Gilligan’s Island Cast: Where They Are Now
Long a staple of syndicated TV, Gilligan's Island was a classic 1960s sitcom that had staying power. But where is the show's iconic cast now?
After playing some of the most entertaining characters, some have been wondering where the cast of Gilligan’s Island have gone. First airing from 1964 to 1967, the sitcom followed the passengers and crew of the SS Minnow after they were shipwrecked on a tropical island. Although the show was incredibly formulaic with most episodes pertaining to the castaways’ attempt to escape the island, the series never failed to warm hearts and make audiences chuckle. Gilligan’s Island‘s cast was a diverse mix of established actors and young stars, and all the main actors were forever known for their roles in the beloved show.
Across its 98-episode run, the lovable castaways usually found their escape attempts accidentally ruined by the bumbling Gilligan, and there were a host of unexpected TV crossover episodes as well. Even after it was canceled following season 3, Gilligan’s Island only grew in reputation, and it became a syndication powerhouse when a re-run occurred in the ’70s and ’80s. Its resurgence in popularity inspired a series of TV movies that reunited the original cast, as well as animated series that further exploited the show’s success. Even after over a half-century off the air, Gilligan’s Island has remained an unforgettable piece of TV nostalgia.
Bob Denver (Gilligan)
Bob Denver was already a staple of 1960s TV before he landed the role of Willie Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island, but he would forever be known as the bucket hat-wearing “little buddy” for the rest of his career. Starring in another of the best sitcoms of the 1960s, Denver had an impressive run as Maynard G. Krebs in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. He also made guest spots on popular shows like Dr. Kildare and The Andy Griffith Show. Denver would continue to work almost exclusively in TV where he would frequently reprise his Gilligan role. Sadly, the comedic actor passed away at 70 in 2005.
Alan Hale Jr. (Skipper)
The most accomplished actor in the cast by the time he appeared in Gilligan’s Island, Alan Hale Jr. was a veteran of dozens of movies and shows by 1964. Embodying the warm and lovable spirit of the Skipper, Hale Jr.’s turn in Gilligan’s Island was in stark contrast to the cowboys he had usually played in westerns. Hale Jr. managed to elevate even the worst episodes of Gilligan’s Island, and he would mostly transition to TV work following the series’ end. The rest of his career was spent reprising his role from the show and making one-off appearances on sitcoms until his passing at the age of 68 in 1990.
Jim Backus (Thurston Howell III)
Already famous for providing the voice of the iconic cartoon character Mr. Magoo, Jim Backus’ character work nabbed him the role of Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island. The snooty Wall Street banker was the exact opposite of his gritty role as Frank Stark in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause, and the veteran actor showed he was a veritable chameleon on the large and small screens. After Gilligan’s Island, Backus landed roles in films like the live-action Disney movie Pete’s Dragon in 1977, but he mostly stuck to TV shows and frequently returned as Thurston Howell III. After several years away from show business, Backus died at 76 in 1989.
Natalie Schafer (Lovey Howell)
An incredibly accomplished dramatist on Broadway before she cracked into the film business, Natalie Schafer found the role that made her famous as Lovey Howell on Gilligan’s Island. The pampered wife of Thurston Howell III, Schafer used all of her theatrical experience to make Lovey a hilarious caricature of wealthy elites. Following her time on the island, Schafer pivoted her TV success into several guest spots on shows like Three’s Company and Mayberry RFD, but she was always on hand to bring back Lovey Howell whenever a new TV movie was produced. Schafer died in 1991 at the age of 90.
Tina Louise (Ginger)
Before she appeared in one of the best deserted island TV shows, Tina Louise had impressed in movies like God’s Little Acre from 1958. Playing the stereotypical Hollywood starlet as Ginger, Tina Louise was able to inject enough of herself into the role to keep things realistic. She continued to act in movies like The Stepford Wives from 1975 and The Wrecking Crew from 1968, and she also made guest appearances on a variety of TV series up till 2019. Louise was the only original Gilligan’s Island cast member to eschew her time on the show, and she did not appear in any of the TV movies or specials.
Russell Johnson (Professor Hinkley)
Russell Johnson was a fixture of westerns and b-horror pictures throughout the ’40s and ’50s, but he truly made his mark as Professor Hinkley on Gilligan’s Island. Many of Gilligan’s Island‘s best episodes featured the Professor’s inventions, and Johnson never missed the irony of the character’s inability to do simple tasks. Johnson found himself typecast following his years on the show, but did land roles in films like Three Days of the Condor in 1975. Johnson rejoined his Gilligan’s Island comrades in all the TV movies and specials, and worked until the 1990s when he quietly stepped away from show business. Johnson died in 2014 at the age of 89.
Dawn Wells (Mary Ann)
The former Miss Nevada 1959 was a newcomer to show business when she was cast as Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island, but she managed to make a career out of it. Mary Ann was the wholesome and innocent farm girl, and Dawn Wells’ performance made the audience fall in love with her. After her time on one of the most influential shows of the ’60s, Dawn Wells made sporadic appearances on shows like Bonanza. Often reprising her role as Mary Ann, Wells appeared in the TV movies and specials as well as other programs as herself or her character. Dawn Wells passed on in 2020 at the age of 82.
Charles Maxwell (Radio Announcer)
Though he was uncredited throughout the entire show, actor Charles Maxwell was a large part of the legacy of Gilligan’s Island. Maxwell provided the voice for the never-seen radio announcer who broadcast the news for the castaways to hear, and his dulcet tones became a staple of the show. Maxwell’s career in Hollywood saw him become a staple of 1960s TV, and he appeared in Star Trek and The Twilight Zone among dozens of other roles. After over three decades of work, including Gilligan’s Island, Maxwell retired from performing in the 1970s and passed away in 1993 at 79.