Was life hell for the ‘MacGyver’ reboot cast? Lucas Till says “yes”
Earlier this month news broke that CBS’s go-to guy for rebooting old franchises, Peter Lenkov was fired. Lenkov rebooted Hawaii Five-0, which ran for ten seasons ending only earlier this year. He also started up the new MacGyver series starring millennial heartthrob Lucas Till, which started in 2016 and still seems to be going fairly strong.
Most recently Lenkov also rebooted Magnum P.I. for modern audiences which has, so far, only had two seasons. All three of these shows have called the CBS network home, so one would think CBS enjoys their working relationship with Peter Lenkov.
Perhaps they did, but apparently his work environments were so toxic CBS decided to fire Lenkov for the sake of the casts and crews working on MacGyver and Magnum P.I.
Trigger warning: This article describes verbal abuse and contemplation of suicide.
Lucas Till’s experiences
Till, who is nothing but enthusiastic about the MacGyver reboot, and his fellow cast members on social media recently spoke out about how the showrunner created a toxic work atmosphere, and actually made Till feel suicidal during the first season.
Till describes to Vanity Fair that he was the target of verbal abuse, bullying, and body shaming by Lenkov. Lucas Till described the situation this way, “I’ve never worked this hard in my life, and I am fine with hard work. But the way Peter treats people is just unacceptable. I was suicidal that first year on the show, because of the way he made me feel. But the way he’s treated the people around me—that’s just my breaking point.”
Lucas Till recalls multiple instances of verbal abuse and body shaming, such as Lenkov yelling at a director about Till, “Oh, my f–king God! Tuck his shirt in, he looks like a little f–king boy”. Lucas Till says he’s struggled to maintain a “man weight” while working on the show due to stress, a lack of time to workout, and an unpredictable schedule which makes it hard to get proper nutrients.
Looking for help
The actor and star of MacGyver also said that despite the showrunner rarely being on set Lenkov was ultimately the one who set a hostile tone for the working environment for both cast and crew. Till also said he went to HR in 2017, and earlier in 2020, but said his complaints didn’t seem to be taken seriously.
One source says Lucas Till’s five-page letter to the head of human resources at CBS was actually what helped to start the investigation which ultimately led to Peter Lenkov’s firing, however.
The letter described Lenvok’s repeatedly unprofessional behavior toward multiple members of the cast and crew including Meredith Eaton, one of the few remaining cast members who has been with the show (almost) since the beginning.
Sarah Goldfinger, who had previously spent six years working on the beloved show CSI went to work with Lenkov when he was just beginning the process of rebooting Hawaii Five-0. Goldfinger reported that on the second day she was already in hot water with Lenkov.
She had asked a question about a character’s morals and later found herself being requested by Lenkov to speak with her in private – they went to her office. She says Lenkov then told her if she didn’t like her job or the stories the team was going to be telling she could leave. Goldfinger said, “I understood in that moment that he was threatening my job”.
Goldfinger also says Peter Lenkov would fly into a rage at times, screaming and yelling. It wasn’t uncommon for Lenkov to shout at her over the phone while she would drive home after work. Another employee who worked with Lenkov on MacGyver told a similar story and also stated she would sometimes have to pull the phone away from her ear.
The other anonymous source said, “It’s just volatile rage, screaming, almost incoherent at times. There’s no way to de-escalate it”.
A rotating cast and crew
Goldfinger left after her 13 episode contract ended. The anonymous MacGyver employee also stated she had never seen such “extreme turnover” on a show due to the toxic environment, they just couldn’t get people to stay.
You can see this reflected in the on-screen casts of Lenkov’s shows too. Two of the main actors on Hawaii Five-0 who were there from the beginning left when they were denied equal pay. The actors were Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park and they left after season seven.
MacGyver has been painfully notorious for having a rotating cast which has left fans unsure of who the main characters are and where the storylines are headed – but not in the good suspenseful way.
Storylines are abandoned randomly, and character arcs are unfulfilled as actors who become series regulars depart after a season or two.
Samantha Cage, played by Isabel Lucas, is one such example of this. Her character was added in seemingly as a replacement for George Eads character when he suddenly left the show (for different rage related reasons). The character Samantha Cage seemed to clearly have been intended as a love interest for Lucas Till’s Angus MacGyver, however, the character disappears quickly and randomly without so much as a goodbye scene.
The characters are forced to explain that after being injured on the job Cage decided to go home to Australia to spend time with her sister. While the romance between Cage and MacGyver left viewers wanting, this was an even worse exit.
Fans have also been scratching their heads wondering where in the world Bozer’s (Justin Hires) girlfriend has gone off to. Bozer had fallen in love with a fellow agent and she was starting to regularly help the main team on missions – only to suddenly stop being in episodes altogether without a single mention. It’s almost as if the writers were hoping fans would just forget she existed. We haven’t.
What the future holds
Now that Lenkov is no longer the showrunner on MacGyver and Magnum P.I. it will be interesting to see what happens. There might be welcome tonal shifts, and perhaps MacGyver will finally be able to find some stability in their cast & crew – allowing them to finally properly finish a storyline or create a full character arc.
Magnum P.I. is still relatively new to CBS so any changes might not feel quite so drastic.