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Gilligan’s Island is a classic TV show with a talented cast. The comedy about seven castaways stranded on a deserted island ran from 1964 to 1967 on the CBS network. The show’s success can be credited due to the chemistry of the actors. However, if the casting had worked out differently, many of the castaways would’ve had other notable actors in the role.

'Gilligan's Island' cast members Bob Denver, Dawn Wells, and Russell Johnson with the show's creator Sherwood Schwartz.
Gilligan’s Island cast with creator Sherwood Schwartz I Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Famous TV stars who almost joined the ‘Gilligan’s Island’ cast

Longtime Gilligan’s Island fans know the beloved cast members from the hit comedy. The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis star Bob Denver played the title character clumsy first mate Gilligan. Alan Hale Jr. portrayed the lovable and burly Skipper, while Russell Johnson was cast as the intelligent Professor.

Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer won the audience’s hearts as millionaire Thurston III and his wife, Lovey. Tina Louise did a fantastic job as sexpot movie star Ginger Grant, while Dawn Wells was everyone’s favorite farm girl Mary Ann.

These seven actors have become synonymous with their roles as the seven castaways. However, if fate hadn’t intervened, a few other notable TV names would’ve been cast. According to MeTV, some actors in consideration for the castaway roles consisted of famous Hollywood stars. Among the celebrities were Jerry Van Dyke, Jayne Mansfield, Carroll O’Connor, and Dabney Coleman.

Jerry Van Dyke and Jayne Mansfield passed on a role in ‘Gilligan’s Island’

Like many TV shows, Gilligan’s Island producers wanted the best cast for the sitcom. During the pre-production stage, creator Sherwood Schwartz saw many auditions from famous names. Van Dyke was in consideration for the lead role of Gilligan.

While Van Dyke might have made a good first mate, the actor passed on the role. Van Dyke’s rejection is because he didn’t want to be part of an ensemble cast. He’d go on to star in the 1965 short-lived comedy My Mother The Car, which is considered one of the worst shows ever. Van Dyke would have success in the 90s with the hit sitcom Coach with Craig T. Nelson.

Meanwhile, Mansfield was offered the role of Ginger. Like Ginger, Mansfield was a big-name Hollywood star with notable roles in films like The Girl Can’t Help It. Mansfield turned down the offer to play Ginger because she wanted to avoid getting typecast in a specific role.

Carroll O’Connor and Dabney Coleman weren’t selected for the roles

The Skipper is an essential part of the Gilligan’s Island cast. As the group leader, Skipper’s job was to protect the castaways. For the role, producers needed a strong person. O’Connor was one of the few actors in consideration for the part. While it would’ve been interesting to see O’Connor as the Skipper, he wasn’t picked. O’Connor later found TV success with All in the Family and In the Heat of the Night.


‘Gilligan’s Island’: Jim Backus Almost Didn’t Get Thurston Howell Role

As for the role of the Professor, Coleman was one of the actors who auditioned. At the time, Coleman was a newbie in Hollywood looking for his big break. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t find it as the Professor. However, the actor had had an illustrious career thanks to comedic roles in films like 9 to 5 and Tootsie.