Happy Days was extremely popular in the ’70s and ’80s, and even after it ended, reruns of the show continued to play throughout households all over America. You may recognize Henry Winkler, who played the infamous role of Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (“heyyy!”) But what does Fonzie have to do with Richard Dean Anderson’s show?
Well, Winkler worked as a producer on MacGyver and was responsible in large part for casting Anderson into his starring role. Everyone who’s worked with Winkler has nothing but nice things to say about him, which is funny considering his most famous character was “the jerk.”
The Original MacGyver
Richard Dean Anderson was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As a kid, he had big dreams of becoming a professional hockey player. But that all changed when, at 16, an accident on the ice caused him to break both of his arms.
Recovery was a long, tough road, but it was then when he discovered his passion and talent for entertainment. After college, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. In 1976 he landed the role of Dr. Jeff Webber in General Hospital. Nearly a decade later, he landed the role of MacGyver, which would essentially skyrocket his career. Although he would later reflect on the role with bittersweet emotions.
After seven years of filming, MacGyver was a wrap, Anderson was happy to have some of his life back. Over the next few years, he appeared in a few films including, Through the Eyes of a Killer, Pandora’s Clock and Firehouse. But in 1997, he landed another starring role on television, this time as Jack O’Neill in Stargate SG-1.
The show was based on the Stargate film, which starred Kurt Russell and James Spader. The film’s producers called him to ask him personally if he wanted the role. But before he accepted, he first watched the movie over and over again until he was confident that the show had “great potential.”
Richard Dean Anderson did all of his stunts for the entire first five years that it was on the air, and, if you’ve seen MacGyver – you know just how dangerous those stunts were. But Anderson’s advice to, “floor it, when in doubt, just floor it,” would prove nearly fatal a couple of times in his life.
The first was when, five years into the show, he wound up in the hospital with his back and feet being operated on. After the surgery, he no longer did his own stunts. Luckily, however, he would recover enough to drive, walk, and ski.
In the same episode that Anderson was filming on which he hurt his back, MacGyver was going after poachers, who were hunting a rhinoceros. The “rhinoceros” was in fact, nothing more than $40,000 worth of effects, but apparently, they did a wonderful job of making it look real.
When it was killed during a scene on the show, viewers called in, concerned about the "poor animal." who was hurt for entertainment purposes. The president of the network at the time, Brandon Stoddard, had it in for the show, and some believe that is why it was aired in the same time slot was as Monday Night Football. Luckily, they managed to do just fine regardless of the bad scheduling.