As is common for shows even nowadays, two actors that played characters on the pilot found themselves on the way out before the show got picked up and started regular shooting.
Kit Smythe was the original red-haired girl to play Ginger until Tina Louise took the helm (and then gave the helm up). Before Russell Johnson stepped into the role of the brilliant professor, it was a man named John Gabriel who first had the spot. However, the network thought that he looked too young to have all the degrees the professor supposedly had. You might know Gabriel as his role as Seneca Beaulac in “Ryan’s Hope.”
Have a ball
As the third of three movies to feature (most of) the “Gilligan's Island” cast, the final one had a bit of a strange addition. “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island” has the characters from the show running a vacation spot on the island where they spent so long, recreating their experience for paying customers.
Who should come to visit but The Harlem Globetrotters, who have their plane crash on the island? They're played by the real Globetrotters at the time, and the movie sees them square off against the castaways. To nobody's surprise, they won. But then came the robots. It was just one of many media properties the Globetrotters showed up in.
The belly button timer
While the styles and looks of the show are now pretty dated, it was quite well known for the amount of fanservice it showed. A famous “Mary Ann or Ginger” question, about which gal people preferred, was a popular ask.
Mary Ann's outfit was quite daring for the time, and one of the show's biggest controversies was exactly how many seconds of Mary Ann's belly button could be visible in a season, how times have changed. This was the exact same problem that plagued “I Dream of Jeannie.”
Jerry Van Dyke almost became Gilligan
During casting for Gilligan’s Island, Schwartz was very much interested in having Jerry Van Dyke, the rising American actor, musician, and comedian, in playing as Gilligan in the show. Jerry promptly turned down the part, calling it ridiculous and commenting on the script of the pilot episode that it was “the worst thing I’ve ever read”. Unfortunately for Jerry, that’s about where his luck ended.
Instead of taking the lead as Gilligan, Jerry decided to take a lead role in My Mother the Car. This turned out to be a less-than-brilliant move, as the show was eventually considered to be one of the worst sitcoms of all time and canceled after just 1 season. When asked about his decision to reject the part of Gilligan, Van Dyke recalls, “I had a lot of problems with the agency, because they were trying to push me into taking [Gilligan’s Island], but that’s the joke: I turned it down and took My Mother the Car. But, again, it was really good, because I’d [have] been forever known as Gilligan. So, that worked out too!”
A sad, short scene
Jim Backus did have one short scene in “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island.” Backus himself insisted he was healthy enough for a short cameo, and Schwartz wrote him in during the denouement.
Both Sherwood Schwartz and Dawn Wells recalled how emotional it was to see Backus, visibly weakened from Parkinson's. After he finished his scene, he went over the Wells and asked, “Was I funny?” Reportedly the question broke Wells's heart since he was so weak he could hardly tell if he had done well or not. As Backus left the set with his wife, an emotional round of applause followed him out.