Angus MacGyver is a highly resourceful intelligent, optimistic action hero 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. This was shown in episode two of Season 4 (Blood Brothers) when 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 his dislike of firearms was established. The character is portrayed as an outspoken advocate of gun control. 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.
He was born and raised in Minnesota on either January 23, 1951 (per his passport in "Every Time She Smiles") or March 23, 1951 (working back from dates given in the episodes "Thin Ice", Passages, Friends, Runners, and "Phoenix Under Siege"). His heritage explains why he speaks with a Minnesota accent. (Richard Dean Anderson himself was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on January 23, 1950.) MacGyver lived his childhood in Mission City. Like Anderson, MacGyver was an avid hockey player as a child, and competed in his local hockey league, continuing to play the game as an adult. He graduated from Alexander Ramsey High School in Roseville, Minnesota. His character earned a degree in physics from the fictitious Western Tech where in 1973 a mustachioed MacGyver had studied under Julian Ryman, a man who also had an ability to fix everything with everyday objects and it seems MacGyver learned his talent from him. This was revealed in the episode "Hell Week" where MacGyver returns to his college and ends up helping Ryman's son, David. MacGyver's interests include ice hockey, racecar driving, chemistry, and baccarat.
MacGyver's first name remained a mystery until the final season; whenever he's asked about it, he says he dislikes his first name and changes the subject. Consequently, most of his friends and colleagues call him by his last name or simply "Mac." The script for the series pilot gave MacGyver's first name as "Stace", but this information, while mentioned in promotional material, did not appear in the finished episode. His first name is finally officially revealed in "Good Knight MacGyver", in which he learns of a 7th century Scottish ancestor, Angus M'Iver, and admits that they share their first name; and repeated in the series finale, which introduces MacGyver's son, whose middle name is Angus. It is also revealed on the boxes of the MacGyver seasons.
Despite his dislike for guns Macgyver has been known to wield a gun at least twice, albeit only in highly necessary situations.
- In Pilot, MacGyver says that he doesn't like heights.
- Also in Pilot, MacGyver clearly doesn't like cigarettes, as he chokes when he lights one.
- In the The Golden Triangle, MacGyver mentions that he's not scared of snakes, but he doesn't like being around them.
- Also in The Golden Triangle, MacGyver makes it clear he doesn't like guns when he refuses to teach the villagers how to use guns to defend themselves.
- In Thief of Budapest, MacGyver says again that he doesn't like heights.
- Also in Thief of Budapest, MacGyver says he doesn't care for alcohol. In other episodes too, Mac's disregard for alcohol is presented.
- In The Gauntlet, Diego offers MacGyver a gun, but MacGyver refuses, saying "Actually, I do much better without them, thanks."
- In The Heist, MacGyver finds a cigar in an ashtray and remarks about how it's a nasty habit.
- Also in The Heist, MacGyver has to take a sip of wine from a crystal goblet in order to reproduce a tone properly with his finger, and he grimaces as he takes the sip.
- MacGyver has lost his memory at least twice