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MacGyver Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

If you are in your 30s or older, one hero likely stands above the rest in the world of television. The mild-mannered, gun-hating, quick-witted Angus MacGyver burst onto the screens on ABC way back on September 29, 1985. The agent of the Phoenix Foundation worked as a troubleshooter, armed with nothing more than a seemingly limitless amount of scientific knowledge and the kind of inventive thinking to put it to good use in life-or-death situations. Richard Dean Anderson played the titular role on "MacGyver" and carried the episodic adventures through seven seasons before the series came to a close in 1992; it got the remake treatment in 2016 with Lucas Till as MacGyver but it didn't last as long, getting canceled by CBS In 2021

Throughout the original show's run, it hosted many guest appearances by huge names in the industry like Richard Roundtree and George Takei. Also, it saw some future stars cut their teeth, including Teri Hatcher and Mayim Bialik. Unfortunately, some of the people who have guested on the original "MacGyver" or played regular roles on the show have died in the decades following its final episode.

John Anderson played MacGyver's grandfather

Harry Jackson became MacGyver's grandfather after his grandmother and birth father died in a car accident. After 18 years of estrangement, he turns up in the 10th episode of Season 1, called "Target MacGyver." In the 5th season episode, "Passages," Harry dies of a heart attack.

John Anderson had a long and distinguished career as an actor before playing Mac's grandfather on "MacGyver." Standing over six feet tall with a thin frame, he bore a striking resemblance to President Abraham Lincoln, whom he portrayed three times in his career. He appeared in classic television shows such as "The Incredible Hulk," "The Rockford Files," and "Dallas," along with feature films such as Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." He was one of many that appeared both in "MacGyver" and in one of the many "Star Trek" franchises.

Just as Anderson's character, Harry, succumbed to a heart attack on the show, the actor suffered a fatal heart attack in his home at the age of 69 in 1992, only a few months after the show ended, per The New York Times.

James Doohan appeared as Speedy

In Season 6, Episode 7, "Harry's Will," MacGyver's grandfather left him a vintage station wagon via his will. Upon taking possession of the classic, a group of crooks shows extreme interest due to a rumor that the departed owner concealed a priceless gem inside. Also included in the episode was an assortment of high-profile guests, including "Happy Days" alums Henry Winkler and Marion Ross, NFL legends Lyle Alzado and Dick Butkus, and none other than James Doohan in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance as the garage owner.

Doohan first came to fame in the original 1966 three-season run of "Star Trek" as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott. He made other appearances in the films and spinoffs, but most fans remember him as part of the original franchise's core.

Doohan died at his home in Redmond, Washington, in 2005 at the age of 85 due to complications of pulmonary fibrosis, which was believed to be from exposure to toxic substances during World War II, as reported by The New York Times.

Abe Vigoda appeared in the same episode as Doohan

Speaking of "Harry's Will" and all the cameos it featured, there was another one from a seasoned actor. Abe Vigoda played the part of Bill Cody, an old friend of Harry's that gets out of prison and comes looking for the diamond. He has great intentions for the stone and works with Mac to foil the crooks. Once the duo wins the day, in true "MacGyver" fashion, they use the proceeds of the priceless gem to fund the local soup kitchen.

Vigoda rose to stardom later in life after landing his career-defining role as Salvatore Tessio in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather." Tessio was a childhood friend of Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) and eventual betrayer of his son Michael (Al Pachino). This also led to him landing the role of Phil Fish in "Barney Miller" (1975-1982) and "Fish" (1977-1978).

Vigoda was often mistaken for being dead, beginning in a People Magazine article from 1982 referring to him as "the late Abe Vigoda." It happened again in 1987 as a reporter from WWOR in Secaucus, New Jersey, referred to him in the same way (via Yahoo News). This became a running gag for him in most of his live appearances until he passed away in his sleep in 2016 at the age of 94 (via The New York Times).

Dana Elcar was a staple of MacGyver

Just like you can't have a James Bond film without M, you can't even think about a "MacGyver" episode without seeing the face (and signature bald head) of Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar). Thornton is said to have an extensive background with the government, starting as a Vietnam War veteran before moving on to the fictional black ops agency, Department of External Services. He recruited MacGyver there before taking him to the Phoenix Foundation. He worked there until 1991 when he developed glaucoma (mirroring a diagnosis the actor shared).

Per his IMDb page, Elcar began his career on screen as District Attorney Andrew Murray on "Guiding Light." He later appeared on many major series through the 1970s, including "Get Smart," "Mission: Impossible," and "The A-Team." He was often mistaken for his stunt/photography double, Don S. Davis, who coincidentally went on to star alongside Richard Dean Anderson in a similar superior/mentor role as General Hammond in "Stargate SG-1."

Almost 15 years after his retirement due to glaucoma, Elcar died from complications related to pneumonia in 2005, according to the Los Angeles Times. He was 77.