Gilligan's Island - Characters

Characters

  • Bob Denver as First Mate Gilligan the bumbling, naive, accident-prone crewman (affectionately known as "Little Buddy" by "The Skipper") of the S.S. Minnow. Denver was not the first choice to play Gilligan; actor Jerry Van Dyke was offered the role, but he turned it down, believing that the show would never be successful. He chose instead to play the lead in My Mother the Car, which premiered the following year and was cancelled after one season. The producers looked to Bob Denver, the actor who had played lovable beatnik Maynard G. Krebs in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. None of the show's episodes ever specified Gilligan's full name or clearly indicated whether "Gilligan" was the character's first name or his last. In the DVD collection, Sherwood Schwartz states that he preferred the full name of "Willy Gilligan" for the character. Denver, on various television/radio interviews (The Pat Sajak Show; KDKA radio), said that "Gil Egan" was his choice. The actor reasoned that because everyone yelled at the first mate, it ran together as "Gilligan." In the unaired pilot episode, it is unclear whether Lovey Howell refers to Gilligan as "Stewart" or steward. On Rescue from Gilligan's Island, the writers artfully dodged Gilligan's full name when the other names are announced. Little is revealed about Gilligan's past except his occasional reference to best friend Skinny Mulligan.
  • Alan Hale, Jr. as Captain/The Skipper Jonas Grumby. A longtime actor in B-westerns and the look-alike son of Alan Hale, Sr., a legendary movie character actor, Hale so loved his role that, long after the show went off the air, he would still appear in character in his Los Angeles restaurant, Alan Hale's Lobster Barrel. Although the Skipper was a father figure to Gilligan, Hale was only 14 years older than Denver. Gilligan pushed the Skipper out of the way of a loose depth charge when they were both serving in the United States Navy. Skipper is a World War II veteran, and served in the Seventh Fleet. In one episode he describes his participation in the Battle of Guadalcanal. In moments of exasperation the Skipper would swat Gilligan on the head with his cap, but just as often, would endearingly call him "Little Buddy."
  • Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III, the millionaire. Backus was already a well-known actor when he took the part. The origin of the super-rich Howell character dates back to 1949 radio when Backus portrayed "Hubert Updike III" on The Alan Young Show. Also, in the inaugural 1962/63 season (episode 31) of The Beverly Hillbillies Backus basically plays the same character, this time it's the eccentric millionaire Martin von Ransohoff. In the 1963 movie It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World Backus played Tyler Fitzgeralda, a boozy and rich airplane owner that briefly gets caught up in the race for the money. He was perhaps best known as the voice of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo. He reused some of the voice inflections and mannerisms of Magoo in the role. He was well known for his ad-libs on the set. A Harvard graduate and a Republican, Howell was a multi-billionaire until his losses in the Great Depression left him a multi-millionaire.
  • Natalie Schafer as Eunice "Lovey" Wentworth Howell, Thurston's wife. Schafer had it written into her contract that there were to be no close-ups of her, perhaps because of her age. Schafer was 63 when the pilot was shot although, reportedly, no one on the set or in the cast knew her real age, and she refused to divulge it. Originally, she only accepted the role because the pilot was filmed on location in Hawaii; she looked at the job as nothing more than a free vacation, as she was convinced that a show this silly would "never go."
  • Tina Louise as Ginger Grant, the movie star. Louise clashed with producer Sherwood Schwartz because she believed that she was hired as the central character. Her character was originally written as a hard-nosed, sharp-tongued temptress, but Louise argued that this portrayal was too harsh, and refused to play it as written. A compromise was reached; Louise agreed to play her as a Marilyn Monroe - Jayne Mansfield type. The evening gowns and hairstyle used were designed to re-create the look of Myrna Loy. Louise continued to clash with producers over her role, and was the only cast member who refused to return for any of the post series TV movies, saying that the role had killed her career as a serious actress. However, she did appear in a reunion of the cast on a late night television talk show in 1988 and on an episode of Roseanne in 1995 when the Roseanne cast re-enacted Gilligan's Island. In the first season, Ginger often wore gowns that looked as if they were tailored from S.S. Minnow tarpaulins or similar ersatz cloth (some had the name of the vessel stenciled on them). In the pilot episode, the character of Ginger (then a secretary) was played by actress Kit Smythe.
  • Russell Johnson as Professor Roy Hinkley. John Gabriel was originally cast, but the network thought he looked too young to have all the degrees attributed to the Professor. Incongruously, "the Professor" was in fact a high school science teacher, not a university professor. In the first episode, the radio announcer describes him as a research scientist and well-known Scoutmaster. Johnson, who served as a bombardier in the Pacific during World War II, stated that he had some difficulty remembering his more technically oriented lines. Johnson's role in the series was spoofed in a Bloom County comic strip for The Professor's technical expertise being unable to get the castaways off the island. This odd contradiction was played up in "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody song, Isle Thing.
  • Dawn Wells as Mary Ann Summers. Wells was a former Miss Nevada when she auditioned for the role. Her competition included Raquel Welch and Patricia Ann Priest. The pilot episode had a different character ("Bunny") played by actress Nancy McCarthy. After it was shot, the network decided to recast the roles of the Professor and the two young women. Mary Ann became a simple farm-girl from Winfield, Kansas. In 1993, Wells published Mary Ann's Gilligan's Island Cookbook with co-writers Ken Beck & Jim Clark, including a foreword by Bob Denver. In February 2007, she starred as Lovey Howell in Gilligan's Island: The Musical, a musical stage adaptation of the TV show.
  • Charles Maxwell was the uncredited voice of the "Radio Announcer" (1964–65). The castaways would listen to his plot-advancing radio bulletins in many episodes, and always with perfect timing to hear the exact news they needed to know. Maxwell would often pause between sentences, allowing the characters to react to his news, and sometimes even responding to their comments.

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