9 QUESTIONS FOR MACGYVER STAR & DIY IDOL RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON
If there was ever a man who could ace the Popular Mechanics DIY quiz and perfect each of our "100 Skills Every Man Should Know," it'd be MacGyver.
And while television's master of the clever homemade fix may not actually be a real man, actor Richard Dean Anderson still has plenty of his character in him to this day. At the launch event for Geek Squad's Black Tie Protection service this week, we chatted with the man behind the Mac - about building his own house, giving ammunition to the MythBusters and why he absolutely hates instruction manuals.
We hear you just built your own house.
It was an experience that I hope to do again on a much smaller scale.
What kind of house did you build?
A large one. I didn't intend for it to be quite so large. I don't know if everyone has that kind of dream, but I was finally in the position, and had the time and the money to be able to build it. But it's kind of based on my upbringing in the Midwest. I utilized a lot of reclaimed lumber - is that what you call it now? - from an old barn for all the floors. So it's all old, old oak. Stone, wood and glass, I guess, that's basically what it is. I have a corrugated roof, all of it made out of zinc, with a basic wood framing throughout the whole thing. I took the basic idea of a barn so it's like, my upbringing is from Minnesota, and I liked having a more natural type place.
How much did you do yourself?
I did the first two rounds of designs, so I designed the layout and some of the finer points. But when it came down to really having to make up a blueprint, I hired an architect. As far as pounding nails and stuff, my participation was very minimal. I got to do some of it, like in the early stages I got to do some of the demolition. That was a lot of fun. I got to drive our tractor, taking bites out of the wall.
Were there any situations you came across where things didn't go as planned and you had to use some tricky, thought-out solution to get it done?
Things are so regulated now and so controlled, there are so many agencies overseeing everything you do that you can't make those mistakes [in building] without paying for it desperately. And you don't cut corners with those agencies. You do it right. So no, we didn't tape anything together or fake a nail here and there. We had to do it properly.
How much of MacGyver is in you?
It's kind of hard to describe. There was a reason I was cast. Originally, Henry Winkler and John Rich were the producers, and during the second audition Henry Winkler had seen something in my behavior - and my innate, general real behavior - that warranted me coming back and meeting everybody else. Apparently it was a willingness to do things and not be afraid of the results. When things started rolling with the series, they started to tap into other parts of my personality, not the least of which is I have a way of looking at things and trying to solve them in my head. I'm not big on reading directions. I can't do that. I'm just not from that world. So a lot of the character, I think, started molding after some of my experiences and my attitudes.
Did you ever try out any of the contraptions from the show?
The example I like to use is I had to make a torch out of some kind of a bicycle. And it became apparent that the only way I was going to be able to justify it was to make sure that the bike was made out of magnesium pipe. So, in other words, the shavings from it were used to burn. Pretty absurd stuff. We took license, but so much of it is based in theory and sometimes it was based in fact, and we would stretch it a little bit, or a lot.
When I was in school, we had a science fair. And I remember one of the kids' projects was actually inspired by the show. And it worked. Do you think the show has inspired many kids to get interested in science or to have do-it-yourself attitudes?
Well I know it has, at least from the responses that I've gotten over the years. It's mostly parents thanking me for straightening their kid out. I'm not responsible, but anything I can do to help the cause. But it's working in the other direction as well, where we've gotten some relatively damning notes from kids that have gone one step too far and tried something that they shouldn't try at home - that old caveat that we liked to bring in - kids would create things that would explode or flame up. We were always very cautious that we left one ingredient out that would make it impossible for somebody to do it at home, but kids will figure it out for themselves.
What was your favorite MacGyver trick?
You're asking me to remember things that happened 15 years ago. "MythBusters" - it's the coolest show and they're the coolest guys - they called and asked if we'd be interested in testing some things from the show, and I said I'd be honored, run with it, even though I knew they'd end up debunking [the tricks], which is fine. They're supposed to do that. But the one that they highlighted was where I built an ultralight in four hours, I guess. Because it took them four days and even that was a stretch.
MacGyver Time is different.
Exactly! You've gotta be under some kind of pressure, too.