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

By EW Staff
June 20, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT

”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