‘Gilligan’s Island’s Dawn Wells Did Not Struggle to Find Work in Hollywood: ‘I Was a Perfect Type’

by Katie Maloney
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It didn’t take long before Dawn Wells landed her first role on the big screen in Gilligan’s Island. During an interview in 2008, Dawn explains why she was the perfect type for Hollywood.

The phrase “struggling actor” developed because it’s an experience most actors face. They move to Hollywood in pursuit of their dreams and they meet years of auditions and doubts before finally landing their first big role. But that wasn’t the case for Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island. In fact, she landed roles as soon as she started auditioning. During an interview, Wells said that a combination of luck and looking like the “perfect type” led to her success in Hollywood.

“I went to LA and went to work right away. I was the perfect type, the girl from Kansas, you know?” said Wells.

She added that she didn’t struggle to find roles quickly. In fact, it wasn’t long after she started acting that she landed the role of Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island.

“But I just got an agent at a small little agency, and they just sent me out for auditions all the time. I was a perfect type, I was a little round-faced ingénue, and there were a lot of guest spots for that type, just not for the very challenging roles, so to speak. I went to work right away, I trained. And I studied for it, but I was lucky,” said Wells. “There was a lot of stuff being filmed and quite a bit going on in the 60s in television. I probably had two or three auditions a day. I did a couple of movies, but you’d get guest spots on all these TV shows. You’d work right away.

Dawn Wells as Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island.

Before Gilligan’s Island Dawn Wells Was Miss Nevada

It may have been her girl next door look that landed her the role of Mary Ann in Gilligan’s Island. However, Dawn Wells was more than just the shy, small-town girl she played on the show. In fact, she was in the limelight for most of her life.

Born in Reno, Nevada in 1938, Dawn started competing in beauty pageants in college. A friend suggested that she compete in the pageant but she wasn’t initially a fan of the idea. However, as an aspiring actress, she thought it was good practice to get up in front of all those people. So, she signed up and performed a scene from the play Our Town during the competition. At 20 years old, she was crowned Miss Nevada and went on to compete in the Miss American pageant. In true Dawn Wells style, she brought gifts for each of the 54 competitors.

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