Back in 2015, Gilligan’s Island actress Dawn Wells opened up about her character Mary Ann’s popularity and why so many fans gravitated to her. Although she admits Mary Ann was a relatable character, she doesn’t think it had anything to do with herself. She credits the writing and the relationships on the show more than anything.
Wells starred as Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island for all three seasons of the short-lived CBS sitcom. From 1964 to 1967, the show gained plenty of fans because of Mary Ann and her co-star Tina Louise who played Ginger. Once 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.
However, Wells doesn’t think she herself had much to do with the popularity of Mary Ann. During the interview, a reporter reminded Wells she received more fan mail than anyone else on the show. Yet she still humbly disagreed with the assessment, pointing 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!”
‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star’s Popularity Helped Her Out Later in Life
Previous to Gilligan’s Island star Dawn Wells‘ death due to COVID-19, the actress faced some rough years around 2008 or so. Unfortunately for Wells, the majority of her finances were tied up in the housing and banking crash of the late 2000s. A decade later in 2018, with the addition of numerous medical and tax bills, the actress had lost everything, including her life savings.
But Wells’ longtime hairdresser and friend Doug Kirkpatrick set up a GoFundMe campaign for the actress. Within only six weeks of the campaign’s creation, fans raised almost $200,000 to help Wells get back on her feet. More than 5,200 people donated to the campaign raising $198,000, which exceeded its $194,000 goal.
Although the Gilligan’s Island star was thankful for the donations, it was also hard for her to accept help. Wells hesitated to accept the money at first, according to Kirkpatrick. In fact, he said she was “mortified” by the campaign originally.
Yet as the campaign continued to grow, the funds raised proved how much Wells meant to so many. She attributed the outpouring of love and donations to her Gilligan’s Island character Mary Ann Summers.
“I don’t know how this happened,” she wrote on Facebook. “I thought I was taking all the proper steps to ensure my golden years. Now, here I am, no family, no husband, no kids and no money. I’m grateful that God has given me so many friends and fans who care, or it would all be too …overwhelming. I am grateful to any of my fans who are willing to offer support.”