‘Gilligan’s Island’: What Was Gilligan’s First Name?

by Suzanne Halliburton

Have you ever wondered if Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island was his first or last name?

Now, we know that this sort of question doesn’t solve any current world problems. Gilligan’s Island went off the network air in 1967. So it’s been a minute since the show was at the forefront of the country’s television viewing pleasure.

But Gilligan’s Island also is timeless, as its 98 episodes live on forever in syndication. And knowing the Gilligan backstory might come in handy if you’re in a trivia contest.

So let’s dive in.

So You’re Telling Me Gilligan’s Real Name Might Be Willy?

There’s a theory that Gilligan’s name is Willy Gilligan. It sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

In 1988, Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, said that show creator Sherwood Schwartz told him Gilligan’s first name was Willy. Denver also had a running theory that his character’s name was Gil Egan. And that as people said the name quickly, the name became Gilligan. OK, we’re not buying that.

Back in 1993, TV Guide also reported that it had located a press release from the show’s pilot in 1964. And the magazine said that Gilligan’s name was Willy.

But here’s the deal about why that information wasn’t readily available in 1964. The Gilligan’s Island pilot never ran while the show was on network TV. That’s because the pilot was reworked to include three different characters.

The show added Mary Ann and Ginger. In the pilot, the women on the show were Lovey Howell and two secretaries named Ginger and Bunny. Ginger, the secretary, became Ginger the sexy movie star, who came straight from singing at a night club onto the boat. Bunny evolved into Mary Ann, a young woman from Kansas who worked at her town’s general store. There also was no sign of Professor in the pilot. Instead, there was a high school teacher named John Gabriel.

TBS ran the pilot, called “Marooned” in 1992.

First Episode of Gilligan’s Island Told Us Some Character Back Stories

Post pilot, the very first episode offered a glimpse of some of the character’s back stories. The episode showed the seven characters listening to a radio shortly after their shipwreck on the island. Reporters on the radio gave a news update on their fate and detailed who was on the S.S. Minnow.

So that’s how we know that the Howells were billionaires, not millionaires as the theme song said. The Skipper’s name was Jonas Grumby. We know that the Skipper and Gilligan had been friends since an unspecified war. When Skipper retired from the military, he bought a boat to give those island tours. The Professor’s real name was Roy Hinkley. The others were Mary Ann Summers and Ginger Grant. We already knew Thurston Howell III and wife, Lovey.

But still, there was no answer for Gilligan’s entire name. In later interviews, Sherwood Schwartz said that the Howells were the only characters who used their last names on the island.

So, there’s no real answer to the question about Gilligan’s real name. There’s only one actor from the show still alive. That’s Tina Louise, who turned 87 earlier this month. Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann, died of complications from Covid-19, Dec. 30. She was 82.

Bob Denver, who made Gilligan’s Island, died in 2005. So in terms of final answers, that is probably no longer possible.