Natalie Schafer only took the role on Gilligan's Island for the vacation
She didn't know if the show would last beyond the pilot, but she was happy for the free trip to Hawaii.
For every show that tops the ratings and rockets their actors to stardom, there's dozens that shoot a pilot and then never make it to the air, or run a single season then quietly fade into obscurity. For many performers who are just trying to get into the business and pay their bills, that means that you can't be too picky when taking roles. Sometimes actors take a role just because they want to work with a particular co-star, or because they want to pad their resume, or just for the paycheck.
Or, in this case, because they want to go on vacation.
These days there's a common joke that Adam Sandler shoots movies in tropical locations because he wants to go on a vacation with his family and friends. However, Natalie Schafer did it first.
Schafer, best-known for her role as Mrs. Howell on Gilligan's Island, said that she thought the show was "silly" when she was first offered the role. And to be fair, she isn't wrong — it is pretty silly.
In fact, Schafer didn't have a lot of confidence that the show would go beyond the pilot. Yet, she still agreed to play the millionaire's wife. Why? Well, it was simple. She had never been to Hawaii, where the pilot was being filmed. Playing Mrs. Howell would be a way for her to see the islands on the network's dime.
After the pilot and first episode, the rest of the show was shot much closer to home in Los Angeles. It's strange to think that if the pilot had been as well, then we may have had an entirely different millionaire's wife.