George Eads ('CSI') Q&A about his new role as the muscle and comic relief on 'MacGyver'

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Tuesday, September 20, 2016

George Eads left "CSI"last year after 15 seasons and 335 episodes. But the itch to get back on the TV train came to him quickly.

He's now a co-star in the rebooted CBS take on "MacGyver," which debuts Friday at 8 p.m. as a lead-in to "Hawaii Five O," another reboot that is entering its seventh season. Eads character is Jack Dalton, who provides the muscle and the back up as Angus "Mac" MacGyver (played by Kell High School graduate Lucas Till) figures out ingenious ways to catch bad guys and escape sticky situations for a secret U.S. agency.

Jack also has a female boss Sandrine Holt (Patricia Thornton) and a colleague who handles the computer work, a young Riley Davis (Tristan Mays).

The original series starring Richard Dean Anderson was a mid-level hit for ABC from 1985 to 1992 and has been available on Netflix since July.

I caught up with Eads on the set of "MacGyver" at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth earlier this month where the sixth episode was being shot. This scene is set in current-day Germany using a vintage Georgia passenger train where he and MacGyver are trying to find an important woman before the bad guys do. (They didn't have time to get clearance to use a more modern Amtrak train.)

Q: So what scene are you working on now?

Eads: There's trouble on a train. There are eight bad guys who have rappelled onto the roof. They're descending upon us. They're now dressed like civilians. They're trying to find the girl we're trying to save. They killed this special agent she was supposed to meet in Frankfurt so she's on her way into a trap. We're trying to get her off the train and save the passengers because the train will literally slam into the station as it's going as fast as it can go.

Q: My guess is MacGyver will come up with some solution to save the day?

Eads: He does. We load everyone into the back cars and figure a way to detach the train.

My earlier story about the show reboot featuring interviews with Till and executive producer Peter Lenkov. 

Q: What is your character's skill sets? I presume you two balance each other off.

Eads: It's almost like hanging out with an MMA fighter who has the belt in his weight class. He's a specialist with guns. And I think from a metaphorical standpoint, my character gives things levity. He can be the zinger guy. At the same time, I did a running head butt to head butt a bad guy. He was about to get the girl. He's the dog who's good to hunt with.

Q: There's an age different between the two of you. Does that matter in the grand scheme of things? Are you more like brothers or brothers in arms?

Eads: That's a perception but we haven't really acknowledged it or talked about an age difference between us.

Q: It's not a big deal? You're more like colleagues with mutual respect?

Eads: Completely, yeah. There are times when I reference my age. Hey, I don't have daddy issues. Tristan's character will tell me, 'Don't say 'My man's got skills.' I'm like an older brother to Lucas and a father to her. She's just running around with a laptop at this point in the series but I'm sure that will develop. I will grab her arm and save her on the train. At the opening of this episode, she's saved by me as well. That will fall into father/daughter.

"The Rising" -- Angus "Mac" MacGyver (Lucas Till) and Jack Dalton (George Eads), special agents for the Department of External Services (DXS), join forces to recover a missing bioweapon that has the ability to destroy hundreds of thousands of people with one single drop, on the series premiere of the new drama MACGYVER, Friday, Sept. 23 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT). Pictured: Lucas Till, George Eads Photo: Annette Brown/CBS

Q: What made you decide to go back to CBS on this show?

Eads: I was treated really well there and I was treated really well there for a number of years. Les [Moonves, head of CBS] is a champion of mine and I'm a champion of his. I was very aware with what they've been doing with reboots.

Q: 'Hawaii Five-O' has been very successful for them.

Eads: 'Hawaii Five O' worked really well and it was smart for them to grab Peter [Lenkov as a new executive producer] from over there and come in and help us with this. This show needed a reboot. If you go back and look at the old one, I know it has a lot of die-hard fans and I know it was ahead of its time before its time. I just think that idea and concept really held up well but looking back, I wasn't aware how far TV has come. How much better the CGI is. Mac hanging off the bottom of this plane.

Q: It looked really good. Very convincing!

Eads: The music, the wardrobe, even the moves we do with the camera. 'CSI' was a little cutting edge at the time because it made TV look like movies. It was shot in that Jerry Bruckheimer style with dolly shots, putting the camera on rails so stylistically, it looked aesthetically more like a film. So on network television, the things we are up against, we have a giant stop watch behind our head. We did 81 camera set ups in one day. We had to bring in a C camera. We had to have almost a separate production company handle stunts and inserts.

Q: This is a very complex show. You're in a different country every week. So you have to make it look realistic.

Eads: Yah. So the learning curve for us was arduous.

Q: This is not just sitting in an office set.

Eads: No, no. These bonds we have now with the crew have been forged through our mistakes and our hard work, correcting those. We had a couple of 16-17 hour days working until 5 in the morning, rolling down the window on the way home shaking the cobwebs out. Now we've got a third camera, a C camera with another production company, a man named Steve Herrick came in, a good friend of Peter Lenkov's. We even re-shot a couple of scenes from episode three, making them better. People talk about family, family, family. Almost every show likes to throw family around. They're trying to do that here. I just try to encourage them to hold off on that and let that family bond happen through hardships and working together.

Q: As opposed to just saying it.

Eads: It will come.

Q: How long did it take at 'CSI' before that happened?

Eads: They kept trying to do that when they kept replacing our leads with Ted Danson and Lawrence Fishburne. We may have been a family like in [seasons] three or four of 'CSI' through hardship. It's not the actors who are family or the characters who are family. It's the crew, then the actors. If our crew is happy and concentrate on what they're doing, we have smooth days and we become really close. I usually do much better work when the crew is happy and there's no infighting and everyone is really good at their job. We replaced a lot of people on the crew who needed to go. Peter brought in some of his pros.

Q: I know you re-shot the pilot. What were the issues?

Eads: The issues with the pilot, I don't think the writing was there. Our pilot changed colors through two color wheels. Usually, a script may be changed four or five colors and that's it. They weren't sure what they wanted.

Q: Was it supposed to be lighter, heavier?

Eads: I don't even think they had the players they wanted as far as the cast goes. And I know they didn't have the producing team they wanted.

Q: They had a chance to reboot a reboot.

Eads: Lucas and I were the only ones who came back. They saw the chemistry between us.

Q: How did you guys connect?

Eads: Our agent really brokered this deal.

Q: You guys have the same agent!

Eads: Yes. I was hired first. They were looking for the lead guy and Lucas came up. I familiarized myself with his work. He's from Georgia. I'm from Texas. We reminded each other of that. Within ten minutes of meeting him, we became fast friends. Even shooting the pilot, we remained really tight and after the pilot, we had a really good feeling it would get picked up. He and I started working at the gym, exercising, hanging out, get to know each other really well. We have the same sensibilities and we really have the same wacky sense of humor. We like the same movies and get along really well. When we came back to this pilot, it was so much better written. It was written like a feature film. And they had James [Wan] interested again. I can only say what the hearsay was. I don't think the first script excited them the way the second one did. Quite frankly, every one I've read since then seems to keep getting better...  Henry [Winkler] is starting to get involved. When they see the pilot and see we've hit the mark, we'll have a lot more of them come around. I think that's when we can ask Richard Dean Anderson. We'll have to wait and see how the kid does before he does anything. It will be cool to have MacGyver play MacGyver. It would be almost like 'Back to the Future." We brush by the real Jack Dalton and MacGyver in a case. That might be interesting. I know Peter is leaving Easter eggs for fans. I think he'd be really smart about the way he intertwines all these nuggets for those fans. He has talked about a re-occurring bad guy who would be an incredible addition. We've also talked about bringing someone else I can't give away but he's an Oscar winner. They're really seeing something with legs. They want better athletes.

Q: People who knew you from your previous character [Nick Stokes] relate to this one?

Eads: It's completely different. There is still that bravery issue, that no fear issue that Nick had. But this character has severe PTSD. He's a death dealer. He's ex Special Forces, been in all kinds of secret ops. He kills without a conscience. He's kind of the epitome of courage but when you have those screws loose, he's the type of guy Mac has to turn around and say, 'Stop! Calm down! We're not just running in there like that!' 'We have to get in there and save him!' 'Wait! We will but we have to be smart.' So he's teaching Jack how to get his temper and emotions in check because there's nothing Jack likes better than to fight and kill someone who deserves it. He's just a loose cannon, a damn wild man.

Q: Are you enjoying the action? This is a lot more running.

Eads: This is so much different from 'CSI.' It's very subdued there. I wasn't really in a leadership role save for a few episodes when the story line surrounded me. I love action. I love stage combat. We have a scene in episode three where there are about 10 guys in a smoke-filled room that we poisoned. They're all staggering. They're all huge guys. We go in and we whip their ass. And Jack gets into it starts doing Bruce Lee jumping around.

Q: That's fun. You get to do all your own stunts?

Eads: I've done them all so far. Again, unless it's an issue of danger with a speeding car or maybe a two-story dive. But I was pole vaulter so diving into mats doesn't bother me. The more time passes, the more Lucas and I have a better relationship. We've been living together now for two months. I rented a house.

Q: What part of town?

Eads: Virginia Highlands.

Q: That's a great place to be.

Eads: We rehearse every night. We rehearsed last night for a couple of hours and it's usually with a pretty hefty bottle of red wine to get the juices flowing. We look out for each other. It's made it a lot easier. This is the toughest challenge I've ever had.

Q: You're virtually in every scene. You don't get a lot of breaks.

Eads: Even if you're on the weekend, you're sleeping til mid afternoon on a Saturday. You get a massage and a meal, you're so tired, you're hitting it again. The last two weekends were the first ones we had. The action involves sprinting. We are always chasing people. I've pulled both quad muscles. On the weekends, we'll both get a vitamin bag IV. Amino shots, B12 shots.

Q: The weather will get cooler.

Eads: This pace ain't for punks. A lot of movie stars don't want to go to TV because of how hard you have to work. You have to be a soldier. It doesn't stop.

Q: You knew that going in.

Eads: I knew that. I have to pace myself away from camera. I've been helping Lucas. If we have to go into a split and it's early morning, the first three days, then we go to nights. He came home that third early day and was about pass out at 5 p.m. I said, 'Let's go eat dinner and don't go to bed til midnight.' He said, 'Midnight?' 'Yah, cos you can sleep until 2 in the afternoon and be ready for nights.'

Q: You learned this from working TV so long.

Eads: I think Peter's given us the keys to the store. We won't abuse our powers. We aren't the kind of guys who are just going to get off on attention or hear ourselves scream but we really have conviction. Based on my experience and Lucas so far, we haven't wrecked the car.

Q: What really made you decide to come back to TV at this juncture?

Eads: I missed the pace. I talk about the rigor, but I really enjoy it. I was on a set for 15 years. It's what I'm used to. And it's 'MacGyver.' All I had to do was hear the word. They didn't even have a script. They wanted a hard-charging go getter who also has MacGyver's back. I know who that guys is. I know it's in here. He's a real fun character to play. It's everything I wanted to do on 'CSI' but quite frankly... I don't want to put a gift horse in the mouth but in the end, my talent was behind held back there. I didn't have enough to do. I did everything I could do with that character so it was just time to go. I come here, I'm flying helicopters!


"MacGyver," 8 p.m. Fridays, starting September 23, 2016, CBS

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.