‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Dawn Wells Revealed Why Bob Denver Was So Great: ‘He Didn’t Rehearse It’

by Chris Haney

Back in 2008, Gilligan’s Island star Dawn Wells opened up about the classic show and shared what made her co-star Bob Denver so special.

Wells sat down for a lengthy interview with Television Academy Foundation on Dec. 23, 2008. She reflected on her career on stage and on both big and small screens. Of course, she’s most famous for her role as the wholesome Mary Ann Summers from Gilligan’s Island. The popular sitcom only ran from 1964 to 1967, but its lasting impact with fans made it one of television’s all-time classics.

During one segment of the interview, Wells spoke about Gilligan actor Bob Denver. She talked about his unique abilities as a comedic actor. The actress revealed that Denver never rehearsed his scenes, but that his natural talent and intuition would shine through in one take.

“He became the characters. He didn’t rehearse it. There was a youth inside of Bob, a child inside of Bob, that came through. He would do these little things all of a sudden, take one boom, and it would be done. He didn’t rehearse it… There was a genius inside of him,” Wells explained to the Television Academy Foundation.

Although the famous actor was known for being a bit of a recluse, the co-stars became good friends who stayed in touch for years before he passed away in 2005. Wells even used to visit Bob and his wife Dreama at their home, which wasn’t a common occurrence in the usually private Denver household.

“He was a remarkable man. We lost him way too soon,” she added. “I was very privileged to be one of the few people that Bob had to his home, and shared his life with.”

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Was Adamant Mary Ann’s Popularity Had ‘Nothing to Do’ with Herself

In 2015, the Gilligan’s Island actress opened up again about the hit show and her character Mary Ann’s popularity. Even though she admits Mary Ann was a relatable character, Wells doesn’t think it had anything to do with herself.

During three seasons of the short-lived CBS sitcom, Gilligan’s Island gained plenty of fans because of Mary Ann and her co-star Tina Louise who played Ginger. In fact, after the show went into syndication, its popularity continued to grow. It became a full-on cult classic after it went off-air. As for the two beautiful, young starlets who were stranded on an island with five other strangers, they each became pop icons.

Yet Wells doesn’t credit herself with the popularity of Mary Ann. The interviewer reminded Wells that she received more fan mail than any other Gilligan’s Island cast member. But she still humbly disagreed, and instead pointed to Gilligan or the Skipper as the fan favorites.

“I really don’t think I was the most popular… I’m sure it would be Gilligan, maybe, or the Skipper. But, I think Mary Ann was relatable. And for you, as a young person growing up watching the show, Ginger was too much! You have to be pretty sophisticated. And Mrs. Howell could have been your grandmother. I think you identified with me because I’d have been your buddy!” Wells explained in the 2015 interview.

“I don’t mean to be too modest, but I don’t think it had anything to do with me,” the Gilligan’s Island star added. “I just think Sherwood Schwartz put these seven people together and took seven personalities… and I think Mary Ann was… I don’t think I carried the show, but she was the center of making everyone pitch in. Y’know, let’s not bully you and let’s get the Skipper on a diet, and make Mister Howell be a little nicer to Mrs. Howell… I think it was the relationships between us all. And there was no jealousy between Mary Ann and Ginger at all!”