‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Dawn Wells Detailed Powerful Experience with Being a Role Model for Young Women

by Chris Haney

In 2008, Gilligan’s Island star Dawn Wells opened up about being a role model for young women, and detailed one powerful story in particular about her experience with a group of girls.

Wells sat down to talk to The Television Academy Foundation for a nearly two-hour interview almost 13 years ago. She covered her entire career in the lengthy discussion. Of course, a significant portion of the interview revolved around her time on Gilligan’s Island as Mary Ann Summers.

The wholesome fan favorite character turned Wells into a household name after just three seasons on-air. The actress didn’t take the responsibilities of her role lightly either. During the interview, she opened up about one experience that made a big impression on her.

While making a public appearance for Sears in Houston, Texas one time, around 300 young girls aged 9 to 14 showed up. At one point, the chaperones of the large group left Wells to speak with the girls. The young women began to ask the Gilligan’s Island star about a variety of adult subjects. The group picked her brain about drugs, sex, religion, and much more. Since she knew the kids likely weren’t listening to their parents, she hoped they’d listen to her as a role model to influence them in a positive way.

“I was very aware that Mary Ann was a role model there. So I was very very conscious of what I said because I thought they would hear me sometimes more than they would hear their parents. And [Mary Ann] was a good role model,” Wells explained of encounter.

“There hasn’t been a Mary Ann on the air for I don’t know how long. There hasn’t been a good girl over 14, and Mary Ann was very much that,” she added.

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Dawn Wells Details Injury That Led Her to Acting

About six years later, Dawn Wells shared details about her early acting days and what led her to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. While at a convention, the Mary Ann Summers actress met fans and signed autographs.

In addition, she gave an interview to Mark J. Gross of the YouTube channel “Celebrity Biograph.” She explained a surprising series of events that led her down a path towards becoming an actor.

Wells initially wanted to be on stage, but as a professional ballet dancer. However, an injury to her knees ended those career plans. While attending college, the Gilligan’s Island actress decided she wanted to be a pediatric surgeon instead. Since she couldn’t take any physical education classes because of her knees, she signed up for a theater class as an alternative. And that’s when her career path took a sharp turn towards Hollywood.

“It’s very interesting because I was a speaker – debate in high school – and I wanted to be a ballerina. And my knees dislocated. So I went off to Stephens College, which was a woman’s college. Pre-med, wanted to be a pediatric surgeon. I couldn’t take any P.E. because of my knees, so I took a theater course,” Wells explained of her early days of acting.

“My professor at Stephens College said, ‘You really ought to major in [theater].’ And I thought,’ Oh, gosh,’ I don’t want to be an out of work actor. So I transferred from Stephens to the University of Washington – Seattle, which has a phenomenal theater department. Then got my degree and said I’ll give myself two years, if I’m not working I’ll go back to med school. And I was very lucky,” she added.