‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Said She ‘Would Rather Be Known’ for Other Work, Detailed Her Silver Lining

by Robert Davis
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One star from the hit CBS series “Gilligan’s Island” recently said she would rather be known for other work.

Dawn Wells, who starred as Mary Ann Summers on the show, told The Columbia Missourian in an interview that she would rather be known for a “more thoughtful role.” But she also understands what her work as Mary Ann brought to her life.

“I would rather be known for something more serious, but Mary Ann allowed me to do so much more,” Wells said.

Mary Ann was a “girl next door” type who was raised on a farm in Kansas. She has good common sense and domestic skills that made her an indispensable part of the crew. The character was not included in the original pilot, however. Mary Ann replaced a secretary named Bunny after the episode aired.

Despite Wells’ unease with her fame because of the role, “Gilligan’s Island” remains a popular show today. Wells told The Missourian that its popularity stems from its “timelessness” and “simple but interesting plot.”

“There’s nothing onscreen dating it,” she told the newspaper. “It’s funny. People have been talking about being stranded on an island since ‘Robinson Crusoe.'”

A Silver Lining in Unwanted Gilligan’s Island Fame

While Wells may want to be known for a more “thoughtful” role, Mary Ann allowed her to connect with a wide audience, she told The Missourian.

“Gilligan’s Island” is now one of the longest-running syndicated shows on television. It first aired on September 26, 1964 and ran for a total on 98 episodes.

The show was later colorized and syndicated when Warner Bros. Television bought the rights to the show from United Artists Television in 1986. The network then colorized the first 36 episodes of the show and added them to the syndication as well.

After the acquisition, the show aired on TBS between 1990 and 2003. Turner Network Television also aired a number of episodes during that timeframe. Nick at Nite aired the series between 2000 and 2001, too.

Today, the show can be seen on MeTV.

Diane Wells: Before and After The Island

Before Diane Wells landed the role on “Gilligan’s Island”, she studied theatre at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Wells was exposed to acting after an injury kept her from taking physical education classes. Her performance in shows such as “Anastasia” would inform her later characters.

She was only on campus for two years before transferring to the University of Washington in Seattle. However, she told The Missourian that her time at Stephens was “formative.”

“It’s about knowing who you are, and I found that here,” Wells said. “The essence of Mary Ann came from Dawn, and Dawn came from Stephens.”

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