‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Called Out Pernell Roberts for Talking Badly About ‘Bonanza’ in 2015

by Suzanne Halliburton

Dawn Wells always was girl-next-door charming when she was Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island. And in an interview six years ago, the actress was a plain-speaking every-woman when she began railing about egos.

Sure, Wells and the rest of the Gilligan’s Island cast knew they played in a goofy comedy back in the 1960s. You had to suspend all levels of disbelief to watch a show about seven castaways stranded on a desert island after a three-hour cruise. The show never explained why Ginger had an entire formal wardrobe packed for what was supposed to be a short day trip. No one is that high maintenance. But let’s save that for another story.

Journalist Herbie J Pilato interviewed Wells about Gilligan’s Island in October 2015. And Wells got on a tangent about actors bad-mouthing the comedies or dramas that made them famous. She trained some of her ire on Pernell Roberts, who played Adam Cartwright on Bonanza.

“Turn (the role) down then and give it to another actor,” the Gilligan’s Island star said. “I get really irritated. Pernell Roberts did Bonanza and talked horribly about it for years. Well, let another actor do it. You’ve got crew and craft service and writers and everyone depending on that show.

“It’s not about you,” she continued. “It’s not about the star of the show. It was the chemistry. He was lucky. Good actor. Don’t mean that. But don’t bad rap something that you’ve been gracious enough to be accepted (by the country) and popular enough that (the show) was a success.”

Gilligan’s Island Star Said There’s ‘Too Much Ego’

And the Gilligan’s Island star wasn’t finished. She took a breath and continued:

“It’s such ego. We have to be careful about ego. It’s a craft. It was something that I was trained to do, I learned to do and I love doing it. But I’m not the best there is out there. There’s more to me than the character of Mary Ann, for sure. “

Wells and Gilligan’s Island stayed on the air from September 1964, until April 1967. There were three reunion movies. The show is a little slice of the Pacific castaway life living on in syndication.

Meanwhile, Bonanza ran from 1959 to 1974. Like Gilligan’s Island, the show became a big part of pop culture. The nation dealt with some tumultuous times by watching folks live in another century. And the series also lives on with cable and streaming services.

Pernell Roberts left his part as Adam Cartwright, the oldest son on the Ponderosa, after 202 episodes. He never was happy with his role or the filming schedule.

“Okay, so I threw away a million bucks,” Roberts said in 1980 about leaving Bonanza. “So what? All I cared about was my emotional well being. That job was very unpleasant, and I never regretted leaving.”

Sadly, neither Wells nor Roberts still is with us. Wells died late last year of complications from COVID-19. Roberts passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2010.