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'Mary Ann' reflects on 50 years on Gilligan's Island

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Fifty years after seven lonely castaways were first shipwrecked on TV's original deserted island, Dawn Wells, the actor who played Mary Ann Summers says people around the world still recognize her from the hit show Gilligan's Island.

Wells talked to CBC Radio's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition in Vancouver about the impact the show's legacy has had on her life.

Q: It was a 3-hour cruise that lasted a lifetime....
We have never been off the air since 1964, 30 languages all over the world. Who would have thought it? They thought we wouldn't last 10 minutes. But you know, you can't tell when it was filmed. There's no clothes, or cars that date it. So a new crop of kids, who are eight or nine years old, think it's happening for the first time. I've never seen it in another language, I would love to. I don't know how they do the voices or what they do with the song. 

Q: Sadly though, you just lost the Professor, Russell Johnson. What were your fondest memories of him? 

Oh, we were very close. He had a great sense of humour. He was the funniest person on stage. You'd think it would have been Jim [Backus] who would keep you laughing. We were just soul mates somewhere - I can't explain it. He was just a lovely man. 

Q: You get recognized still as Mary Ann, how close is that character to you who you were? 
Quite a bit. A few the other characters were recast later, but the professor, the movie star, and me were original. I was just the girl from Kansas. Everyone else had a title, but what was I? Was I a secretary, a school teacher? So I think a lot of who I am, I brought to the character and I've been raised like a Mary Anne. My mother raised me with the Mary Anne values, so it's pretty close to who I am. 

Q: People still want pictures and autographs. How does that fame still feel 50 years later? 
I'm blessed. I could have done a million shows that nobody would know who I am. But I can't go to Beijing or the Soloman Islands without "Mary Anne, Mary Anne". It's fascinating. 

Q: How do you celebrate the milestone of 50 years since the show's first episode? 
There's only two of us left now. But Warner Bros has optioned a movie. They expect it out in 2015 and I'm just crossing my fingers that they treat it with the gentleness that Gilligan's Island was. I hope they don't make it a spoof, but I have no idea. 

Q: Three years of production and 47 years of re-runs defies logic. How do you explain that? 
It was magic. But you'll go back and watch The Three Stooges, or Abbott and Costello. If there's a classic comedy, that never goes out of date. It isn't wit where the jokes may change. It's physical comedy and that's different. 

Dawn Wells, and the S.S. Minnow, are in Vancouver for the Vancouver International Boat Show. It runs from Jan. 22 to 26, 2014, at BC Place and Granville Island.