‘Gilligan’s Island’: Who Was the First Actor to Portray ‘The Professor’ Before Russell Johnson?

by Joe Rutland
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As hard as it might be to believe, there was another actor who played “The Professor” on “Gilligan’s Island” before Russell Johnson.

Who was this actor and when did he portray the brains of the seven stranded castaways’ operation? It all happened in the show’s pilot that was titled “Marooned.” For a little background, the pilot was shot in November 1963 yet didn’t make it to network television until 1992.

Actor John Gabriel played Professor Roy Hinkley in the pilot. Show creator Sherwood Schwartz apparently didn’t like the way Gabriel played that role, so he was replaced by Johnson.

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Pilot Actor Wept After Losing Out On Role

According to IMDb, Gabriel said this about losing the role.

“It was the first time in my adult life that I remember weeping,” he said. “And I think part of that has to do with the fact that I built this thing up to such a degree it was going to be my breakthrough.”

Johnson would join Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann, when the show first premiered in 1964. Schwartz would oversee “Gilligan’s Island” during its three-season run on CBS. He also would go on a few years later and create “The Brady Bunch” for ABC.

Johnson and Wells had a bit of a snub tossed their way during the show’s first season. They were not in the opening credits of “Gilligan’s Island.” That didn’t change until the second season, when Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, went and made sure they were in the opening credits.

If you remember, the first season’s theme song simply had “and the rest” mentioned. That was for “The Professor” and Mary Ann. Well, when the second season opened, both characters were mentioned in the opening credits. No more “and the rest” for the two actors.

Years after “Gilligan’s Island” was off CBS, Johnson actually found himself back on the network.

Johnson had a role on the hit primetime drama “Dallas” as he played Sheriff Wyatt Mansfield. He would appear as Mansfield in several episodes that season, including one titled “Twenty-Four Hours.”

Yet his role was ditched because, well, show producers turned the ninth season where Johnson appeared into the “dream season.” It’s where Patrick Duffy’s character Bobby Ewing reappeared in the season finale, which was strange since Ewing died in the eighth season.

Because of the “dream season,” Johnson lost his role.

Johnson served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and his plane got shot down over the Solomon Islands. Wells spoke about him in an interview with Herbie J Pilato.

“He was the funniest person on the set, he had the greatest sense of humor,” Wells said.

Outsider.com