‘Gilligan’s Island’: Dawn Wells Spoke Out on How Mary Ann ‘Never Did Very Much’

by Jennifer Shea

On “Gilligan’s Island,” Mary Ann never did very much, Dawn Wells admitted. But that didn’t take away from her overall likability, which Wells agreed is the foundation of a successful character.

Other characters hatched plots or made mistakes. But Mary Ann was “just there” Wells said in a 2015 interview at a Barnes & Noble in Burbank, California.

“I mean, Mary Ann didn’t do anything much,” Wells said. “She just was there. But the stability of her, the moral compass of her… And I don’t know why. Is it in the writing? Is it in the chemistry between the seven of us? I mean, you’ve got the magic, think of how well it was cast.”

Watch a video of Wells’ remarks here:

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Cast Got Along in Real Life

Whether or not the cast’s chemistry was what made the show work so well, it certainly helped make the set a pleasant place to be. Wells said the actors ultimately formed a “misfit family” that realized even as they launched the show how special the experience was.

“First, we all truly did get along off-screen,” Wells told the Palm Beach Post last year. “Alan Hale, who played the skipper, really was like the leader. And Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, was such a sweet and wonderful man — and was everybody’s ‘little buddy.’ Our producer, Sherwood Schwartz, cast the show brilliantly. He had a vision for these different characters to come together to form a misfit family.”

And critical reception aside, Wells said the show was demanding work for the actors, including her. Her favorite scenes were dream sequences in which she got to act out of character. Perhaps because Mary Ann, she said, “really was me in a lot of ways.”

Dawn Wells Led an Adventurous Life

Wells died in December of complications from COVID-19. The actress was 82 years old. She was in an assisted living facility at the time of her passing, according to CBS News.

Wells said her life had always been a great adventure, and “Gilligan’s Island” was a big part of that. But by her own estimate, she had appeared in nearly 100 theatrical productions over the course of her career, even including musicals. She had also sailed on the Concorde and gone fly fishing.

Before being cast as Mary Ann, Wells got parts in such shows as “Maverick,” “Bonanza” and “Hawaiian Eye.” To play Mary Ann, she had to compete with 350 other actresses. But Wells won out in the end and went on to make television history.

And Wells never slowed down, even later in life. In her final interview with the Palm Beach Post, she said she still had plans to do one play a year.