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Dennis Weaver

Richard Dean Anderson Biography


Home > Actors > A > Anderson, Richard Dean > Biography


Birth Name: Richard Dean Anderson
Born: 01/23/1950
Birth Place: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA


Born on Jan. 23, 1950 in Minneapolis, MN, Anderson was raised by his father, Stuart, a high school teacher who taught English, drama and humanities, and his mother, Jocelyn, an artist who worked in painting and sculpture. As the eldest son of four, Anderson grew up in the Minneapolis suburb of Roseville where he developed early interests in sports, the arts, music and acting. He harbored dreams of becoming a hockey player, but breaking both his arms at 16 years old derailed the idea. After his arms healed, Anderson's quest for adventure grew, and at 17, he took a 5,641-mile bicycle trip from Minnesota through Canada and up to Alaska. Meanwhile, he studied drama at St. Cloud State University and at Ohio University, though he never completed his degree, as his continued wanderlust took him to New York City, San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district and finally to Los Angeles, where he worked as a street mime, a juggler, and a jester-singer in a Renaissance-style cabaret.

Also at the time, Anderson began appearing in plays and live theatre, including landing a role in "Superman in the Bones" at the Pilgrimage Theatre. After years of struggle, he landed his first break playing Dr. Jeff Webber on the daytime soap "General Hospital" (ABC, 1963- ), a role he played from 1976-1981 alongside luminaries Demi Moore, John Stamos and Jack Wagner. Following five grueling years of daytime television's brutal schedule, Anderson wanted to stretch his acting wings, leaving the show with sights set on primetime. He made a rather inauspicious transition with an episode of "The Facts of Life" (NBC, 1979-1988), but Anderson picked up speed with a regular role as Adam McFadden on "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (CBS, 1982-83), a short-lived drama loosely based on the famed musical. Once that series was off the air, Anderson had an uncredited role as a nameless drug dealer in the comedy "Young Doctors in Love" (1982), which he followed with a supporting role on the military drama "Emerald Point N.A.S." (CBS, 1983-84), which starred Dennis Weaver and lasted on one season.

After paying his dues, Anderson's dream for primetime television superstardom finally arrived when he landed the role of Angus MacGyver on the hit series and culture phenomenon, "MacGyver" (ABC, 1985-1992). The show was unique among action series, as its protagonist - a highly intelligent secret agent with a knack for fashioning complex devices with the aide of duct tape and his trusty Swiss Army knife - sought to find non-violent resolutions in battling bad guys, relying instead on his own cunning and ingenuity. A huge hit from the start, "MacGyver" ran for seven successful seasons and earned a solid audience overseas, in part because unlike most other action series, parents were able to rally around behind a show that promoted non-violence and gun control. But most importantly, "McGyver" was a cultural touchstone that lasted well beyond its years on the air, as the show was parodied for decades after, including a Super Bowl commercial in 2006 where Anderson revived the character for a MasterCard ad.

In between seasons, Anderson was not one to rest on his laurels and utilized his "MacGyver" downtime by appearing in TV movies, most notably in "Ordinary Heroes" (1986), a remake of "Pride of the Marines" (1945), in which Anderson gave a startling performance as a soldier who is blinded three days before returning home from Vietnam. He continued to demonstrate his vivid range after his signature show ended, starring in several TV movies like "In The Eyes of a Stranger" (CBS, 1992) opposite Justine Bateman, "Through the Eyes of a Killer" (CBS, 1992) opposite Marg Helgenberger, and in "Past the Bleachers" (ABC, 1995). Meanwhile, even though the series was over, the public's appetite for Angus MacGyver and his uncanny ability to save the world had not diminished, so Anderson parlayed that demand into an overall deal with Paramount Pictures' TV division, where he starred and produced two made-for-TV movies "MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis" (ABC, 1994) and "MacGyver: Trail to Doomsday" (ABC, 1994).

Anderson's next role was a bit of a departure, as he displayed a comic flair as a hard-drinking, gambling, womanizing writer whose wild imagination spawns his fictional alter ego, Nicodermus Legend (Anderson), in the unfortunately short-lived sci-fi Western, "Legend" (UPN, 1995). Following a prominent role in the deadly virus thriller "Pandora's Clock" (NBC, 1996), Anderson returned to regular series work as veteran officer Jack O'Neill on the long-running sci-fi adventure series, "Stargate SG-1" (Showtime/Sci Fi Channel, 1997-2006), a small screen adaptation of the cult favorite movie "Stargate" (1994) which depicted an elite military unit defending Earth from invaders via a series of interconnected alien stargates. The show proved to be hugely successful, particularly among the fanboy set, and spawned a number of spin-offs where Anderson reprised O'Neill, including "Stargate Atlantis" (Sci Fi Channel, 2004-09), "Stargate Universe" (Syfy, 2009-2011) and the direct-to-DVD movie "Stargate: Continuum" (2008). But late in the original show's run, Anderson opted to appear in a recurring fashion before leaving altogether in order to spend more time with his daughter, Wylie, whom he had with former partner, Aprul Prose. A few years later, he renewed his acting with more regularity, appearing as a mysterious man in a number of episodes of "Fairly Legal" (USA Network, 2011- ), while guest starring on the popular sitcom "Raising Hope" (Fox, 2010- ).

By Shawn Dwyer