Rest in peace, Dawn Wells. The actress, best known for playing the beloved role of Mary Ann on the hit TV series Gilligan’s Island, died at age 82 from causes related to COVID-19. Dawn’s publicist, Harlan Boll, announced the heartbreaking news following her death on Wednesday, December 30.
Fans fell in love with the Hollywood alum when she made her debut on the iconic program in 1964. Dawn starred alongside late actors Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer and Russell Johnson, as well as the only surviving member left, Tina Louise.
Gilligan’s Island told the story of three men and four women who get stranded on a desert island after their boat tour goes awry off the coast of Honolulu. Viewers followed along on their adventures as they attempted to escape the island while learning to work together. The sitcom, which ran a total of 99 episodes over three seasons, was on the air from 1964 to 1967.
Following her run on Gilligan’s Island, Dawn continued working in showbiz. Throughout the years, she appeared in films like High School U.S.A., Super Sucker, Silent But Deadly and Winterhawk, among many more. She also, of course, was cast in the multiple Gilligan’s Island made-for-television movies, including The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island, Rescue from Gilligan’s Island and Gilligan’s Planet.
Prior to her death, Dawn opened up about the impact Gilligan’s Island had on her journey through Hollywood. Looking back at the time, the TV Land award winner couldn’t believe Gilligan’s Island was still so idolized after all these years.
“It really is kind of fun as an actor,” Dawn exclusively shared with Closer Weekly in February 2019. “You always remember some of the shows you’ve done, but nothing has had the publicity and appeal that this show has had. People come up to me — they’re 40 now or something — and say, ‘I just loved you when I was 12,’ and that’s a very nice thing to hear.”
Even though Dawn truly “enjoyed” being on the set with her beloved cast members, she wished she could’ve “been challenged much more” in terms of her acting. Still, she couldn’t picture her life without Gilligan’s Island. “I couldn’t have been happier doing anything more than that show,” she gushed. “I’m very proud of it.”
While chatting with Closer, Dawn also revealed why she compared herself to her Gilligan’s Island character Mary Ann. “I’m very positive and I always have a good outlook on everything,” she explained. “Mary Ann was very much who I’ve done a lot of, so to speak, but I embraced it because I thought it was a good, positive show. Today, everything is so different. I think that Gilligan’s Island kind of brings the whole family together to say, ‘Right is right and good is good.’ Honestly, I think that’s the reason it’s lasted.”
We’re sending our best wishes to Dawn’s family and friends during this difficult time.