MacGyver producers interview

When did the idea to gender swap Thornton come about?

Lenkov: I don’t know, it felt organic. I like the idea of a strong woman in charge. I wanted somebody who was running DXS to be a strong woman and Thornton was that. It just made sense to me. Again, I just wanted somebody really strong, female in that role. Department of External Services quickly becomes The Phoenix Foundation in the first episode. The problem with rebooting shows also is a lot of this is out there. Everybody knows DXS becomes The Phoenix Foundation so it’s very hard to make that a surprise. You’ve got to look for things that could surprise the audience so that’s something that I wanted to get out of the way very quickly because I don’t think I could hide the ball on that for very long.

Is the format a new mission every week?

Lenkov: Absolutely, yes. There are personal stories that are going to arc over the course of the season but for the most part, there are stories every week that are closed-ended stories that we’ll see a beginning, middle and end to. Also one of the ingredients of the original show, which is the opening gambit. So we’re going to open up very much like the original show did or like Indiana Jones where you’re in the middle of a mission. You see the end of it. We’re going to have our main titles. We come back to a personal story and then we start the A story.

Not a cold open from later in the episode, an entirely standalone mission?

Lenkov: No, I like that also because most shows follow that formula. You’re sort of setting up what the crime is and then you have to solve the crime. This is, we’re setting up something, and again getting CBS, getting a network to sign off on something like that because it’s different, that’s the fun thing. You see how supportive they are of this franchise, that we’re doing things a little differently than most shows in that genre.

You’ve said international, and MacGyver was always international, right?

Wan: That’s something we definitely want to embrace and lean into.

It’s been pointed out that the Conjuring cinematic universe is the first successful cinematic universe since Marvel. How does that make you feel?

Wan: It doesn’t suck. [Laughs] It’s good, especially since people weren’t expecting that. That’s always nice, because we got to do it under the radar. That was the best thing. I’d get to create this world that I love and I get to spin it off and have no one tell me how to do it. I just do the story that I want to do.

Had you thought about it that way?

Wan: Yeah, I quietly think of this bigger universe but I’m very superstitious. I never like to talk about it. I don’t like talking about sequels or spinoffs or franchise until they actually happen, until they actually work with the audience.

Working on Aquaman, do you get updates every time a new DC movie is released or Justice League is in production, saying, “We’re doing this?”

Wan: [Laughs] They’re keeping me abreast. It’s like the CIA. I’m on a need to know basis and only if I need to know.

What are plans for Lights Out 2?

Wan: Continuing with that world, carrying this potential story. I’m excited for what the potential franchise could be. We’ve created this villain we’re excited about and we’ll see what happens.

Would you be able to return to direct any MacGyver episodes?

Wan: I think it would be fun maybe down the line if my schedule opens up. I think it’d be cool, if Peter wants me back.

Lenkov: It would be great for him to come and do like the finale or a special show that’s like a sweeps episode or something that’s significant would be great. Those are things that the audience looks forward to. They know they’re going to be special episodes so that would be great.

Wan: That’s awesome.

When you do a pilot, it’s sort of like directing the whole series because everyone who comes after has to follow it. Did it feel different than directing a standalone movie?

Wan: I’ve always said that with a lot of the horror franchises that I’ve started, it’s like directing a pilot. I come in, I direct the first movie and all these directors come in and direct all the sequels after me and hey have to kind of retain the look, the tone, and the characters. It’s a bit like that, so this is similar in that way but it’s also a whole different world and I’m learning it firsthand. I’m learning a lot from Peter. He’s teaching me how things are put together in this space and it’s been a great learning experience.

Have you lined up subsequent directors?

Lenkov: Oh yeah, yeah. As soon as we got the green light to do the first episode, we lined up our directors. A lot of guys that do Five-0, a lot of guys that do very successful CBS shows, it’s the same group of guys that I’ve worked with for a number of years. So yeah, Joe Dante’s directing one.

Wan: Joe Dante’s doing one and I’m so excited about that.

Lenkov: We have Matt Earl Beasley, Jerry Levine, a lot of guys that are very successful in the genre but Joe, I’ve worked with Joe for a long time and we’re both fans of his as well. He’s directing I think the next episode.

Is there something fittingly Joe Dante about his episode?

Wan: [Laughs] They’re not little gremlin creatures if that’s what you’re asking.

Lenkov: On Five-0, I always have Joe direct the Halloween episodes but unfortunately we couldn’t book Joe for the MacGyver Halloween episode.

Wan: There’s no werewolf in this one.

Lenkov: There is no werewolf, no killer fish.

Are there any ripped-from-the-headlines subjects MacGyver can deal with?

Lenkov: No. That’s a great Law & Order franchise. Our stories are big stories. We’re Mission: Impossible in terms of if you were going to compare it to something, big stakes.

I’m thinking Snowden-like headlines.

Lenkov: Yeah, there is something similar to that actually.

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MacGyver premieres Friday, September 23 at 8PM on CBS.

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