Skip to main content

Gilligan’s Island is a classic TV sitcom about castaways marooned on a deserted island. The 1960s series remains just as popular today as it did during its three-year run on CBS. Many fan theories have popped up throughout the years, including Gilligan’s (Bob Denver) real name.

'Gilligan's Island' star Bob Denver dressed as his character Gilligan.
Gilligan’s Island star Bob Denver as Gilligan I CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

A ‘Gilligan’s Island’ rumor has Gilligan’s first name being Willy

Many of the Gilligan’s Island castaways were called by nicknames instead of real names. For example, Skipper’s (Alan Hale Jr.) real name is Jonas Grumbly, but the group refers to him as Skipper. Meanwhile, Professor Roy Hinkley (Russell Johnson) was referred to by his teaching moniker.

But there’s another character whose real name has always been a mystery. One of the long-standing rumors from the series is that Gilligan’s first name is Willy. It’s hard to imagine the lovable but clumsy first mate going by another name, but there’s a possibility it could have happened.

Is Gilligan’s real name Willy?

Gilligan is the star and title character on Gilligan’s Island. The name fits perfectly with his kind-hearted goofball. So it would be odd for him to be called Willy. However, according to, creator Sherwood Schwartz briefly considered naming the first mate Willy Gilligan but quickly rejected the idea.

“In a further effort to make the characters prototypes rather than completely flesh and blood, I decided to call them only by first names or nicknames – except Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell III, of course, because that would have been out of keeping with their characters,” the creator explained.

There is some truth to the rumor that Gilligan was almost named Willy. Although many fans believe the theory is true, the show’s scripts and the original pilot prove the first mate only has one name.

‘Gilligan’s Island’ creator Sherwood Schwartz picked the show’s name out of a phone book

TV creators struggle to create unique names for their shows and characters. For Schwartz coming up with the perfect name for the Minnow’s first mate was a challenge. But the TV pioneer had some help from a phone book.


Jerry Van Dyke Passed On the Lead In ‘Gilligan’s Island’ For a Show That Flopped

Schwartz recalled his unique method in his memoir Inside Gilligan’s Island. “I just kept looking through telephone book after telephone book until I hit the name ‘Gilligan.’ I felt ‘Gilligan’ was amusing enough to indicate a comedy series and acceptable enough to avoid burlesque.”

Thanks to Schwartz’s planning, he created a suitable name for his iconic show and title character. And the rest, as they say, is history.