Bookpleasures.com is delighted to have as our guest today, Dawn Wells, actress, producer, author, spokesperson, journalist, motivational speaker, teacher, and chairwoman of the Terry Lee Wells Foundation--focusing on women and children in Northern Nevada.
Dawn is widely known for her role as Mary Ann Summers on the CBS sitcom, Gilligan's Island, during its run from 1964 until 1967.
In addition, she has starred in over 150 TV shows, and 7 motion pictures, including Winterhawk (which she also narrated), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (with Andrew Prine), Super Sucker (with Jeff Daniels), The New Interns, It's Our Time, and most recently, Silent But Deadly.
She has starred in 60+ theatrical productions from Noel Coward to Neil Simon, as well as the National Tours of Chapter Two and They're Playing Our Song.
Favorite productions include Fatal Attraction with Ken Howard, The Odd Couple with Marcia Wallace, The Allergist's Wife, Steel Magnolias (Ouiser), and The Vagina Monologues.
Dawn has starred as Gingy in Love Loss And What I Wore (by Nora and Delia Ephron) in New York, Chicago, Delaware, Scottsdale, and San Jose.
As a producer, Dawn brought two Movies of the Week to CBS: Surviving Gilligan's Island, and Return To The Bat Cave, with Adam West.
She ran a Film Actors Boot Camp for 7 years in Idaho.
On Sept 26th, the 50th
anniversary of the unexpected hit series Gilligan's Island, Dawn
Wells (who portrayed the lovable farm girl next door, Mary Ann
Sommers), will be releasing A Guide To Life: What Would Mary Ann Do?
through Taylor Trade Publishing and Rowman and Littlefield Publishing
Good day Dawn and thanks for participating in our interview
Norm: What would make you
turn down a role? As a follow up, how do you prepare
yourself for a role and how much research do you undertake for a
Dawn: There are several factors. Production company, the script, the character I was asked to play (no nudity), the director, budget, etc. It really depends on the script how I prepare myself.
If it is a period piece, more research is
needed. Of course, memorization. … and trying to get inside
the character as much as possible and what led up to the point the
script begins. I’ll study the relationship with other
characters and that is just the beginning. There is always
research along the way … and how much of myself I can bring into it
… and then of course is the Director who helps you form what you
Norm: When acting on stage, what tells you how your audience is going to behave within the first three minutes?
Dawn: I am not sure that the first 3 minutes are important. Sometimes the audience is restless and just getting settled into their seats. It is up to the actors to remove them from their reality and welcome them into your reality. Comedy is different. Sometimes it is just timing. If it is a good script, it is a wonderful experience to have an audience become one with the story.
Norm: What are the qualities in actors you most admire?
Dawn: Dedication. A work ethic. Respect. No prima donnas. The ability to share...to give and take. Each project has its own merit, challenges, and the actors together make it a whole. I would say selfishness is not something I admire. It is the sharing of the Authors words and communicating them to the audience that is most important.
Norm: Which directors inspired you to do your best work?
Dawn: There are many. I really can’t pinpoint anybody. When it becomes a team between the director and the actor it is magic.
Norm: Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the theater industry as it stands?
Dawn: The theatre has existed for centuries, and I think it has many centuries to come. There is nothing better than a live performance where you as the audience are suspended in the belief of the production…and it takes many to create that. Each night varies a bit and the interaction between the actors make it happen night after night. No chance of a retake. There is nothing more exciting.
Norm: What would you like to say to actors who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep acting, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Dawn: Number one an actor has to believe in themselves. Preparation and dedication are important. Voices and vision are usually the author and director. But never give up and it is a constant growth process. Don’t get stuck on your own importance. You are part of a team. Sometimes, but not often, you are challenged by having to do it “alone.” It is a theatre company and the whole is most important. If it’s your passion, never give up.
Norm: What served as the primary inspiration for your book A Guide To Life: What Would Mary Ann Do? What do you hope to accomplish with the book and what would you say is the best reason to recommend someone to read the book?
Dawn: My primary inspiration for the book was my relationship with the fans. Mary Ann was very important to three generations. Her moral compass was clear, respected, appealed to adults, boys and girls, and I believe we need a little bit of that today.
Norm: Could you briefly tell our audience something about your book?
Dawn: I feel I have written a book that looks at life through the eyes of the Mary Ann character, and how she observes the cultural shifts that have occurred since she was on the island. From the get-go, the Mary Ann character was different. She wasn't a Hollywood creation. She was molded by me.
The character was originally listed as
"And the rest" on the credits and became the fan favorite,
garnering more fan mail that even the title character. I think
Mary Ann is as respected today just as she was two generations ago,
because she is timeless. In a world where society has been
celebrating their "Bad girls," Mary Ann continues to be,
for many, the breathe of fresh air as the “Good Girl.” Im using
the voice I created in Mary Ann to reach people ... especially the
With over 100,000 fans on the FaceBook page and fan clubs
across the U.S., who still love Mary Ann, her ... or my ... following
has remained faithful. Pop culture is too powerful and too
pervasive to be controlled by parents, siblings or colleagues. It
can be confused with reality. This leaves young people in a
vulnerable position - they have to make decisions that are normally
beyond their maturity.
Norm: Where can we find out more about you and A Guide To Life: What Would Mary Ann Do?
Dawn: I am doing many public appearances and TV shows. I'll be doing press and appearances in New York, Chicago, Denver, Reno and, of course, Los Angeles. The information is out there. I also try and keep everyone informed through facebook.com/therealmaryann.
Norm: What is next for Dawn Wells?
Dawn: I have many
projects in development. At the moment it is the book. That
is where I am placing my full attention.I also have old home movies
of behind the scenes covering Gilligan’s Island, The Invaders, Love
Boat, Winterhawk, Boggy Creek, Stage productions etc. ...covering
my entire career. Quite fascinating to view and sparks memories
and stories from those productions. I am hoping to compile that
on to DVD with running commentary. There are also a couple of
TV projects being pitched to me as well.
Norm: As this interview
draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask
you? Please share your answer.
Dawn: I don’t know. That question should go out to the fans. They come up with some good ones. I would like to say that my fan base is very gracious, courteous, and respectful. Always sweet natured. I think Mary Ann has earned a certain amount of respect she/I have never done anything risqué or posed for pictures to be a shamed of later on.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors