HomeEntertainment‘Gilligan’s Island’: Show Creator First Thought Bob Denver Was Bad Fit for Role of Gilligan

‘Gilligan’s Island’: Show Creator First Thought Bob Denver Was Bad Fit for Role of Gilligan

by Will Shepard
(Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images)

Imagine setting sail for a nice cruise without having Bob Denver on board? The creator of Gilligan’s Island believed that the show should be setting sail without the iconic actor.

Thankfully, the show’s creator, Sherwood Schwartz, decided to keep Bob Denver on the cast. What resulted was an incredible show and an amazing performance for many years to come from the actor. In fact, he was so good in the show that he wasn’t able to get work after the show.

But then, why was he not immediately cast as Gilligan? When he was being considered for the role, Sherwood Schwartz didn’t think that he could be a goofball. At the time, Bob Denver had been playing Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

After the show was done, Sherwood Schwartz wrote a book about Gilligan’s Island. In the book, Inside Gilligan’s Island, he explains why Bob Denver didn’t jump out to him as the obvious choice.

“I had never met Bob Denver. I knew Bob only from his role as Maynard G. Krebs on Dobie Gillis. It never occurred to me to connect the bearded beatnik and his hip talk with my image of Gilligan. Like many producers, casting directors, and executives, I fell temporary victim to the evils of typecasting. Bob Denver was not my first choice for Gilligan.”

In truth, this assessment was fair. So, it wasn’t hard for the show’s creator to not take him seriously as the perfect fit for Gilligan’s Island. But, as is the case for most actors, they are multi-faceted people and can act in different roles.

Bob Denver Was Almost Not Cast in “Gilligan’s Island”

When Bob Denver was playing Maynard G. Krebs, Schwartz saw him only as a super popular actor. He was absolutely typecasting the actor. Again, in his book, he explains how the actor’s previous character was clouding his judgment.

“From time to time, a co-star, a ‘second banana,’ actually becomes more important on a series than the actual star of the show. This happened with the Fonz on Happy Days, with Mr. Spock on Star Trek, and with Bob Denver on Dobie Gillis. Audience research and fan mail clearly indicated there were thousands of Bob Denver fans.”

So, it seems that Bob Denver’s fans really made Sherwood Schwartz change his mind about casting him. But, it must be noted that his agency actually did the heavy lifting. They set up the meeting between the creator and actor to really get the ball rolling.

Ultimately, the face-to-face meeting changed the creator of the show’s mind. When Bob Denver began rehearsing a scene from the show, Schwartz knew that he was the right fit.

For those who are fans of the show, Bob Denver became the perfect fit, overcoming his typecasting. Even though he would then be pigeonholed again after the show ended, it set the actor up for life. But, according to Schwartz, he was an incredible actor, oozing with talent.

“Bob himself is very quiet by nature, extremely bright, and very well-read. In fact, he had been a teacher before becoming an actor. But it’s amazing how truly gifted performers can give a flawless characterization in a role that’s so counter to their own personality.”

For three seasons, Bob Denver was the focal point of the show and television, in general.