‘Gilligan’s Island’: One Actress Started Career with Acting Classes at Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s Studio

by Keeli Parkey
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Years before she played the lovable farm girl Mary Ann Summers on “Gilligan’s Island,” Dawn Wells took acting classes at a very famous studio.

According to SmashingInterview.com, the actress studied her craft at a studio created by the legendary television stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The studio was called Desilu Studios. The classes reportedly occurred while Wells was also acting in small parts on television and in movies. The actress talked about her early career in Hollywood before her death in 2020.

“I think you were kind of responsible for that yourself. When you’re shooting a series, everybody’s coming and going. Nobody spends any time with you particularly,” Wells recalled about her experience in Hollywood. “I took classes at the Desilu Studios though. I mean, I had acting classes that I continued with while I was working. But then you kind of made friends with everybody. You all knew the casting directors. It’s kind of a small town. It really is. But to get into the big movies, it’s not small. Television fits a small group of people, I think.”

Obviously, the publication wanted to know if the “Gilligan’s Island” actress ever met Lucille Ball or Desi Arnaz. Sadly, the answer was no, according to the article.

“I did not, and I was in the Desilu Studios a lot. I didn’t meet either one of them,” Wells said with a laugh.

Interestingly, it was around this time that Dawn Wells became friends with another famous television actress. That actress was Barbara Eden of “I Dream of Jeannie” fame.

“We’re very good friends,” Wells said of Eden. “We lived a couple of blocks from each other, so we have had many a Bridge game at night. She’s a lovely lady.”

Injury Led ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Actress to Give Up Ballet, Pursue Acting

Before she wanted to be an actress, the woman who played Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island” wanted to be a ballerina. Dawn Wells talked about what made her give up her dreams of being a ballerina with SmashingInterviews.com.

“Well, that’s kind of interesting because I had to give up ballet because my knee dislocated, and I’ve always been interested in science,” Wells reportedly said. “I went away to Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. It’s a small town and a small school. I guess I got the acting bug because they cast me in a couple of plays, and I never looked back.”

Thanks to her wholesome mid-western look, Wells said she didn’t have trouble finding acting jobs once she moved to Los Angeles.

“When I graduated, I went to the University of Washington in Seattle. I thought, ‘What do I do? Where do I go?’ I didn’t sing, and I didn’t dance. Most of that is New York stage,” Wells added. “So I went to LA and went to work right away. I was the perfect type, the girl from Kansas, you know?”