James MacGyver
James MacGyver
Biographical Information
Real Name: James MacGyver
Title: Head of the Phoenix Foundation
Status: Deceased
Born: Unknown
Dies: 03/04/2020
Originally From: Mission City, California
Current Location: Los Angeles, California
Wife: Ellen MacGyver, née Hayes
Interests: Science


Parents: Harry MacGyver (Father)

Unnamed Mother

Family: Gwendolyn Hayes (Sister-in-Law)
Children: Angus MacGyver (Son)
Education: Unknown
languages: English

Spanish (Fluent)

Affiliations: The Phoenix Foundation

DXS (Formerly)
OPI (Formerly)

Physical Description
Height: 6'0
Episode Count: 11
Character Information
First appearance: MacGyver + MacGyver
Portrayed by: Tate Donovan

Character Flag - American Male Military Agent DXS The Phoenix Foundation Deceased Season 2 Season 3

"I like to say I taught my son everything I know." James MacGyver "MacGyver + MacGyver"

James MacGyver (DOB unknown) was a legendary U.S. covert operative and the Head of The Phoenix Foundation. He was the former Head of the Department of External Services and a former operative of its predecessor the OPI. He was the father of renowned Phoenix agent Angus MacGyver, the son of Harry MacGyver and the brother-in-law of Gwendolyn Hayes. An agent of extraordinary standing in U.S. intelligence, James was the only agent in the world who's intelligence, aptitude for science and talent for improvisation surpassed those of his son.

James' relationship with his son was highly strained from James leaving his son with his grandfather and disappearing for almost 20 years until he finally revealed himself and profession to his son in 2018, leading to an eventual reconciliation between the younger and elder MacGyvers. In 2019, James was diagnosed with cancer, giving him a 50/50 shot of survival. As of 2020, James was given a couple of months to live but had still resumed his post as Head of the Phoenix Foundation. During an escape from the forces of Codex, he took a bullet to the chest to save Elliot Mason. Critically wounded, he chose to remain behind while Angus and Elliot escaped; he then detonated a series of explosives, damaging the building as a distraction and killing himself in the process. Afterwards, Angus and Russ Taylor watched his last messages from a thumbdrive. It gave them numbers for an unknown code and the Flash-Drive self destructed.

Background Edit

James was born in Mission City, California on an unknown date to Harry MacGyver and an unnamed mother. Practically nothing is currently known about his early life except that he had a good relationship with his parents. His father Harry was a veteran of World War II and was in fact one of the original founders of the government organization that would one day become The Phoenix Foundation, a government intelligence agency that paired the finest soldiers with scientists to create the perfect blend of strength and intellect. His education is equally unclear but he made use of his brilliant mind to study and master science, technology, engineering and mathematics to the point where he became one of the foremost scientific experts in the world.

Following in his father's footsteps, James was recruited by the OPI at some point before the 90's and rose through the ranks very quickly while partnered with Jonah Walsh, a former U.S. Spec. Ops. soldier who was his 'Jack Dalton' and his best friend. The two worked together for years until one day Walsh betrayed him and the agency and went rogue. James never stopped looking for Walsh even as he rose to become the Head of the Department of External Services by the beginning of the 90s.

Before and during this time he met, fell in love with and married an unnamed woman in Mission City. The couple honeymooned in Paris, where James found a special vanilla perfume that he bought for his wife then and for every anniversary thereafter; he would joke later on that it helped to cover up the scent of his own aftershave. In March 1990, their son Angus was born.

Sadly, James' wife died in 1995 when Angus was five, leaving James devastated and filled with a rage he could not contain, leading him to fear for his son's safety not just from the enemies he had made but from himself. Bereft of any other choice, James gave Angus to his father Harry and left with no explanation and no methods of contact and dove into overseas ops. He ensured that Harry gave him regular updates on his son and watched over his son from a distance, secretly steering him towards the army, Jack Dalton and then the DXS, from where he could watch out for Angus 24/7.

In 2009, James was contracted by the U.N to design and oversee the construction of a massive International Seed Vault in Greenland to house agricultural seeds for preservation and emergency use. The project took 5 years to complete and required James to be on call 24/7 in case an issue ever arose.

From his Oversight perch, James continued to watch out for his son and his friends since before, during and following the events of "The Rising", heading off trouble before it reached them and dealing with punitive measures against agents who disobeyed orders. In 2016, James hired CIA operative Matilda Webber to be his official handler and authorized her to investigate him at her discretion as a way of interviewing her for the position of Field Director of the Phoenix Foundation after the debacle with Patricia Thornton.

Season 2 Edit

Despite the best efforts of his son and his friends, James remained hidden and out of reach; at one point in 2017 Mac and Jack tracked him to his last known location to a hostel in Barcelona, then to a crash-pad in Kiev, which led to a cabin in Patagonia but came up short once more.[1] Angus tried again later on and tracked down an old professor in Paris that used to know his Dad, and exchanged letters with him over 15 years ago but made no headway.[2]

While dodging his son's investigations, James finally caught wind of the whereabouts of his old partner and arch-nemesis Jonah Walsh by following a trail of clues to a mansion previously owned by Walsh. James broke into the mansion and turned it upside down searching for Jonah's safe; once he found it, he rigged up a safe-cracker mechanism using a drill, toothpicks, sellotape and forks and was close to opening it when he was unexpectedly interrupted by his estranged son, who had been sent to him by Matty after Mac had tried to resign. After dodging some of Walsh's men in the house and on the highway and linking up with Jack, James offered Mac a chance to join him on his mission to get Walsh and in doing so answer some questions. The trio traveled to Mexico to interrogate another of Walsh's associates who revealed that Walsh was hiding in the mountains outside Mexico City with a drug cartel. While Jack took out the sentries, James and Angus infiltrated the cartel compound and discovered that Walsh was attempting to synthesize a super-soldier formula James had invented years ago and subsequently dropped to it's 100% mortality rate. Walsh however had set a trap and captured the MacGyvers, looking to use Angus as leverage to force James to fix the super-soldier drug, smugly boasting of his victory over his former friend. Fortunately James and Angus turned the tables on Walsh and the cartel by secretly contacting Mac's team via Morse Code and then setting the cartel's drug lab on fire and using it to escape. Back at the Phoenix Foundation, James debriefed Mac's team and offered Mac his job back. Mac however was not ready to forgive his father and tendered his resignation from the Foundation. "MacGyver + MacGyver" [3]

Season 3 Edit

James kept his distance from his son while Angus was working as volunteer aid in Nigeria. Six months after Angus had left, Jack Dalton went off the reservation, prompting James to fly to Nigeria and pick up Angus to help get Jack back even though Angus was reluctant to work with his father again. The MacGyvers flew to a safe house in Russia to link up with Mac's old team, then hit the road to Belarus to track down a Yugoslav arms dealer with knowledge of Jack's whereabouts and the former Belorussian dictator he was allegedly working with. Using information from the arms dealer, James and Angus para-dropped into Belarus with James very nearly crashing due to anti-aircraft fire and ambushed the convoy Jack was in and rescued him though in the chaos, James was captured by the forces of the current Belorussian dictator who had replaced the one Jack was working for. Luckily, Mac and the team were able to negotiate with the dictator to hand him over his predecessor in exchange for James. Later on back at the Phoenix, James met with Matty Webber and discussed Angus with her, unable to figure out how to reach his son. Though Webber suggested resigning from the Phoenix, James held off on the decision for the time being. "Improvise"

Determined to reconcile with Angus, James began going to the same diner for lunch every Friday, ordering the same meal each time, and each time inviting Angus to join him but each time, Angus either ignored him or used missions as an excuse to not show up. This trend continued on for several weeks and as a result James began to lose hope that his son would ever give him another chance. Finally, during one Friday in the diner, Angus showed up at last, having received some advice from Riley, and apologized for being late but James remarked that it was worth the wait. The MacGyvers then shared a long overdue and happy lunch together, agreeing to wipe the slate clean between them and making a fresh start. "Guts + Fuel + Hope"

Not much later, James received intelligence on the whereabouts of Luis Gomez, the cartel leader who had partnered with Jonah Walsh. Acting quickly, James took a Phoenix strike team to Mexico City, attacked Gomez' compound and captured the criminal but as they were making their escape, James' Phoenix team was wiped out in an ambush, leaving only James with Gomez and with a potent but non-fatal injury. Pursued by Gomez' men, James called his son for help. Less than 6 hours later, Angus and Jack linked up with James in Mexico City and took him and Gomez to a dental clinic to treat James' injuries. Once James was stabilized, he and Angus rigged up a taser-vest from the dentist-chair battery to keep Gomez compliant and they set out for evacuation. Dodging Gomez' men, James and Angus were soon cornered on the city rooftops where one of Gomez' lieutenants revealed that he was actually trying to overthrow Gomez not save him. James and Angus rigged up a zip-line using a rope and a rooftop cooling fan and saved Gomez, who decided that escaping was indeed the best option. To that end he led James and Angus to a series of tunnels under the city that led to outside the city limits were Jack was waiting with a plane. Dodging more of the cartel enforcers, James and Angus finally reached the airfield, whereupon James confessed to Angus that his reasons for pursuing Gomez were about getting to Walsh as opposed to eliminating Gomez as a threat to Angus and his friends. Fortunately Angus let it go despite reservations but the moment was destroyed when a young cop who had been helping Jack executed Gomez as revenge for his family, robbing James of any information Gomez had on Walsh. "Dia de Muertos + Sicarios + Family"

A few months after his failed mission in Mexico, James received a terminal diagnosis of cancer and was started on regular chemotherapy infusions. In between sessions in March of 2019, James received an urgent communication from the International Seed Vault in Greenland informing him that one of it's technicians had gone missing and that they needed his help. Temporarily weakened by his cancer treatments, James instead assigned the mission to Angus, Dessi and Riley while he and Matty quarterbacked the mission from the command center. Halfway into the mission, James stepped out to deal with some personal errands, fully aware that he was being tailed by both Bozer and Leanna. He finally confronted the pair outside his favorite diner, even taking the time to point out the failings in their tailing tactics. However he failed to notice Bozer doubling back after he had left to question the diner waitress who always served him who told Bozer about James' cancer. The following evening, James was undergoing another chemotherapy infusion at a private medical facility when Angus walked in, having been informed by Bozer. Putting on a brave face, James admitted to Angus that he didn't want to spoil their reunion with the revelation that he probably only had a limited amount of time left to live and instead just wanted to make the most of the time that he and his son had left together. "Seeds + Permafrost + Feather"

Season 4Edit

In the episode "Father + Son + Father + Matriarch," James sacrifices himself in an explosion and dies as a result.

Personality Edit

James is a largely introverted individual who does not display emotion very often. Possessing a dry, razor-sharp wit and a mischievous sense of humor, he keeps a level-headed and stoic visage almost constantly, a testament to decades of work as a covert operative and is prone to overly convoluted explanations or thought-processes just like a scientist. Having been the Head of the Phoenix for many years, he is accustomed to giving orders and having them followed to the letter whether it be his own son or Matty Webber he is talking to and is quick to take charge on any situation. He has a tendency to be blunt with those under his command; he once openly admitted to Wilt Bozer that he had rejected hiring him three times but Matty insisted on it anyway. True to his reputation he is brave, goal-oriented, insightful, extraordinarily observant and dedicated to serving his country.

Like his son, James is a pacifistic operative who prefers to take down opponents non-lethally and similarly dislikes guns as he always disassembles any he finds and goes a step further by pocketing the ammo clips though he is somewhat more vicious in combat.

James cares about and loves his son very much but has trouble expressing it especially after so many years of estrangement and the fact that he believed he had no choice but to abandon him. He tried to make up for it by guiding Mac's life towards working for the Phoenix and thus for him but could not bring himself to show himself in almost 20 years for fear that Mac's safety would be compromised. Since then he has tried to reconnect with Angus but is having a tough time getting his son to even look at him much less speak to him. His relationship with his son otherwise was and is somewhat tricky; though he clearly enjoyed spending time teaching Angus to build things and helping him conduct experiments when he was young, his sense of intellectual arrogance is still a clear source of frustration for his son mostly because in terms of raw intelligence, James is by all accounts the smarter of the two and the more skilled at improvisation. James also has an annoying habit of using a problem in the field as an opportunity to test Angus on his smarts.

Since coming back into Angus' life, James has become noticeably more open and willing to engage with his son on a regular basis, patiently waiting for his son to come to him in his own time as opposed to forcing it and never losing hope that a reconciliation was possible. Since their reconciliation, he is noticeably happier and trusts in Angus enough that Angus is the first person he calls when he gets into trouble on a mission.

Skills and Abilities Edit

  • Peak of Human Physical Conditioning: As a veteran intelligence agent, James is in top physical condition and possesses great levels of physical strength, endurance, stamina and agility.
  • Genius-Level Intellect: James possesses an extraordinary intellect and is the only person in the entire history of the agency who's talents and genius exceed those of his son. Possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of every conceivable branch of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, James is a grand-master of improvisation, a skill he passed on to Angus, and is highly skilled in creating ingenious devices, machines and gadgets out of just about anything lying around to use in overcoming any foe or obstacle in his way.
  • Multilingual: In addition to English, James can speak fluent Spanish and can likely speak many more languages due to his decades of experience in covert ops.
  • Explosives Expert: Because of his exemplary scientific knowledge James is an expert in explosives, not only able to diffuse intricate explosives, but also make them by knowing what materials are needed to create an explosive reaction.
  • Master Spy: Due to his decades of espionage experience, James is a world-class spy operative and a master of deception, infiltration, sabotage, role-playing and concealment.
  • Master Hand-to-Hand Combatant: Due to his many decades of experience with the agency, James is a formidable hand-to-hand combatant, incorporating scientific knowledge of the human body's pressure points and weak-spots to take down any opponent with a dizzying variety of moves.
  • Master Strategist/Tactician/Leader: James is a master of tactics and formulating strategies on any scale to bring down individuals and/or organizations at a moments notice though he appears to have a penchant for improvisation.

Trivia Edit

  • Like his son, James carries a vintage, wood-paneled Victorinox Swiss Army Knife with him everywhere he goes, a trait he likely picked up from his father Harry MacGyver.
  • He claims he taught Angus everything he knows, a claim disputed by his son.
  • He has saved Matilda Webber's life more times than she can count.
  • His Phoenix code-name is Oversight.
  • He has lunch at the same diner every day without fail and always orders a coffee, egg-salad sandwich and a side of home fries.
  • He knows how to ride a horse, hot-wire a car and pick locks.
  • He is powerful enough to pull strings in the U.S. armed forces, the CIA, the NSA and the DIA at will.
  • His very clearance level is classified.
  • He never uses his turn signals when he is driving.
  • MacGyver producer Craig O'Neill described James as "a jaded, world-weary agent with a heavy responsibility on his shoulders" and "a pioneer of the practice of incorporating science into espionage...he is twice as smart, cunning and resourceful as his son, the only man in the business who can out-MacGyver MacGyver".
  • He has a direct line to the Oval Office, the Pentagon and NORAD from his office.
  • His blood type is AB Negative.
  • His favourite movie is The Great Escape.
  • James shares Angus' penchant for only coming up with part of a plan and then revealing that he hasn't thought of the rest of it at the worst possible time.
  • The first thing he taught Angus to build was a wireless telegraph.
  • Goes by the name Jim with Matty Webber.

Appearances Edit

Season Two
DIY or Die Roulette Wheel + Wire Muscle Car + Paper Clips X-Ray + Penny Skull + Electromagnet Jet Engine + Pickup Truck Duct Tape + Jack Packing Peanuts + Fire CD-ROM + Hoagie Foil War Room + Ship Bullet + Pen Mac + Jack
CO2 Sensor + Tree Branch Mardi Gras Beads + Chair Murdoc + Handcuffs Hammock + Balcony Bear Trap + Mob Boss Riley + Airplane Benjamin Franklin + Grey Duffle Skyscraper + Power Wind + Water UFO + Area 51 MacGyver + MacGyver
Season Three
Improvise Bravo Lead + Loyalty + Friendship Bozer + Booze + Back to School Guts + Fuel + Hope Dia de Muertos + Sicarios + Family Murdoc + MacGyver + Murdoc Scavengers + Hard Drive + Dragonfly Revenge + Catacombs + Le Fantome Specimen 234 + PAPR + Outbreak Matty + Ethan + Fidelity Mac + Fallout + Jack
Fence + Suitcase + Americium-241 Wilderness + Training + Survival Father + Bride + Betrayal K-9 + Smugglers + New Recruit Lidar + Rogues + Duty Seeds + Permafrost + Feather Murdoc + Helman + Hit Friends + Enemies + Border No-Go + High-Voltage + Rescue Treason + Heartbreak + Gum Mason + Cable + Choices

References Edit

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