‘Gilligan’s Island’: Dawn Wells Spoke About How the Classic TV Show Remains Popular Despite Early Criticism

by Megan Molseed

When the iconic classic television sitcom Gilligans Island was set to hit the airwaves in 1964 critics did not have a lot of nice things to say about the series. However, television viewers had something different to say about the series that would go on to become one of the most popular of all time. After the show’s premiere, viewers were tuning in regularly to see what the bumbling Gilligan and the other castaways were up to each week.

“The critics just thought it was the stupidest thing,” notes Dawn Wells, the actress who portrays Mary Ann Summers in the classic television series. However, the star notes that these opinions meant very little to the television viewers.

“We went to the top 10 right away,” Dawn Wells explains, adding that the series is still airing all across the world in as many as 30 languages. The Gilligans Island star also notes that there is a timeless aspect to the TV series that led to the show’s massive success.

“There’s no dating the show,” Wells continues.

“Is it the ’60s or ’80s?” she adds. “You don’t even know.”

Dawn Wells Remembers Early Descriptions Of Her Gilligan’s Island Character

When Dawn Wells went in to audition for her iconic Gilligan’s Island role, all she knew was that Mary Ann Summers was “a little girl from Kansas.” However, the actress says, she was able to create a vision of the character in her mind.

“I had an image in my mind of what she should be,” Dawn Wells says of Mary Ann. “Wearing denim and a ponytail.” The actress adds that it was her experience in stage acting that helped her prepare for the memorable role.

“I knew who she should be, and I think when you do stage a lot, you can do that,” the Gilligans Island star explains.

“You lock in what and who the character is,” Wells adds. “They didn’t give you a description.”

Dawn Wells Competed With Quite A Few Actresses For Her Role On the Classic TV Series

I went in and tested with I don’t know how many girls,” Dawn Wells explains of her life-altering audition. The actress notes that many of the roles she auditioned for pulled in a lot of actresses. Auditioning had become a sort of job in and of itself.

“You would do it for two or three days in a row, and they would either call you back or not,” Wells says.

“There were quite a few,” she remembers of the Gilligan’s Island audition. And, Wells says, she knew many of the other actresses reading for the Mary Ann role.

“We all grew up together,” the star explains.

“All the ingénues were auditioning, and I got it,” she adds. “But you would go on so many auditions, and you never knew what you were going to get.”