‘Gilligan’s Island’: Famous Actors That Turned Down Roles on the Iconic Series

by Matthew Wilson

“Gilligan’s Island” almost had very different castaways when it first aired. These actors ended up turning down a role on the show.

Actors like Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., and even Tina Louise became forever associated with their “Gilligan’s Island” characters. The show captured a cultural zeitgeist especially in the decades since it’s been off the air. It ranks up there with “The Brady Bunch,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and others for its effect on pop culture. The show would go on to inspire modern-day shows like “Lost.”

Outside of Denver and Louise, almost none of the cast were big celebrities or well-known names prior to being marooned on some tropical island. But in an alternate reality, we almost had more famous names among the bunch. For one, Jerry Van Dyke, younger brother of Dick Van Dyke, turned down a starring role on the show.

Actors Who Almost Starred on ‘Gilligan’s Island’

Van Dyke made a name for himself on TV, most noticeably for the show “Coach” in the 1990s. During that show’s tenure, Van Dyke received four Emmy nominations. But prior to that successful turn, he could have also appeared on “Gilligan’s Island” had he not turned down the role.

“That’s the joke: I turned it down and took My Mother the Car,” he told Popdose. Van Dyke ended up making a critcal error. While “Gilligan’s Island” may have only lasted three seasons, “My Mother the Car” ended up being a critical dud and a bit of a laughing stock. Some consider it one of the worst shows ever made.

Meanwhile, Dabney Coleman almost starred as the Professor. Coleman was known for his roles on “Toosie” and also “9 to 5” as well. But he ended up doing horribly during his audition. Additionally, Carroll O’Connor, star of “All in the Family,” just lucked out on playing the Skipper. Could you imagine Archie Bunker stranded on a deserted island? Meanwhile, Dawn Wells beat out Raquel Welch to appear as Mary Ann.

All in all though, it’s hard to imagine any other actors playing the iconic roles on “Gilligan’s Island.”