‘All in the Family’ Star Carroll O’Connor Was Nearly Cast as the Skipper: Why He Wasn’t

by Joe Rutland

“All in the Family” star Carroll O’Connor actually did audition for another famous sitcom role as the “Skipper.” He did not get the job.

According to an article on MEtv.com, “Gilligan’s Island” creator Sherwood Schwartz didn’t see O’Connor as a good fit for his show. Therefore, he passed on O’Connor. But that ended up being a blessing for the veteran actor.

O’Connor would find his way to earn the role of Archie Bunker and “All in the Family” history. He also was a veteran movie and TV actor. O’Connor had built up quite a resume’ before getting hired by show creator Norman Lear.

Obviously, the “Gilligan’s Island” role of the “Skipper” went to Alan Hale Jr. He played that role for all three seasons the show ran on CBS. Millions have watched the show over the years through reruns. Its original run almost ran longer than three seasons, but another show’s fans spoke out louder.

“Gunsmoke” was in the way. The hit CBS western was staring down the barrel of a possible cancellation. Once the word got out, fans wrote letters to the network. The show was about to be replaced by “Gilligan’s Island” except the fans’ outcry kept “Gunsmoke” alive.

“All in the Family” joined the CBS lineup in 1971 and ran for eight seasons.

‘All in the Family’ Star Says Cast Never Improvised During Its Run

Some TV shows work well totally scripted out. Some shows will have a script, then find spaces for actors to improvise for their roles.

Did improvisation find a space during the run of “All in the Family?”

O’Connor talked about whether or not the popular CBS sitcom did this during a 1976 interview on “American Bandstand.” Now you might wonder why O’Connor was on the famed ABC music show? He was promoting his album, “Carroll O’Connor Sings For Old PFARTS (People Favoring a Return to Sentiment).”

Show host Dick Clark introduced the “All in the Family” star, chats a bit, then turns to the crowd for questions.

An audience member asked O’Connor if the cast improvised at all.

“We improvise while we’re rehearsing,” O’Connor said. “We improvise a lot. We follow the script but we deviate from it, we improvise, and we have people taking down what we say and then we sort it all out and use the best of it.”

O’Connor said once the camera is turned on, the “All in the Family” cast doesn’t improvise and sticks with what is agreed upon by everyone for the script.