Dawn Wells Opened Up About Her Time on ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Before Her Passing

by Joe Rutland

Actress Dawn Wells, who died on Wednesday. fondly recalled her time with six other castaways as part of CBS’ “Gilligan’s Island.”

Wells died from COVID-19 complications at 82. She told People Magazine in 2018 that everyone on the show loved one another.

“That’s one thing about our show: we were all very kind to each other,” Wells, who portrayed Mary Ann Summers, said. “Of course the Skipper would smack Gilligan over the head with his hat…but it was slapstick. They loved each other.

“And all of us [actors] loved each other,” she said. “We didn’t call each other bad names. We were family.”

Besides Wells, other cast members included Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Tina Louise, Russell Johnson, Natalie Schafer, and Jim Backus.

Dawn Wells Was Actually Second Girl Picked For Show

Wells and Louise were the two female leads on the show, yet they weren’t executive producer Sherwood Schwartz’s first choices.

“I was actually the second girl to be on it,” she said. “There was another gal in the pilot, and it didn’t work. She didnt have a persona.”

Looking back at that time, Wells laughed and said Mary Ann originally was going to be a secretary at a talent agency. “Can you imagine?” she said. “They needed someone innocent and optimistic, so they changed her to a farm girl.”

Wells’ Hair Color Plays Factor In Filling Another Role

“Gilligan’s Island” was in black and white at first, which plays a part in Wells getting the Mary Ann role and filling another one.

“The show was black and white at the time, and Ginger had light red hair, so a brunette would stand out more in black and white film,” Wells said. “And that’s how they ended up with little ol’ me!

“They weren’t sure if they wanted a blonde or a brunette, and some of it depended on who Ginger was going to be,” she recalled. “The character of Ginger was originally a teacher, so when they were changing her to a movie star, they were thinking Marilyn Monroe. So they had a blonde in mind for her. But then Tina Louise auditioned and she nailed it, so Ginger was named Ginger and they needed a blonde or a brunette.”

Dawn Wells Was Born, Raised In Nevada

Dawn Elberta Wells was born on Oct. 18, 1938, in Reno, Nev. Her dad worked in real estate and her mom was a homemaker. Wells was Miss Nevada in 1959 and went on to the Miss America Pageant.

Originally, Wells had eyes to be a doctor but changed her mind after discovering the Drama Club at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo. She transferred to the University of Washington and graduated with a degree in Theatre.

Wells moved to Hollywood and got the Mary Ann role in 1964. After the show’s run ended, she kept working in theater productions, did a lot of voice-over work, commercials, and talk shows.

In 1998, she founded the Dawn Wells’ Film Actors Boot Camp in Driggs, Idaho. The camp is for a trained actor looking to make the transition from the amateur to the professional actor.

Wells mentored young actors and traveled across the country to teach master classes.

H/T: People, IMDB