‘Gilligan’s Island’: How Dawn Wells Remembered Her Audition For Mary Ann

by Shelby Scott

While there are just three seasons of the hit sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” it remains a favorite among classic TV audiences. Airing in 1964, the series follows a group of seven castaways as they try to make a life marooned on an island. And although Bob Denver’s Willy Gilligan served as the title character of the show, he was by no means the fan-favorite. That title was held by the character Mary Ann, and her actress Dawn Wells. Sadly, Dawn Wells passed away due to complications from COVID-19 in 2020. But before her death, she shared her experience on the set of “Gilligan’s Island” and her fondest memories from the show.

While speaking with Smashing Interviews Magazine, Wells specifically revealed what her experience was like auditioning for the show.

“I went in and tested with I don’t know how many girls,” she admitted at the time. “There were quite a few.”

According to Deadline, Dawn Wells beat out an impressive 350 actresses for her role as Mary Ann Summers on “Gilligan’s Island.” Even more significantly, the outlet reports Wells appeared in more than 150 series and several movies during her career.

While speaking during the earlier interview, she continued, “It was the people…we all grew up together. All the ingénues,” referring to all the other young women who showed up, “were auditioning, and I got it.”

However, it was surely a difficult experience, despite snagging a leading role. Wells hinted as much when she said, “you would go on so many auditions, and you never knew what you were going to get.”

Dawn Wells Received More Fan Mail than Any Other ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star

As stated above, despite that Dawn Wells was not “Gilligan’s Island’s” title character, she remained the fan-favorite character across all three seasons of the sitcom. Looking for proof? During an interview with Fox News, TV producer Lloyd J. Schwartz said, “Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann, got five times the fan mail than everybody else.”

But why? In his terms, Wells’ Mary Ann “was the only normal person on the show.” He clarified, “She was the one everyone identified with.”

The TV producer provided further outside context for Dawn Wells’ character. Of Mary Ann, he said, “[she] seemed like the girl next door. The girls loved her because she was like their best friend. And the guys loved her because she was cute and accessible to them.”

Essentially then, the “Gilligan’s Island” star and her character served as a foil to actress Tina Louise’s Ginger, “a voluptuous movie star.”

What made Dawn Wells the favorite “Gilligan’s Island” character was the fact that Mary Ann was real. While she had an attractive appearance, she also very much boasted a realistic personality.