nikon 990. I did make the transition. I don't fancy myself a professional photographer. When I had a daughter... She's three and a half years old. When she was born, that was my excuse to really start taking pictures, because there's no better subject than your own kid, your first and only kid. So I just started firing away, not knowing what to do. I still don't. I don't know speed, shutter, aperture, any of that stuff. I want to know it. It's the same, you know, we're dealing with virtually the same mentality and aptitude. But I've got, you know, an idea about what I want, and it's a matter of how to get it. Composition I'm understanding a little better. So I've gotten lucky in taking a lot of pictures. But what's become my point and shoot now, because in running these rivers you’ve got to have something you can take out and whip, because you can't be doing this [holding his hands to his face, gesturing the focus on a 35mm camera] with a big old 35. So I've got my little digital thing that becomes my point and shoot. And I've had a fair amount of luck with it. What I use it for is more of a chronicling, rather than the art shot. I use really cheap Holgas and Diana cameras for my, as my mom would say, "artsy" shots, my nice black and whites that are all very grainy and filled with light. If I want something that is pristine and... boring, [laughing] with all due respect to the digital world, I'll use my Nikon.

Martin Sargent:
But you've managed to hook the Nikon 990 up to the computer, transfer all the images...

Richard Dean Anderson:
You can do that?? F**k! [Holds his hands to his head in simulated amazement, laughing] I didn't know you could... No, you know what? I know how to get the chips out of the damn thing and get them into the computer, but I'm still kind of trying to figure out how to... No, I'm getting close to really getting the hang of that. I still have an assistant, for safety's sake, because if you go to Tibet, or if you go down these big rivers, or climb these mountains, and take a slew of pictures, the last thing you want to do is, like, accidentally hit DELETE or, you know, suddenly make them all disappear. So I have people that will back them up. Which apparently you can do now. [Smiling]

Martin Sargent:
You have "people" who do this for you?

Richard Dean Anderson:
Well, yeah, but I'm over their shoulder, trying to cheat.

Martin Sargent:
Did you ever, like, edit them, using PhotoShop, make them look a little bit better?

Richard Dean Anderson:
You know what? My mother does that. Bless her heart. Because I've also taken a lot of 35 slide film, which I hadn't... I've always been into prints, because I'm lazy and not a photographer. I went to Tibet and took a whole bunch of slides, and I hired my mom to do all this. She's a computer whiz of sorts, and she started downloading, and printing out, and scanning, and whatever else you can do. She plays with that stuff. And I told her, "Stop it! You're taking away my 'artsiness,' Ma!"

Martin Sargent:
Do you surf the Internet at all?

Richard Dean Anderson:
Uh, not so much, not too much. My computer I've used more as a communication device, that is to say e-mail, and I've done some searching for products. Actually, I was looking for cameras, some old Diana cameras, and eBay loomed in front of me. It was kind of an innocent discovery. But yeah, if I'm specifically looking for like... I was getting ready to go to Tibet last year, and I needed to research, a lot, because I knew nothing about it, and I found just scads of information there. But I'm not a big surfer, no. I'm not looking for anything in particular. It never occurs to me.

Martin Sargent:
Do you ever search on your own name, see all the fan pages out there?

Richard Dean Anderson:
I was directed to a web site that a woman put together, a frighteningly wonderful site. I think it's the RDAnderson Website.

Martin Sargent:
Oh, I thought that was your own personal site.

Richard Dean Anderson:
No, no. A woman who I've known for quite some years just put it together on her own, and the stuff she's got, and the insight that she's shed from afar, is amazing. I'm quite impressed with it, actually. I should actually be a little more helpful in feeding her some photos or something. But she's got everything there... I'm impressed by that, too. And I know I'm talking such plebian stuff to you guys, because you guys are in a different world altogether, so I'm the common man here. I'll be Mr. Blue Collar Computer Guy.

Martin Sargent:
But doesn't that kind of thing, you know, creep you a little bit, that some woman that you don't even know has built this shrine to you?

Richard Dean Anderson:
But I do know this woman. I've met her, and she's a brilliant woman, actually, quite smart. I actually had met her through a... She was teaching deaf kids many, many years ago, and we connected through a donation I made to her school. From there she was, I guess, taken with, whatever, my kindness? And she just kind of stayed in building this. It doesn’t creep me out. I can understand how some people would be. Because I've gotten wind of some things that are a little bizarre in other people's worlds.

Martin Sargent:
Like the slash fiction thing that’s going on, on the Internet?

Richard Dean Anderson:
What's that?

Martin Sargent:
Slash fiction is the retelling of stories, such as MacGyver, it's also done with Star Trek characters, where it's an erotic story with MacGyver and, say, Murdoc, as the romantic protagonists, and they’re X-rated.

Richard Dean Anderson:
Oh, I've never seen that.

Martin Sargent:
What do you think of that?

Richard Dean Anderson:
It's kind of sick, you know? Do people make money off it?

Martin Sargent:
No.

Richard Dean Anderson:
No?

Martin Sargent:
But it's a huge phenomenon on the Internet. Do a search on "MacGyver fan fiction."

Richard Dean Anderson:
Really, I... I... I have no need to waste my time. I waste enough of my own time to be wasting time on schlocky stuff like that.

Martin Sargent:
I'm with you.

Richard Dean Anderson:
It's... it's kind of... You want to say, and I don't want to quote William Shatner because I don't have the same sentiment as he does about this, but in saying, "Get a life," that's sort of what you want to say to the people that are creating that kind of stuff. You know, it's senseless, potentially harmful to kids, and I'm as protective as any man could be about kids.

Martin Sargent:
Because you have the three and a half year old daughter. Are you worried about what she might see on the Internet in years to come?

Richard Dean Anderson:
Not yet, although she's showing quite an aptitude for computers, unlike her dad. I mean, before she was three, she was mousing and clicking and... scaring me. She got it, she understood what did what, which is really probably the way to go about it, just go in as a total innocent, with kind of a blank page to start with, and start your mosaic of knowledge from scratch. I have too much stuff in the way. I think she'll be quite brilliant.

Martin Sargent:
Well, Richard Dean Anderson, thank you very much.

Richard Dean Anderson:
That's it?? Wait a minute!

Martin Sargent:
And email me when you figure it out.

Richard Dean Anderson:
Where are you? [Challenging him] Turn to the camera and say your email address.

Martin Sargent:
[Turning to the camera] martin@techtv.com.
[Returning the challenge] Why don't you tell everyone your personal email address so you can get...

Richard Dean Anderson:
Uh... what is it... [To the camera] www.standardoilofamerica.com [Laughing]

____________________
The Screen Savers on TechTV. June 11, 2002.


Previous Article | Next Article