5 Questions With Zachary Knighton of ‘Magnum P.I.’ on CBS

Zachary Knighton Magnum PI CBS Zack Dougan/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

By Jacqueline Cutler

Magnum P.I.’s Zachary Knighton was calling from his boat before he surfed off the coast of Oahu last November when we talked to him. His wife, Betsy Phillips, who plays Suzy on the Friday night CBS drama, was close to giving birth, and she suggested he get in a good surf beforehand.

“She’s shooting while dilating,” Knighton says, justifiably impressed. “SWD!”

As Rick on Magnum P.I., Knighton is often seen expertly riding waves. That’s no stunt double. Knighton has long surfed, first in Virginia Beach, where he grew up. Then, while pursuing theater in New York, he surfed the waters off the Hamptons and New Jersey’s Long Beach Island.

“Everywhere I have gone, I had to relearn because the waves get bigger and bigger,” he says. “The episode I wrote had to have some surfing,” Knighton says of “A New Lease on Death,” which aired last November. “It opens with Rick gloriously turning on a wave, the winds ruffling his hair, natural grays.”

Knighton welcomed his second son, Bowen Luck Knighton on Nov. 12., he and Phillips have a 2-year-old son, and he has an 11-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Here he paused before jumping into the Pacific and answered our “5 Questions.”

1. Tell us about a time you were starstruck.
The most starstruck I have ever been was when I met Anthony Bourdain at an event. I was just a huge fan. I love cooking, and I read all of his books. Words were tumbling out of my mouth. He was one of my heroes.

2. What three staples do you always keep in stock?
Mac and cheese. I love to smoke food. I always have rice in the cupboard and this little Korean rice maker, and I tell my wife she is my mistress because she talks to me. I don’t know what she’s saying because I don’t speak Korean. We are a huge fan of Ube Mochi Pancake & Waffle mix, this Japanese pancake mix.

3. What three shows did you watch growing up?
Magnum, P.I., and I loved it. It is what started this love of Hawaii for me. I have drawings of rainbows and writing to Magnum, P.I. in my notebook. I was a huge fan, and I am actually friends with Larry Manetti, the original Rick. Battlestar Galactica and The Fall Guy.

4. Since you started by doing theater, what would be your ideal role?
One of the shows I did in college was Equus and I played Alan Strang. [He was nominated for an Irene Ryan Award, [akin to] a collegiate Tony.] That got me an agent. I would love to go back and play Dysart.

5. If you were not an actor, what job would you have?
I really enjoy building, construction. I built two houses on my property in Topanga in L.A. People who knew more than me taught me the ways. One of the best things about the degree (a BFA) I got in college was I had to learn set construction.