In their own words: Gilligan's Island stars discuss the cast's chemistry
Jim Backus was the resident goofball, not Bob Denver!
Images: the Everett Collection
The cast of Gilligan's Island came together like a dream, and Sherwood Schwartz managed to pick just the right person to embody each castaway to ensure great sitcom chemistry, from Bob Denver and Alan Hale Jr.'s uproarious physical comedy to Mr. and Mrs. Howell's hilarious ad-libbing off one another. In many ways, the show itself was fun to watch because the stars themselves were having so much fun with each other.
That's because beyond the incredible talent the cast amassed (including top-billed Broadway actors, long-time TV veterans and one sensationally glamorous movie star), in many ways what kept the tone of the show so light onscreen were the close friendships of the cast members forming behind the scenes. Whether that was mutual admiration for another actor or utter awe, those distinctions you will have to hear more about directly from the sources themselves!
Below, we've gone through interviews and clips of each of the show's stars talking about their Gilligan's Island castmates. From the way these TV icons talk, you'd think getting stranded on a desert island was the best thing that happened, not just in their careers, but in all the ways their co-stars kept them smiling between takes.
1. On Bob Denver
Russell Johnson: “Bobby Denver was the opposite of the character he played. He was a schoolteacher. He taught school! He’s very straight and organized, not this bumbling guy, and yet he had played that character twice in a way!” “But anyway Bob was not like that at all.”
Dawn Wells: "As an actor, he saw the world through the eyes of a child; as a person he had intellect and wisdom in his soul.”
2. On Alan Hale Jr.
Bob Denver: “It was fun. Alan Hale was the best person I could have picked in a million years to be my partner in doing physical comedy. I couldn't hurt him. I could climb on him, bounce on him, roll all over him and he would go, 'Are you done'" He would never hurt me. He was just too big and strong. You can't rehearse a lot of physical things we did, but you can't do it by the numbers. Whatever happens, you've got to trust each other.”
Russell Johnson: “And Alan Hale, of course, what you saw is what you got.” “He was a jolly guy, that’s just the way he was.”
3. On Tina Louise
Dawn Wells: “She’s a big movie star. I was in awe.” “She was glamorous, knew the camera angles. I was an ingénue, just coming along, and I learned a lot … by observing. She was glamorous all the time.”
4. On Dawn Wells
Sherwood Schwartz: “Her energetic, pretty, girl-next-door look made a wonderful contrast to with the tall, glamorous, sexy Tina Louise.”
“Guess who always got the most fan mail in the cast of Gilligan’s Island? You guessed it: Dawn Wells."
5. On Russell Johnson
Dawn Wells: “He had the best sense of humor. He was the funniest. And he was a hunk!”
6. On Jim Backus
Russell Johnson: “Jim was one of those guys who you’d meet in the morning when you’re getting made up and all of that kind of thing, and he’d start telling you stories — or jokes and stories — and he would never stop. All day long, the guy could do it, but he was naturally a funny fellow, and stuff just tumbled out of him, and he would do this grumbling ad lib — you know, he played Mr. Magoo — there was a little Mr. Magoo in Mr. Howell.”
“Sometimes you really had to bite your lip to keep from laughing in the middle of a scene.”
Natalie Schafer: “He taught me something I had never experienced because all my years in the theater, I’d always said dialog just as it was written, and Jim was a stand-up comic really, and he ad-libbed like mad. And at first I was sort of just floored by it, and then I started to ad-lib, and I loved it.”