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.
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.”
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!”
Thurston Howell was definitely into older women
During the filming of Gilligan’s Island, actress Natalie Schafer lied about her age and claimed she was 10 years younger than she actually was. She played Lovey Howell, the rich Thurston’s wife. What the fans didn’t know was that Schafer was apparently a decade older than Jim Backus, who played as Thurton.
In order to make sure fans of the show didn’t notice the age gap, Schafer added a clause in her contract stating that she doesn’t want to appear in any close-ups. The trick worked, and nobody seemed to notice the hidden age difference.
Some people thought the cast of Gilligan’s Island was actually stuck on an island
The reason some people fall for the “You just won the lottery — click here!” scam, is because sometimes people forget that things that seem too absurd to be true probably are. This was exactly the case when over the years, the show's creator Sherwood Schwartz would occasionally receive letters from worried fans of the show who actually believed the cast of the show was actually stuck on a deserted island.
One of these very outlandish letters spoke about how the islanders kept witnessing "stranded" Americans on the Pacific Island and how they were baffled that no one was rescuing them.