‘Gilligan’s Island’: Why Several Different Actors Played Ginger Grant Through the Years

by Emily Morgan

From 1964 to 1967, the character of Ginger Grant dazzled fans whenever they watched the beloved show “Gilligan’s Island.” While the role remained a staple on the show for its entirety, the network had to work out some casting kinks. In fact, the show went through six different Gingers during its heyday.

Before the show hit the air, executives wanted to replace the characters who tested the “lowest” with audiences. After running tests, they concluded that the Professor, a high school science teacher, Ginger, originally a secretary instead of a movie star, and Bunny, another secretary, needed to be revamped. The show decided that Ginger’s character would be a movie actress instead of a secretary. 

The show first offered the gig to Jayne Mansfield after Kit Smythe played Ginger as a secretary in the pilot. She turned it down and the show replaced her with Tina Louise from 1964 to 1967. 

Tina Louise’s Issue With Ginger On ‘Gilligan’s Island’

Although Louise didn’t love the role, she played Ginger with grace and poise. She gave the character the perfect amount of beauty, class, and charm. When the series ended in 1967, Louise had trouble becoming a film star. Directors no longer offerred her roles in movies — most likely due to typecasting.

Although she continued to work in film and made guest appearances on television, she repeatedly claimed that playing Ginger on “Gilligan’s Island” ruined her movie career. 

Moreover, it wasn’t Louise who starred in the show’s spinoffs and sequels. When Louise decided to walk away from the character, the show replaced her with Judith Baldwin. 

However, Baldwin didn’t stick around for long. Constance Forslund also replaced her in The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island. In the 1974 animated show, “The New Adventures of Gilligan,” fellow actress Jane Webb did the voice of Ginger. Later, in the 1982 cartoon, “Gilligan’s Planet,” Dawn Wells played both Mary Ann and Ginger. Later, Kristen Dalton played Ginger in the TV docudrama Surviving Gilligan’s Island

During the first season of the show, the opening credits ended with “the moo-vie star,” and a photo of Ginger. “And also starring Tina Louise as ‘Ginger,'” were written at the bottom during the credits.

The theme song ended with “and the rest.” Tina Louise’s contract stated no one would follow her name in the credits of “Gilligan’s Island.” The only other cast member who the show mentioned in the credits was Jim Backus, a longtime veteran in the industry.