Bob Denver said that Russell Johnson had the hardest job on Gilligan's Island

The Professor had an unenviable role.

A cast of actors can become like a family throughout a series' production. Depending on the length of each season, they might be spending more time with fellow performers than with their actual families. That time spent together becomes palpable as the show goes on. More time spent together leads to more chemistry onscreen. 

Television shows work best when everyone pulls their weight, creating a cast greater than the sum of its parts. But even when everybody is giving their best efforts, a standout performance can still steal the show.

According to Bob Denver's autobiography, Gilligan, Maynard & Me, he felt that costar Russell Johnson was tasked with the most difficult job on set. Luckily, Johnson rose to the occasion.

"As the Professor," Denver wrote, "Russ did a superb job.

"His acting career started in the early Fifties in movies like Black Tuesday with Edward G. Robinson and Roger Corman's Rock All Night. So by the time Roy Hinkley became a part of Russ's life, he was an old pro. Lucky for us since he had the most difficult job of any member of our cast."

While Gilligan's Island was undoubtedly an ensemble show, the wilder antics were grounded by Russell Johnson's down-to-earth, professorial character.

"How he memorized all those lines is beyond me. And he even understood what he was saying! I've always considered him the unsung hero of the show. He wasn't the one doing pratfalls and usually didn't get the funny lines, but without Russ and his portrayal of the Professor, Gilligan's Island would never have been the success it was.

"The Professor was the island of calm in the sea of silliness... the glue that held the castaways together. Russ's talent and professionalism made it all work."

Watch Gilligan's Island on MeTV!

Sundays 3 & 3:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

10 Comments

JHP 29 days ago
Mr Denver you are spot on with the Prof:):)
harlow1313 30 days ago
My favorite Gilligan episode is the one where The Professor fashions a makeshift condom from a banana peel. "Necessity is the Mother of Invention."
JHP harlow1313 29 days ago
at least Thurston would get lucky :):)
harlow1313 30 days ago
Of course, we hipsters know that Johnson had a sizable role in "Attack of the Crab Monsters."

Personally, I enjoy his performance as the maniacal antagonist in one of my favorite "Big Valley" episodes. It's like he broke free from Gilligan and was fully enjoying this unexpected role. Bravo!
Stoney 30 days ago
Russell Johnson did an excellent job. Some people claim that the Professor couldn't have been that smart because he couldn't get them off the island, but I say he was briiliant. He was stranded on an island with Mary Ann and Ginger...why would he want to get them back to civilization and mess that up? Lol
ElizabethBoop Stoney 30 days ago
There's a novel called "Gilligan's Wake" in which each chapter tells a fanciful story of one of the castaways at a different point in their life than on the island. The Skipper was on a ship that was pursued by the ghost of a Nazi ship they'd destroyed, Ginger hung out with Sammy Davis Jr until she inadvertently made a racial slur that made him drop her, Mr Howell was a Communist.

Anyway, the chapter on the Professor was the only one that touched on the island and shipwreck. Turns out he was a mad scientist who actually engineered their marooning so he could experiment and keep tabs on the responses of the others in that hostile environment.

Weird book, with tons of subtle and not-so-subtle pop culture references. Every chapter mentions some variation on the name "Gilligan" without actually saying it, and the main character is telling his own story to the doctors in an asylum.
Stoney ElizabethBoop 30 days ago
That sounds pretty interesting!
"he was a mad scientist who actually engineered their marooning"
Well, that's one way of explaining why he never managed to come up with a working way to get them off the island, when he created so many other fabulous things with the local flora.
Runeshaper 30 days ago
Russell Johnson was EXCELLENT on Gilligan's Island and I give props to Bob Denver for acknowledging that.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?