‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Dawn Wells Gave Analogy of How Show’s ‘Seven Misfits’ Represent the World

by Anna Dunn
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island, once had an astute analogy of how the characters of the show reflected the world at large. Wells got her big break on Gilligan’s Island and acted up until her final years. The Gilligan’s Island actress passed away last December at 82 years old.

For her, the characters on Gilligan’s Island represented an ideal way people should interact with each other. They embodied what the world is truly about. She expressed her thoughts in a 2015 interview.

“When you stop to think about it [the characters] are what the world’s all about. Seven misfits, seven continents, seven somebodies trying to get along. All different walks of life, but there was no anger or distrust,” she told interviewer Herbie J Pilato.

Her picture of an ideal world embodied by the goofy characters on Gilligan’s Island is a sentiment many would find quite touching. The show, which aired in 1964, has withstood the test of time and is widely viewed as a classic.

Most of the Cast thought ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Would Flop

According to “Professor” actor Russell Johnson, CBS initially gave the show a 13-week run. In her interview with Herbie J Pilato, Dawn Wells said CBS had very little hope that the series would amount to anything.

“Who knew that the show would last for more than three minutes? [CBS] thought it was the worst thing ever until they tested it with the audience and they got the highest audience rating they ever had,” she said.

Johnson also said something similar, and the cast was “shocked” when they saw how well Gilligan’s Island did in the Nielsen ratings. Now, almost five decades after the show’s release, people still turn to Gilligan’s Island for entertainment.

Wells got into Acting After A Major Injury

There’s no doubt that Gilligan’s Island would be quite different without the presence of Dawn Wells, but she almost wasn’t an actress at all. Wells was a ballet dancer before a tragic injury to her knees altered her life path.

She didn’t immediately jump to acting, either. Wells went to Stephens College to pursue a career in pediatric surgery. Since she couldn’t do P.E., she had to do a theater elective. It was there that she found her calling in show business.

Wells became one of the most loved cast members on Gilligan‘s Island. She received a ton of fan mail for her role as Mary Ann. Wells took interviews about her time on the show for decades, always willing to speak about the experience and give her often-clever insight.