Rainn Wilson's TV icons -- ''The Office'' star on why he digs MacGyver, Xena, and more memorable characters

”The thing about MacGyver,” says Wilson, ”is everyone’s about to die, the bomb is gonna go off in two minutes, and he’s cooler than a cucumber. Like, sitting there, eating a ham sandwich. There’s no psychology to him — he’s MacGyver, and he looks good in acid-washed jeans.”

Capt. Jean-Luc Picard
”I did The Tempest on Broadway with Patrick Stewart, so it was very weird becoming him.” Weird, and yet suiting up as the Star Trek: The Next Generation commander completed Wilson’s one-two hero punch: ”If Picard and MacGyver teamed up, they could defeat any evil in the world.”

Xena: Warrior Princess
”I always watched Xena because it was oddly titillating, and I kept wanting to see more cleavage. I wanted it to be Baywatch with swords, but it never quite went in that direction.” Neither did Wilson: Dressed as the warrior princess, he thinks he looks like ”the chunky girl from Heart.”

Paulie Walnuts
”The Sopranos characters were so three-dimensional,” says Wilson. ”They’re more real than the people in my own family; I feel like I know Paulie better than I know my own dad. There’s a sadness and a nobility in him, and I was trying to capture his inner self. His inner walnut.” —As told to Whitney Pastorek