“MacGyver” star Lucas Till said that he felt “suicidal” during the first season of the CBS reboot because of “unacceptable” verbal abuse from showrunner Peter Lenkov, who was recently fired by the network.
“I’ve never worked this hard in my life, and I am fine with hard work,” Till said in an interview published Monday by Vanity Fair Monday, two weeks after Lenkov — who was also showrunner on “Magnum PI” and the recently ended “Hawaii Five-0” — was fired by CBS for creating a toxic work environment. “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.”
Till told Vanity Fair that he had been verbally abused, bullied and body-shamed by Lenkov, adding that Lenkov fostered the show’s hostile environment for cast and crew even though he rarely visited the set himself.
Lenkov’s attorney Dale Kinsella did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment, but told Vanity Fair that Till’s accusations are “100 percent false and untrue” and that the former “MacGyver” boss “has championed (Till) from the very beginning and has been nothing but supportive of him.”
Till told Vanity Fair that he made his problems with Lenkov known to CBS executives both in 2017 — not long after “MacGyver” premiered — and again earlier this year, but he thought “they just took it as some crazy actor trying to get more money” and not as serious concerns.
According to Vanity Fair, an individual with knowledge of the situation said that Till’s most recent complaint to network execs prompted a more formal inquiry that led to Lenkov’s termination earlier this month.
During that investigation, Vanity Fair says Till sent a five-page letter to the head of CBS TV Studios’ human resources department, which included these remarks about Lenkov: “There was always something about my appearance that wouldn’t please him like when I was in a hospital gown and our producer…thought it was funny that (Lenkov) said my legs were ‘f—ing hideous’ and we can never show them again. Honestly, I found some humor in that comment as well, but you can imagine if that was a more sensitive spot that he had hit, and often did. Just like the time he screamed a (a director) ‘Oh, my f—ing God! Tuck his shirt in, he looks like a little f—ing boy.’ Just hire a 35 year old then.”
Till, a 29-year-old actor who first broke out as the teenage star of 2011’s “X-Men: First Class” (and two of its sequels), continued about the struggles of playing an adult action hero. “I’ve struggled with maintaining ‘man weight’ on the show because of the stress, no time to work out, and an unpredictable schedule for proper nourishment,” he said.
The “MacGyver” star also voiced concerns about Lenkov’s treatment of co-star Meredith Eaton, who Till said was forced to stand for hours while filming after suffering an on-set injury that “was not dealt with properly.” In addition, Till said, “Peter would frantically email and call her insisting on knowing when she would be able to walk at a fast pace again.”
Eaton declined Vanity Fair’s request for comment and Lenkov’s lawyer told the outlet that the former showrunner “denied all allegations of mistreatment of Eaton of any kind, at any time.”
Vanity Fair published this statement from Lenkov in response to its story: “Now is the time to listen and I am listening. It’s difficult to hear that the working environment I ran was not the working environment my colleagues deserved, and for that, I am deeply sorry. I accept responsibility for what I am hearing and am committed to doing the work that is required to do better and be better.”
CBS TV Studios fired Lenkov on July 7, ending their relationship with the showrunner one year before his overall deal was up.
“Our studio is committed to ensuring safe and respectful production environments,” the studio said in a statment at the time. “Over the past year, we have assigned human resource production partners to every show, expanded staff training and increased reporting options. We will continue to evolve our practices with continued focus on building trust with all who work on our sets. Every complaint is taken seriously, every claim is investigated, and when evidence is clear that policies were violated and values not upheld, we take decisive action.”
Representatives for Lenkov, Till, CBS and CBS TV Studios did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on Till’s comments about Lenkov.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a free, 24/7 confidential service that can provide people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, or those around them, with support, information and local resources.