MacGyver's producers had a tendency to use an actor in multiple roles throughout the series. Several recurring characters were added throughout the series run, appearing as guest-stars in the opening credits.
|Angus MacGyver||Richard Dean Anderson||Main||Does not appear|
|Lucas Till||Does not appear||Main|
|Jack Dalton||Bruce McGill||Does not appear||Recurring||Does not appear||Recurring||Does not appear||Does not appear|
|George Eads||Does not appear||Main[a]||Does not appear|
|Riley Davis||Tristin Mays||Does not appear||Main|
|Wilt Bozer||Robin Mossely||Does not appear||Recurring||Does not appear||Does not appear|
|Justin Hires||Does not appear||Main|
|Matty Webber||Meredith Eaton||Does not appear||Main[b]|
|Peter Thornton /
|Dana Elcar||Recurring||Main||Does not appear||Does not appear|
|Sandrine Holt||Does not appear||Main[c]||Does not appear|
|Samantha Cage||Isabel Lucas||Does not appear||Does not appear||Main[d]||Does not appear|
|Desiree "Desi" Nguyen||Levy Tran||Does not appear||Does not appear||Recurring||Main|
|Russell "Russ/Rusty" Taylor||Henry Ian Cusick||Does not appear||Does not appear||Main|
|Nikki Carpenter||Elyssa Davalos||Does not appear||Recurring||Does not appear||Does not appear|
|Tracy Spiridakos||Does not appear||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Dennis "Murdoc"||Michael Des Barres||Does not appear||Recurring||Does not appear||Does not appear|
|David Dastmalchian||Does not appear||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Jill Morgan||Kate Bond||Does not appear||Guest||Recurring||Guest||Does not appear|
|Billy Colton||Cuba Gooding Jr.||Does not appear||Recurring||Does not appear||Recurring||Does not appear||Does not appear|
|Lance Gross||Does not appear||Guest||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Cassandra Glover||Lauren Vélez||Does not appear||Does not appear||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Leanna Martin||Reign Edwards||Does not appear||Does not appear||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Elwood Davis||William Baldwin||Does not appear||Does not appear||Recurring||Guest||Does not appear|
|James MacGyver/"Oversight"||Martin Milner||Does not appear||Guest||Does not appear||Does not appear|
|Tate Donovan||Does not appear||Does not appear||Guest||Recurring|
- George Eads is credited as a series regular from 1x1 through 3x14 of the reboot.
- Meredith Eaton is credited as a series regular from 1x18, of the reboot, onwards. From 1x13 through 1x17, of the reboot, she is credited as a recurring guest star.
- Sandrine Holt is credited as a series regular from 1x01 through 1x12 of the reboot.
- Isabel Lucas is credited as a series regular from 2x01 through 2x13, of the reboot, and only in the episodes she appears in.
MacGyver is a troubleshooter who prefers non-violent conflict resolution wherever possible. He refuses to carry or use a gun due to a childhood accident with a revolver that resulted in the death of a friend. MacGyver is an outspoken advocate of gun control, as well as a supporter of environmental preservation, racial equality, and assisting the poor. Even in cases where his improvised devices are used to attack hostile opponents, he is always doing so in self-defense and, if possible, subduing or disabling rather than killing. He is often suspicious of militaristic attitudes within the government; he sees his Phoenix Foundation employer as an alternative to the more conventional (and violent) means of law enforcement.
In the 2016 reboot, MacGyver is a U.S. operative who works for the Phoenix Foundation, a covert agency operating under the guise of a think tank. Trained as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician for the Army, he prefers to use non-lethal means to stop his enemies. Mac spends the majority of the first and second seasons searching for his father James, who abandoned him as a child shortly after losing his mother. He eventually finds him in the season 2 finale, where he learns James has been watching over him all his life, and is now his boss codenamed 'Oversight'. Unable to work for people he doesn't trust, Angus quits the Phoenix and refuses to rejoin as he cannot trust his father. Maddy convinces James to quit, which leads Angus to rejoin.
Peter Thornton / Patricia Thornton
- Peter Thornton portrayed by Dana Elcar in original; Patricia Thornton portrayed by Sandrine Holt in 2016 reboot
Peter Thornton (portrayed by Dana Elcar) is MacGyver's boss and best friend. Pete is divorced from Connie Thornton (portrayed by Linda Darlow). Pete is an operative at the Department of External Services (DXS) which is where he is impressed by Mac's ingenuity while tracking down Murdoc, an international assassin. When Pete takes the position of Director of Operations at the Phoenix Foundation several years later, he brings MacGyver into the program. In addition to sending Mac out on various tasks for the Foundation, Pete is many times forced to bail MacGyver out of the trouble he gets into. Pete has a son, Michael, who has always been resentful that he was never around when he was growing up. In the sixth season Thorton begins going blind as a result of glaucoma. (Elcar was diagnosed with glaucoma.)
In 2016 reboot, Patricia Thornton is an ex-field agent & director of operations for the Department of External Services and Phoenix Foundation. In the 12th episode, "Screwdriver", she is discovered to be a mole working for the Organization and arrested.
In the original series, Jack is an aviator and old friend of MacGyver's with a weakness for get-rich-quick schemes that invariably get both of them into trouble. He always wears a peaked cap and twitches his left eye when lying.
In the 2016 reboot, Jack Dalton (played by former CSI star George Eads) is Mac's partner in the field and a former Delta Force soldier and CIA operative. Jack's history with Mac goes back to his days in the Army and unlike Mac, he is not afraid to use guns in the field. He also has history with Riley, because he was once in a relationship with her mother and had an altercation with her abusive father. While mostly easy-going and laid-back, Jack can get serious when the situation calls for it and often calls upon his special forces training to help the team get out of a tight spot.
- Actor Bruce McGill guested in the reboot series as Detective Greer in episode 2x11 "Bullet + Pen".
- Portrayed by Robin Mossley in original as recurring, by Justin Hires in 2016 reboot as main
In the original series, Wilt Bozer is in a handful of episodes: Serenity, The Lost Amadeus, Hearts of Steel, and MacGyver's Women.
In the 2016 reboot, Wilt Bozer is an aspiring filmmaker, prosthetic makeup artist, and MacGyver's best friend and roommate. At first, he doesn't know about MacGyver's real job. Bozer later joins the Phoenix Foundation after discovering MacGyver's secret, and uses his talents to create lifelike masks and facial prosthetics.
- Portrayed by Tristin Mays in 2016 reboot as main
A computer systems expert and skilled hacker recruited by Phoenix Foundation.
- Portrayed by Meredith Eaton in 2016 reboot as main
Matilda "Matty" Webber is the new Director of Operations at Phoenix Foundation and Jack's ex-boss at the CIA. She takes over after Patricia Thornton is outed and arrested.
- Portrayed by Isabel Lucas in 2016 reboot as main
Samantha Cage is a CIA officer and formerly SASR 4th Squadron. After she is discharged from the CIA for her unsanctioned actions to save a MIA SEAL, in the second season premiere, Matty recruits her into the Phoenix Foundation.
Desiree "Desi" Nguyen
- Portrayed by Levy Tran in 2016 reboot as recurring (season 3) and main (season 4)
Desi Nguyen is the Phoenix Foundation's newest agent, who uses her skills to protect MacGyver and his team on their global missions.
Russell "Russ" Taylor
- Portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick in 2016 reboot as main.
Russ Taylor is an Ex-MI6 Agent-Turned-Private Military Contractor described as a master manipulator and salesman, Russ is skilled in propaganda and lie detection, and boasts an extremely high emotional intelligence. He is also very wealthy, and thus is used to both getting his way and enjoying the spoils of war (including expensive suits, fast cars, private jets and a house in Monte Carlo).
Recurring characters in both series
Murdoc (portrayed by Michael Des Barres) is MacGyver's most frequent opponent. He is a master assassin who never fails—except when MacGyver gets involved. Murdoc is a master of disguise, as well as highly skilled and creative in the use of booby traps. Murdoc's signature for each hit is to take photographs of his victims at the moment of their deaths. His first appearance in the series is presented as his second run-in with MacGyver. Murdoc returns for revenge for their first encounter—to the surprise of MacGyver, as Murdoc had apparently been killed. Murdoc's revenge scheme not only fails, but results in him apparently being killed again. This became a recurring theme: each of Murdoc's subsequent appearances ends in another apparently certain "death", which he incredibly survives, to return in a later episode.
In the 2016 reboot, Murdoc (played by David Dastmalchian) is a hired hitman known as Suspect 218 to the CIA whose targets are enemies and MacGyver. After being captured by the Phoenix Foundation in season 1, in season 2 he escapes and becomes obsessed in finding his lost son, Casian. Michael Des Barres, who played Murdoc in the original series, plays Murdoc's mentor, Nicholas Helman, in the reboot.
Nikki Carpenter (portrayed by Elyssa Davalos) joins the Phoenix Foundation in the third season. She often has differences of opinion with MacGyver, although the two eventually come to respect each other as professionals.
In the 2016 reboot, the character (played by Tracy Spiridakos) is a former agent for the DXS and MacGyver's former girlfriend who went rogue but later revealed to be an undercover agent for the CIA.
Harry Jackson (portrayed by John Anderson) is MacGyver's grandfather, who helped raise MacGyver after his grandmother and father were killed in a car accident when MacGyver was aged nine. Seven years later, Harry left MacGyver to work in Alaska, sending money to MacGyver and his mother. At this time, MacGyver and Harry lost contact, but beginning in season one, MacGyver and Harry meet again, after eighteen years without contact, in the episode "Target MacGyver", in which MacGyver and his grandfather work together to defeat an assassin named Axminster (D'Mitch Davis). Harry appears in the five episodes "Target MacGyver" (season 1), "Phoenix Under Siege", "Friends" (both season 2) "Passages" (season 5) and "Harry's Will" (season 6). Harry dies of a heart attack in the fifth season finale episode "Passages".
In the 2016 reboot, the character (played by Michael O'Keefe) first appears in a flashback in the fourth episode of season 2.
The Coltons (portrayed by Della Reese, Cleavon Little, Richard Lawson, and Cuba Gooding Jr.) are a family of bounty hunters (Mama Colton, Frank, Jesse and Billy), introduced one at a time—the only episode in which more than one appears is their collective final appearance in the final season, on which occasion they (and their bulldog, Frog) took over the episode entirely, relegating MacGyver to a cameo appearance. This episode, called "The Coltons", was actually intended as a backdoor pilot for a spin-off starring the Coltons, but ABC network officials decided that series would not be picked up.
In the 2016 reboot, they are played by Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lance Gross, Javicia Leslie, & Jermaine Rivers and first appear in the first season episode 16, "Hook", when they get the upper hand on Mac and Jack several times, until a Foundation team retrieves the fugitive from them. Mac, Jack, Bozer & Riley end up saving the Coltons' lives from their criminal employers. They reappear in the second season episode "Riley + Airplane", after which Billy Colton (Gross) becomes Riley's love interest.
Charlie Robinson (portrayed by Steven Williams) is MacGyver's Army Bomb disposal EOD Specialist with EOD Tech Specialist MacGyver sent by DXS to work with him. He appears in Episode: "Countdown"
In the 2016 reboot, he is portrayed by Emerson Brooks as an old friend of EOD Tech Specialist MacGyver; he's another EOD Specialist in Army Bomb disposal. He appears in Season 1: Episode: "Wrench", Season 2: Episode: "Mac & Jack" & Season 3: Episodes: "Revenge + Catacombs + Le Fantome" and "Mason + Cable + Choices".
Penny Parker (portrayed by Teri Hatcher): Penny Parker and MacGyver meet in line at an airport in Bulgaria when she tries to smuggle some jewels out of the country in his pocket. With little talent, but big dreams, her pursuit of a show business career gets her into trouble more than once; she was once used by Murdoc as an unwitting pawn in an attempt to eliminate MacGyver. She was also the spitting image of her late aunt Betty Parker, who was murdered in 1958 by her boyfriend, and was suffering from lead poisoning., Like the somewhat impulsive identically-named female-sleuth character of author Mildred Benson, Penny isn't exactly stupid, but she tends to act without thinking things through, and has only a shaky grasp of how the world works. Thus, the long-suffering MacGyver often has to bail Penny out of trouble and otherwise assist her in handling life situations.
In the 2016 reboot, she's played by Bianca Malinowski.
James "Jimmy" MacGyver is MacGyver's father. He is portrayed by Martin Milner in the original series.
In the 2016 reboot, where he is portrayed by Tate Donovan, he is Angus' long lost father. After losing his wife and Angus' mother, James abandoned his family not long after, leaving Angus in the care of his grandfather. It is revealed in the season 2 finale that the unseen and enigmatic head of the Phoenix Foundation (and every name it went by before this) codenamed 'Oversight' is in fact James: a fact Angus learns when Maddy forces a face-to-face meeting when Angus quits the Phoenix. James reveals that he left his family to protect Angus from the enemies he'd made around the world, many of whom wouldn't hesitate endangering a childs life, but also because the pain of losing his wife made James scared of what he might do around Angus.
Angus leaves the Phoenix in the Season 2 finale, telling his father that he cannot work for people he doesn't trust. James tracks him down in the Season 3 premiere to ask for his help rescuing Jack. After rescuing Jack, Maddy forces James to quit his role as Oversight so that Angus would be willing to rejoin the Phoenix.
Recurring characters only in original series
- Helen Wilson (portrayed by Susan Chapple): Pete Thornton's secretary. Episodes – The Odd Triple, The Spoilers, Rock the Cradle, Cleo Rocks, The Battle of Tommy Giordano, Blind Faith, and Strictly Business
- Willis (portrayed by Bruce Harwood): Episodes – The Wall, The Wasteland, Trail of Tears, and Hind-Sight
- Maria Romburg (portrayed by Brigitta Stenberg): Maria appears in the sixth season initially to scam a friend of MacGyver's. She changes sides, joins the Phoenix Foundation, and becomes a love interest of MacGyver.
- Mei Jan (portrayed by Michele Chan) (initially calling herself Sue Ling):is MacGyver's foster daughter who enlists MacGyver's help in completing her mission for the Chinese student movement. She later reveals that the real Sue Ling was killed in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
- Cynthia Wilson (portrayed by Roxanne Reese): Introduced with her husband Booker (Michael D. Roberts) in "The Challenge", Cynthia runs the Challenger's Club, a program for troubled inner-city teens. In episodes where MacGyver tries to help runaways or other youths, he invariably sends them to the Challenger's Club as a safe haven.
- Lisa Woodman (portrayed by Mayim Bialik): is a young girl who MacGyver originally meets at a Swiss boarding school in the episode "Cease Fire", where she accidentally loses his trusty Swiss Army knife. She later returns in two more episodes, "Hearts of Steel" and "Twenty Questions", the latter involving Mac helping her overcome an alcohol abuse problem.
- Mike Kiley (portrayed by Jackson Davies): Episodes – Twenty Questions, The Wall, and Lesson in Evil
- Mama Lorraine (portrayed by Kimberly Scott): is a voodoo priestess. She appears in episodes The Hood, The Prometheus Syndrome and Walking Dead.
Recurring characters from the 2016 reboot
- Sarah Adler (portrayed by Amy Acker): Jack's former partner and ex-girlfriend from the CIA.
- Jill Morgan (portrayed by Kate Bond): A forensics expert at the Phoenix Foundation. She was killed by Murdoc.
- Leanna Martin (portrayed by Reign Edwards): A recruit whom Bozer meets and becomes good friends and later starts a relationship with at the Operative Training Center.
- Cassandra Glover (portrayed by Lauren Vélez): a coordinator for Operative Training Center.
- Elwood Davis (portrayed by William Baldwin): Riley's estranged father.
- Gwendolyn "Gwen" Hayes (portrayed by Jeri Ryan): MacGyver's Aunt & his Mother’s Sister; an ex-DXS agent who was presumed dead; head of Codex.
- Season 4, Episode 2 - "Blood Brothers". MacGyver goes back to his home town and meets two childhood friends and in flashbacks we see the accidental death of friend Jesse by a bullet from a falling gun. This episode was before MacGyver's dislike of firearms was established, however his dislike of guns is shown almost immediately in subsequent episodes of the series.
- Associated Press (June 11, 2005). ""MacGyver" co-star's career spanned TV, films and stage". The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times Company. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
- Season 1, Episode 11 - "Nightmares".
- Season 6, Episode 21 - "Hind-Sight"
- Season 2, Episode 18 - "Partners"
- Nelson, Valerie J. (June 10, 2005). "Dana Elcar, 77; Veteran Actor Lost His Sight But Kept His Focus on Performing". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
- Associate Press Staff (June 11, 2005). "Dana Elcar, 77, 'MacGyver' Co-Star, Is Dead". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
- Allis, Tim (May 13, 1991). "His Sight Stolen by Glaucoma, Macgyver Actor Dana Elcar Turns His Plight into a Moving Tv Plot Line". People. Time Inc. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
- Fiekers, Patrick (November 28, 2008). "MacGyver auf DVD: Zweite Staffel erscheint noch rechtzeitig vor Weihnachten". DVD Digital. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- Sampson, Ruby A (2006). TV Gems of the Past: for Trivia & Crosswords Puzzles. iUniverse. p. 239. ISBN 9780595386581.
- Stated by MacGyver as "it's been six..seven...eighteen years"
- Terrace, Vincent (1997). Experimental Television, Test Films, Pilots, and Trial Series, 1925 Through 1995: Seven Decades of Small Screen Almosts. McFarland & Company. p. 108. ISBN 9780786401789.
- (via Archives & Research Center)"WICHITA'S STUNT DOG LEARNS IT'S A ROUGH LIFE". Wichita Eagle. July 2, 1991. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- Sampson, Ruby A (2006). TV Gems of the Past: for Trivia & Crosswords Puzzles. iUniverse. p. 505. ISBN 9780595386581.
- Gale (2002). Contemporary Theatre Film & Television V43. Gale Group. p. 154. ISBN 078765115X.
- Arrieta, Carlos (May 17, 2004). "Famous former students". La Voz Weekly. Retrieved January 27, 2016.[permanent dead link]
- Season 1, Episode 16 - "Every Time She Smiles".
- Season 4, Episode 1 - "The Secret of Parker House".
- Season 5, Episode 7 - "Children of Light". Mei Jan's mission was to broadcast the Tiananmen Square protests nationally to gain public interest.