‘Gilligan’s Island’: Bob Denver’s Role on Previous Show Almost Ruled Him Out of Being Cast

by Will Shepard
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Bob Denver got into acting almost by accident. He went to Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles when he first got into acting. But he wasn’t sure that he wanted to pursue being an actor. Once he decided to make a career as an actor, he got to work. To this day, Denver is best remembered for his work on Gilligan’s Island.

Before joining the cast of Gilligan’s Island as the show’s star, he was on another show. Denver got his big break on a 1959 show, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. He starred as Maynard G. Krebs on the show. It ran for four seasons to 1963.

Just as many actors from that era, Denver suffered from being typecast as Krebs. In an interview from 1994, Bob Denver talked about how he got the role of Gilligan.

The Star of “Gilligan’s Island” Explained How He Landed the Role of Gilligan

During the interview, he was asked about how Mr. Schwartz cast him in the show. The interviewer noted that he was typecast as Maynard G. Krebs, and consequently, Schwartz initially didn’t want Denver on the show.

“Yeah, they said to [Schwartz], ‘There’s this guy named Bob Denver that did a beatnik on Dobie Gillis,’ Denver explained. And he said, ‘He did a beatnik! Well, I’m not looking for that kind of character. I’m looking for a stumbling innocent type.’ But after we met and had our meeting, we talked for about an hour, and we just got along real good. I guess our favorite book was Robinson Crusoe as kids, both of us, so we had a lot in common.

In the end, Schwartz initially not wanting to cast Denver in Gilligan’s Island because he was too well known as Maynard G. Krebs was ironic. For the rest of Denver’s career, he was known almost solely as Gilligan and had a tough time getting work.

Bob Denver Revealed What His Character’s First Name Was on Reunion Show

During the show, Gilligan’s full name was never said on-camera. So, many years later, Denver finally shared what his character’s full name was.

Gilligan’s Island ran from 1964 to 1967 before being canceled. But, interestingly, no one ever actually heard his character’s name on the show. So, why was this the case? Well, in a 1988 reunion on NBC’s “The Late Show,” with host Ross Shafer Denver revealed his character’s full name.

Shafer, like many other fans of the show, was curious about Denver’s character. He asked, “Was Gilligan a first name or a last name?”

“Well, in the show, we never said,” Denver explained. “But I asked Sherwood Schwartz, the writer, and he said, ‘If we are ever going to use it, it would have been Willie Gilligan.’”

Twenty years after the end of the show, the long-standing mystery of the character’s name was solved.

Outsider.com