50 Years Later: Where Is the Cast of Gilligan’s Island Today?

Throughout the history of American TV, there have been different shows and sitcoms targeting that specific period of time. Television shows evolve through the years to keep up with the times. But once in a while, a timeless series emerges for audiences to enjoy decades later. One sitcom that has become a classic is Gilligan’s Island. The three seasons of the show aired back in the ‘60s, but ever since then, their popularity has grown immensely.

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Maybe the fact that they are all stranded on a desert island is what makes the show so ageless; there is no technology, money doesn’t matter, and all that really matters is survival. Of course, the seriousness of the situation is beautifully balanced with humor. The dynamic mix of people kept the show unpredictable and beloved. But the characters wouldn’t be so iconic if it wasn’t for the actors who brought them to life.

Here is what the cast of Gilligan’s Island is up to, more than 50 years later.

Larry Storch as Jackson Farrell – Then

There used to be a time when it was easier to fall off the grid, and that’s when criminal Jackson Farrell thought it would be a great idea to hide away on a touring boat. After several West Coast bank robberies, Farrell got away from the police by heading over to Hawaii.

Larry Storch as Jackson Farrell in Gilligan’s Island
Source: Warner Bros.

Even though Larry Storch wasn’t the biggest mainstay on Gilligan’s Island, it doesn’t mean his character wasn’t memorable. I mean, he was a professional criminal trying to lay low when he ended up on the island. He lied and convinced the castaways that he was a doctor, but they discovered his secret.

Larry Storch – Now

Even though people love his stint on the Island, not everyone remembers him as Jackson Farrell. Even if you don’t associate the actor with his time on the show, he was already a well-known actor from other television and movie projects, so people are sure to recognize his face.

Larry Storch on the red carpet in 2017
Photo by Debby Wong / Shutterstock

In his prime, Storch was a voice actor on cartoons like The Pink Panther Show and Scooby-Doo and definitely landed some notable roles. However, Storch dedicated most of his time to stage performances. The actor has since retired, and his last appearance was in 2010 in Medium Rare.

Kurt Russell as Jungle Boy – Then

When you’re stranded on an island, you would assume that you and your group are the only ones there. That’s why, when young Kurt Russell showed up, Gilligan and the gang were pretty surprised. He was referred to as Jungle Boy, and the show didn’t really explain where he came from or how he got there.

Dawn Wells and Kurt Russell in the wilderness in Gilligan’s Island
Source: Warner Bros.

There was a period on the show where it seemed like Jungle Boy might be the one to help them escape. Kurt Russell was a notable child actor of just 13 years old when he made his appearance on the Gilligan Island episode, which aired in 1965! He went on to have an impressive Hollywood career.

Kurt Russell – Now

Kurt Russell has been acting for most of his life. The child actor started off as a small-time TV star before becoming a bona fide A-lister. Since his role as Jungle Boy, Russell has had a constant presence in the industry and has been involved in numerous Hollywood projects.

Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn posing on the red carpet in 2019
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Russell has been in the spotlight since the ‘60s and hasn’t pumped the breaks yet. His most recent roles are in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, The Fate of the Furious, The Christmas Chronicles, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, where he played Randy Miller and the narrator. He has more projects currently in the works, so it doesn’t look like he is slowing down anytime soon.

Michael Forest as Ugundi – Then

At the end of the series, Gilligan finds out there was a native population living on the island the whole time that had somehow managed to steer clear of the castaways. After Gilligan saved a woman from drowning, she told him she was a native on the island, and because of his act of bravery, she was now his slave.

Bob Denver and Michael Forest in a scene from Gilligan’s Island
Source: YouTube

But then, her ex-boyfriend Ugandi showed up and challenged Gilligan to a fight. Ugandi didn’t see it as much of a challenge and fully expected to beat him, but somehow Gilligan prevailed. Even though he only appeared on one episode of Gilligan Island, his career continued to blossom.

Michael Forest – Now

After his visit to the island, Michael Forest went on to have a successful acting career. For a long time, Forest worked as a voice actor. When he was on the soundtrack of popular video games, his voice became more recognizable than his face. At age 71, he voiced Prince Olympius in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue.

Michael Forest today
Source: Wikimedia

In more recent years, he worked on English dubbing for the film Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution 1 and he also made an appearance as himself! Most recently, in 2012, Forest reprised his role in Star Trek Continues in the episode Pilgrim of Eternity (47 years later!). The actor is now 91 years old and is enjoying his retirement.

Don Rickles as Norbert Wiley – Then

Prisoners weren’t the only inconvenient personalities the castaways came across during their time on the island. Just when they thought their life couldn’t get any harder, Norbert Wiley washed ashore in Season Three. He immediately captured several passengers and held them captive.

Don Rickels in Gilligan’s Island
Source: YouTube

He said he would free them if they gave him money. By holding a rich man like Thurston Howell III, money certainly wasn’t an issue. Wiley figured he could get a good ransom out of it. Luckily, the castaways managed to get the upper hand and made Wiley prisoner instead.

Don Rickles – Now

The legendary Don Rickles was still relatively unknown in the early 1960s when he made an appearance on the island. It was only a few years earlier when the actor got his big break. However, less than 10 years later, he became a Hollywood star with his iconic role in the 1970 war film Kelly’s Heroes.

Don Rickles sitting in a large white chair in 2014
Photo by Mediapunch / Shutterstock

Rickles took on more memorable roles and became a notable actor in the industry. However, the younger generation probably recognizes his voice from the Toy Story series. Did you know he plays the voice actor for Mr. Potato head? Sadly, he didn’t reprise the role for the fourth Toy Story film.

Zsa Zsa Gabor as Erika Tiffany-Smith – Then

When heiress Tiffany-Smith showed up on the island, there was a brief moment where it looked like the shipwrecked passengers might finally be saved. However, the socialite made one little mistake when she informed the Navy where the castaways were stranded- and when I say little mistake, I mean a huge one.

Zsa Zsa Gabor in Gilligan’s Island talking to someone next to the water
Source: Warner Bros.

She stumbled on the island as she was searching for a place to build a new resort. She wanted to help them, but she ended up giving the US Navy the wrong coordinates. Gilligan and the others were left with no way to be found while Erika looked for a location to set up her new resort.

Zsa Zsa Gabor – Now

Zsa Zsa Gabor wasn’t exactly famous for her acting career, but she had no problem keeping her name in the headlines. You can’t say the actress didn’t live a full life: she got married nine times, was crowned Miss Hungary, and even landed dozens of acting credits throughout her career.

Zsa Zsa Gabor on the red carpet in 2005
Photo by Bei / Shutterstock

In addition to her appearance on Gilligan Island, the blonde beauty was featured in The Facts of Life, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Batman. Towards the end of her life, Zsa Zsa experienced ill health. Sadly, just weeks before her 100th birthday, she went into cardiac arrest and passed away.

Russell Johnson as the Professor – Then

The castaway’s biggest hope to get off the island was the Professor. He wasn’t technically a professor, but a high school science teacher. He had a profound knowledge of plants and seemed like the one who would figure out how to get them home.

Russell Johnson as the professor in Gilligan’s Island
Source: Warner Bros.

Unfortunately, every time he tried, something went wrong, leaving the passengers stranded for another day. He clearly had brains and helped the group a lot when it came to surviving on the island. Even though he was able to build tools out of almost any material he found, his expertise didn’t really extend to ship repair.

Russell Johnson – Now

For Russell Johnson, landing the role on Gilligan’s Island seemed like a dream come true, and it was… until he started getting typecast into roles similar to the Professor. He struggled to break free from his Gilligan’s Island persona and have a successful acting career.

Russell Johnson around 2014
Source: YouTube

His determination definitely paid off. In later decades, the actor landed several recurring roles in shows like Dynasty, Beyond Westworld, and The Jeffersons. Ultimately, the actor managed to rack up hundreds of acting credits throughout his career. Russell Johnson died in 2014 after suffering from kidney disease.

Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III – Then

With a name like Thurston Howell III, it was easy to tell who the wealthiest man on the show was. The character spent his whole life buying his way out of anything. But unfortunately, being rich didn’t exactly help him, or his stranded wife get off the island.

Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III peeking out from behind a bamboo cell
Source: Warner Bros.

Obviously, money meant nothing on the deserted island, and Thurston spent most of the series coming to grips with that realization. Since he had always counted on money to solve his problems, this was the first time Thurston truly had to fend for himself. But when it came to the rest of the castaways, Thurston still had his status.

Jim Backus – Now

A lot of the Gilligan cast members were more than just talented actors; they were also well-regarded voiceover actors. Jim Backus was no exception. He brought some of your favorite cartoons to life, most notably in his role as Mr. Magoo in a variety of animated shows and films.

Jim Backus in 1987
Photo by Bei / Shutterstock

Despite his iconic portrayal of Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island, Backus is best known for his Mr. Magoo character. The actor returned for anything that had to do with Gilligan’s island and reprised his role in spin-offs and features. This made Thurston the actor’s final role before he died in 1989. Wow, some things really come full circle.

Alan Hale Jr. as Jonas Grumby – Then

Jonas Grumpy is better known to the audiences as Skipper, the lost ship’s captain… you know, before they got stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. His only job was to get the ship to its destination, but despite his determination, he failed miserably.

Alan Hale Jr as Jonas Grumby
Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Warner Bros, CBS

Once they were stranded, he did whatever he could to keep everyone’s spirits up as they attempted to survive on the island. He had no problem taking control of the situation on the Island and sometimes told people what to do. However, it was all to help them. His heart was way too big to let the power go to his head.

Alan Hale Jr. – Now

It took a very talented actor to bring the character of Jonas Grumby to life. It was a tough role to play no matter how easy and effortless Alan Hale Jr. made it seem. He was born into an acting family and had a promising career from an early age. He left his mark on Hollywood with all the prestige credits he had to his name.

Alan Hale Jr in 1987
Photo by Bei / Shutterstock

After his time on Gilligan, the actor went on to guest star in Growing Pains, Magnum P.I., and other shows. Hale was clearly born to be on-screen, which is why losing him was in 1990 was so difficult. Despite all his acting credits, he will always be remembered for his most iconic role as the Skipper.

Bob Denver as Gilligan – Then

Since he is the title character of the show, one would assume that Gilligan is a take-charge type of guy. Well, that wasn’t the case at all. During his time on the island, Gilligan was far from in control. Even though he was the first mate of the stranded ship, he often gave up his adult responsibilities for fun.

Bob Denver as Gilligan in Gilligan’s Island
Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Warner Bros, CBS

He may have been given responsibility while they were on the ship, but once they were stranded on the island, all bets were off. He had a child-like innocence to him, and his playfulness made him somewhat of a liability. Either way, he was a caring character that the other castaways (as well as audiences) couldn’t help but love.

Bob Denver – Now

Way before he starred as Gilligan, Bob Denver was already famous. He was thrown into the spotlight in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. After the conclusion of Gilligan’s Island, Denver continued his career as a television star and had leading roles in shows like The Good Guys and Dusty’s Trail.

Bob Denver on the red carpet in 2004
Photo by Jim Smeal / BEI / Shutterstock

He was an on-screen staple and a prominent part of our TV schedules. Before his retirement in 1997, the actor’s career started taking a back seat after spending so much time in the spotlight. In 2005, he died from pneumonia. I think it’s safe to say that he will live on through his iconic character forever.

Natalie Schafer as Lovey Howell – Then

Thurston’s wife, Lovey Howell, was just as reliant on money as her husband was, but that all changed when she ended up stuck on an island. While she definitely valued her material possessions, she realized her wealth couldn’t help her there. Her character managed to show that she was adaptable, even though she didn’t seem like the kind of girl who would cope well on an island.

Natalie Shafer on the set of Gilligan’s Island
Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Warner Bros, CBS

Sure, she was tied to her high society life, but she had no trouble spicing things up on the island and was a great comic relief. She was able to combine her old life with her new circumstances on the island. Throwing parties and stuff like that helped ease her worries.

Natalie Schafer – Now

Natalie Schafer was the perfect actress to play a high-society character like Lovey Howell. She had natural beauty and elegance and had taken on similar roles before Gilligan’s Island. The finale of Gilligan’s Island wasn’t the last time Natalie Schafer portrayed Lovey Howell.

Natalie Shafer in 1981 posing with her reading glasses hanging out of her mouth
Photo by Bei / Shutterstock

The actress returned to the show for spins offs and TV movies decades after the conclusion of the show, including in the cartoon Gilligan’s Planet. Schafer’s last movie role was in I’m Dangerous Tonight, which was released one year before she died of liver cancer in 1991. Despite all her movie credits, Schafer will always be associated with her most famous role of Lovey Howell.

Dawn Wells as Mary Ann Summers – Then

With an optimistic smile always shining from her face, Mary Anne Summers was the one who was able to keep the group together while they were stranded on the island. Whenever something needed to get done, Summers was the one to turn to. She was on top of everything and did most of the daily chores on the island, such as cleaning and cooking.

Dawn Wells as Mary Ann Summers in Gilligan’s Island
Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Warner Bros, CBS

Summers was a pretty good cook and always managed to whip up meals for the group. Sadly, it was easy for people to take advantage of Mary Anne’s sweet, caring nature, but most of the time, she received gratitude. The others realized how much she did for them, which is why everyone loved Mary Ann.

Dawn Wells – Now

Her stint on Gilligan’s Island really jump-started Dawn Wells’ career. Throughout the 1960s, the actress was busy. Things slowed down for Wells during the next three decades. But even though things weren’t as hectic, the actress still found work and made several appearances on shows like Roseanne and ALF.

Dawn Wells on the red carpet in 2019
Photo by MediaPunch / Shutterstock

Unfortunately, it all went downhill after that. Not only was she not landing any notable roles, but she was barely getting work at all. As you can imagine, this wasn’t easy on her bank account, which led to a GoFundMe page that fans set up and raised almost $200,000 for the star.

Tina Louise as Ginger Grant – Then

Ginger was the girl on the island who was hoping to enjoy a relaxing cruise to help her unwind. The vacation ended up being the farthest thing from relaxing when she ended up getting stranded on an island. Being trapped was not easy on her psyche, but she still tried to make the best of the situation and helped bring up the rest of the group’s spirits when they were feeling down.

Tina Louise as Ginger Grant in a promo shot for Gilligan’s Island
Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Warner Bros, CBS

It turned out that Ginger’s good energy was very much needed on Gilligan’s Island. She had a natural talent for entertaining people and somehow always had the perfect outfit for every occasion. It’s a good thing she overpacked for her cruise!

Tina Louise – Now

After her memorable role on Gilligan’s Island, Tina Louise continued to work in Hollywood. For two decades, Louise worked in some of the most popular shows of the time, including The Love Boat, CHiPs, Dallas, and Love, American Style. She then transitioned into feature films and television movies.

Tina Louise on the red carpet in 2018
Photo by Kristin Callahan / Ace / Shutterstock

But since the turn of the century, we haven’t seen or heard much from the actress. However, that’s what made her extremely limited appearances even more memorable. Recently, in 2019, Louise came back into the spotlight when she starred as Rose in the movie Tapestry, alongside Stephen Baldwin and Burt Young. That was her first on-screen appearance in five years.

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