‘Gilligan’s Island’ Creator Explained Why Casting the Skipper Was Going to Be the ‘Most Difficult’

by Keeli Parkey

Prior to his death in 2011, “Gilligan’s Island” creator Sherwood Schwartz sat down for an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. Of course, he talked about the famous sitcom and its production.

One of the topics he discussed during that 1997 interview was finding the right actors to play the beloved castaways. Interestingly, he said there was one casting choice that was much more challenging than all the others.

“I always knew that the most difficult person to cast would be the Skipper,” Schwartz said. “I always knew that and it proved to be the case because I wanted a big guy, physically big guy bellowing at Gilligan (who) was going to be a smaller, thinner person.”

One factor that made casting the role of the Skipper so difficult was that the character had to be able to still come across as loveable even as he was yelling at Gilligan. The title character was played by actor Bob Denver.

“And, you need a teddy bear, not a bear – a teddy bear,” Schwartz also said. “So, he has such warmth that you know no matter how much he yelled at Gilligan that he really likes him – loves him. That’s a hard thing to find.”

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Creator Said He ‘Tested Everybody’ He ‘Could Think Of’ In Order to Find Right Actor for Role

In his effort to find the right actor to play the Skipper on “Gilligan’s Island,” Sherwood Schwartz searched far and wide.

“I tested everybody I could think of out here and guys New York sent tapes and some of them came out here,” he recalled. “Some of them became well-known actors. …”

The audition was not an easy one. The creator opted to give the actors who auditioned a challenging scene to work through.

“… well, what I did, I wrote a particularly difficult two pages where (the Skipper) was just screaming at (Gilligan) and bellowing and yelling. (Gilligan) did this wrong and he did that wrong and did this wrong,” Schwartz said. “And, I knew if you could survive that scene you were the right guy for ‘Gilligan’s Island.’

As fans of the show already know, Sherwood Schwartz found his Skipper in actor Alan Hale. The rest, as they say, is television history. The show aired from 1964 until 1967, according to IMDb.com.

You can watch Sherwood Schwartz talk about “Gilligan’s Island” with the Television Academy Foundation below. His comments about finding the right man to play the Skipper begin around the 1:55 mark of the interview.