This is a list of characters of the television series MacGyver. MacGyver's producers had a tendency to use an actor in multiple roles throughout the series. Several recurring characters were also added throughout the series run, appearing as guest stars in the opening credits.
Richard Dean Anderson as Angus MacGyver: A secret agent 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. The character is portrayed as 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.
Dana Elcar as Pete Thornton: MacGyver's boss and best friend, 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 task for the Foundation, Pete is many times forced to bail MacGyver out of the trouble he gets into. Pete has a son named Michael. Dana Elcar first appeared as the chief of operations for KIVA laboratories under a different character name, Andy Colson. Elcar returns later in the first season to play the recurring Thornton character. By the sixth season, Elcar began going blind as a result of glaucoma. This condition was eventually written into the Thornton character.
Bruce McGill as Jack Dalton: 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.
Michael Des Barres as Murdoc: 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.
Teri Hatcher as Penny Parker: 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., 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.
Della Reese, Cleavon Little, Richard Lawson, and Cuba Gooding Jr. as The Coltons: 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 took over the episode entirely, relegating MacGyver to a cameo appearance. This episode, called "The Coltons", was actually intended as a pilot for a spin-off starring the Coltons, but ABC network officials decided it would not be aired.
John Anderson as Harry Jackson: MacGyver's grandfather who helped raise MacGyver after his grandmother and father were killed in a car accident. A few years later, he left MacGyver. After another eighteen years, Harry and MacGyver meet again in the season one episode, "Target MacGyver", in which MacGyver and his grandfather work together to defeat an assassin named Axminster (D'Mitch Davis). Harry dies of a heart attack in the fifth season finale episode "Passages".
Elyssa Davalos as Nikki Carpenter: Nikki Carpenter 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.
Brigitta Stenberg as Maria Romburg: 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.
Michele Chan as Mei Jan (initially calling herself Sue Ling): 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.
Dalton James as Sean Angus Malloy (Sam): Sean, known as Sam, is introduced in the series finale as MacGyver's son with a past love named Kate Malloy. Sean's middle name is a dedication by his mother to his father.
Roxanne Reese as Cynthia Wilson: 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.
Mayim Bialik as Lisa Woodman: She 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.
^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. In the first episode "Pilot," MacGyver fires an AK-47 at some Russian soldiers. 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.