‘Gilligan’s Island’: Was There Rivalry Between the Actors Who Played Ginger and Mary Ann?

For a show that was on television for just three seasons in the 1960s, Gilligan’s Island has firmly remained a fan favorite over the decades.

A question many fans ask one another is: who do you prefer, Ginger or Mary Ann?

It’s a question seemingly as eternal as the ages, but another question remains: did the actors who played these characters get along in real life?

The cast of 'Gilligan's Island'
The cast of ‘Gilligan’s Island’ | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Did the actors who played Ginger and Mary Ann get along?

Incredibly, even though Gilligan’s Island went off the air over 50 years ago, fans still want to know: did Tina Louise who played Ginger, and Dawn Wells who played Mary Ann, get along? Or was there a rivalry between the two actors?

In her 2008 conversation with the Archive of American Television, Wells, 81, opened up about her working relationship with Louise, 86, and whether there was any bad blood between the two.

The cast of 'Gilligan's Island'
The cast of ‘Gilligan’s Island’ | CBS via Getty Images

“I learned a lot from Tina,” Wells recalled. “I learned about camera angles, and about makeup. I learned a lot. Because I was brand new. Tina knew, she knew. She knew what would make her look beautiful, what angles looked good on her.

“We had a little problem sometimes because she always wanted to be shot from the left. Always from the left side. But she’s beautiful from both sides, so it’s kind of silly.”

Tina Louise, who played Ginger, insisted on special billing on the show

When Dawn Wells began on Gilligan’s Island, she and the actor who played the Professor, Russell Johnson, were left out of the show’s original theme song. The skipper, his first mate, the millionaire, his wife, and the movie star are all mentioned in the song. The Professor and Mary Ann? They were “and the rest.” Dawn Wells explained how that came to pass and how it was remedied.

“Ginger was cast first. Hence, ‘and the rest!’ That’s the number one question. Why ‘and the rest’? Her agent negotiated that she would be in fifth position billing and nobody after her. So by the time the Professor and Mary Ann got cast, our agents’ hands were tied,” Wells said.

1966: An Air Force robot is Bob Denver's rival for the attentions of Dawn Wells and Tina Louise on "Gilligan's Island," Thursday, February 10th (8:00-8:30 p.m., EST), in color on the CBS Television Network.
1966: An Air Force robot is Bob Denver’s rival for the attentions of Dawn Wells and Tina Louise on “Gilligan’s Island,” Thursday, February 10th (8:00-8:30 p.m., EST), in color on the CBS Television Network | Bettmann

Wells revealed that someone had a hand in getting the theme song changed to include her character and Johnson’s. And quite a few people were taking credit for it.

“After the first season,” she explained, “they changed the title [song] and [show creator] Sherwood Schwartz took credit for it, [Gilligan actor] Bob Denver, and [director] John Rich took credit for it, saying that ‘we put you both in front,’ but I don’t know who did it, really.”

Diplomatically, Wells, when asked how she felt about Louise’s insistence on prominent billing on the show’s credits said, “She just had a smart agent. I think my agent would have done the same thing. I was brand new, though; she was a movie star. Wouldn’t you give her that billing? I would.”