Anderson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Stuart Jay Anderson and Jocelyn Rhae Carter, and has Scottish, Swedish, Norwegian and Mohawk Native American ancestry. He grew up in Roseville, Minnesota and attended Ramsey High School, then Ohio University in Athens, Ohio and St. Cloud State University.

After college, Anderson participated with friends in a cross-country bike ride from Minnesota to Alaska. The adventure opened his mind to what he wanted to do, which was become an actor. He moved to Los Angeles, where he did many menial jobs such as work as a mime and a stagehand at a marina. He started his acting career appearing on General Hospital as Dr. Jeff Webber from 1976 to 1981. He also starred as Adam in the CBS television series Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (based very loosely on the movie of the same name) from 1982-1983. In the 1983-1984 season, he played a lieutenant, Simon Adams, on the 22-week Dennis Weaver series Emerald Point NAS on CBS. In the story line Adams steals away Celia Warren (Susan Dey), the wife of naval lawyer Jack Warren (Charles Frank).

Anderson came to fame with the hit television series MacGyver which lasted from 1985 to 1992 and was highly successful throughout its entire run, with the lead role of Angus MacGyver.

In 1995 he starred in Legend, a comic series of only twelve episodes about a dime novel writer within the Wild West who against his will has to play the role of his own fictional character. Originally written as a TV movie, when the decision was made to make Legend a series, the original teleplay became the two-hour pilot episode. Although Richard Dean Anderson co-starred with John de Lancie in Legend, two 1990 episodes of MacGyver, "Serenity" (Season 5, Episode 12) and "MacGyver's Women" (Season 6, Episode 8) ) featured Wild Wild West storylines with a style foreshadowing the quirky style evidenced within Legend.

From 1997 to 2005, he starred as Colonel/General Jack O'Neill in Stargate SG-1, based on the movie Stargate starring Kurt Russell and James Spader. In season six, he chose to have a reduced role in the series due to his desire to spend more time with his young daughter. His role was continually reduced until he left as a regular cast member at the end of season eight semi-retiring from acting for personal reasons, preferring instead to make a few guest appearances. He has appeared in two episodes of season nine of SG-1, two episodes of season ten, three episodes of season three of Stargate Atlantis and the second direct-to-DVD film Stargate: Continuum.

He was presented with an award at the Air Force Association's 57th Annual Air Force Anniversary Dinner in Washington, D.C. on September 14, 2004 because of his role as star and executive producer of Stargate SG-1, a series which has portrayed the Air Force in a positive light since it first premiered. It was presented by the then-Air Force Chief-of-Staff, General John P. Jumper. The last recipient of the award was James Stewart in 1987. At the same dinner, Anderson was made an honorary Brigadier General. Anderson briefly reprised his role as Angus MacGyver in 2006 when he appeared in a MasterCard commercial during Super Bowl XL. While the plot follows the "MacGyver Formula", it is somewhat satirical of the series, showing unlikely if not impossible solutions to the obstacles faced by Anderson's character (in one shot, he cuts through a thick rope with a pine-scented air freshener). The official MasterCard website for the commercial refers to it as "the Return of MacGyver".

Anderson did appear as MacGyver in what seemed to be a Saturday Night Live advertisement parody featuring the show's recurring character MacGruber (portrayed by Will Forte), but rather in a real 3-part-commercial for Pepsi, in which the titular character becomes obsessed with the soft drink, airing during the January 31, 2009 broadcast and the second part of it again during Super Bowl XLIII on the following day.

Anderson has never married. He has a daughter from a prior relationship with Apryl Prose, named Wylie Quinn Annarose, born August 2, 1998. He has dated Dana Delany, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sela Ward, Teri Hatcher, Deidre Hall, and German ice skater Katarina Witt.

Anderson is an avid ice hockey player and skier. He is so much of a fan of the sports that he has deliberately appeared playing these sports in several of his TV shows, including MacGyver.

Anderson is an advocate of gun control, a trait he has in common with his role on MacGyver, as his character avoided using firearms as weapons during the series.


1976-1981 General Hospital Dr. Jeff Webber (1976-1981) TV Series
1982 Young Doctors in Love Drug Dealer (uncredited)
1982-1983 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Adam McFadden TV Series
1983 Emerald Point N.A.S. Navy Lt. Simon Adams TV Series
1985-1992 MacGyver Angus MacGyver TV Series
1986 Ordinary Heroes Tony Kaiser
1986 Odd Jobs Spud
1992 In the Eyes of a Stranger Jack Rourke TV
1992 Through the Eyes of a Killer Ray Bellano TV
1994 MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis Angus MacGyver TV
1994 Beyond Betrayal Bradley Matthews TV
1994 MacGyver: Trail to Doomsday Angus MacGyver TV
1995 Legend Ernest Pratt/Nicodemus Legend TV Series
1995 Past the Bleachers Bill Parish TV
1996 Pandora's Clock Capt. James Holland TV
1997 Firehouse Lt. Michael Brooks TV
1997-2005 Stargate SG-1 Colonel/Brigadier General/Major General Jack O'Neill (USAF) (recurring 2005-2007) TV Series
2006 MasterCard Super Bowl XL Commercial Angus MacGyver (never explicitly identified) TV Commercial
2008 Stargate: Continuum Major General Jack O'Neill, USAF Direct-to-DVD Movie
2009 Pepsi "MacGruber" Super Bowl XLIII Commercial MacGyver (named in spot#1, alluded in spots 2 and 3) TV Commercial

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