‘Dawson’s Creek’: Mary Beth Peil Wasn’t Nearly As Old As Grams

In 1998 the hit television series Dawson’s Creek officially premiered. The show centered around a close-knit group of teenagers who lived in a small coastal town called Capeside. The series captured the lives of Joey Potter, Pacey Witter, and Dawson Leary and their group of friends as they tried their best to navigate high school and their young adult lives. The episodes illustrated the complexity that comes with not only getting through high school but preparing to leave it as well.

James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson, Michelle Williams, and Busy Phillips are just a few of the beloved actors who were cast in the award-winning show. The compelling show sadly came to an end in 2003. However, even when it left the air, the series continued to come up in conversation. From some of the most iconic television scenes to surprising fun facts about the show, there is still a lot to be said when it comes to Dawson’s Creek. Fans might be surprised to know one of the actors was a lot younger than her character.

Mary Beth Peil smiling
Mary Beth Peil | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Who did Mary Beth Peil play on the hit drama-series ‘Dawson’s Creek’? 

Mary Beth Peil was introduced on Dawson’s Creek as the loved and classic character Grams. Dawson Leary knew Grams first and foremost as just his neighbor, but that changed when Jen Lindley, Grams’ granddaughter, arrived in town. Grams found herself raising Jen, and Dawson and his crew found themselves with a new friend. Though it was not smooth sailing at first, or hardly ever, Grams was always there to help and offer grandmotherly advice. Once a nurse and a wife, the now-retired grams became a widow and found herself starting over as well. Her character was a huge hit amongst fans and viewers of WB’s series. Many people still shout out the classic character today. 

What might some fans and viewers be surprised to learn about Mary Beth Peil and her character on the show ‘Dawson’s Creek’?

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Though Peil’s “real name” on the show was Evelyn Ryan, most of the characters and cast referred to her as “Grams.” This was largely due to the fact that this was what Jen’s character knew her grandmother as, but it also seemed like a nod toward her grandparent-like demeanor that she was known for in the town. Not to mention her wardrobe was a testimony to her personality and fictional birth year. When the series had finally come to an end, the creators, cast, writers, and producers of Dawson’s Creek revealed some interesting information was revealed regarding Grams.

Though no specific numbers were shared, the staff of the show revealed that Peil was actually much, much younger than her character. Many found this ironic since so many of the core cast members were actually a lot older than the teenager-roles they were taking on. In the case of the Grams, it was the opposite. Though we don’t know specifically how old Grams is, based on her storyline and appearance it is safe to say she was intended to seem over 70. When Dawson’s Creek initially premiered, Peil would have only been about 58 years old. However, with the help of makeup and wardrobe, they were able to make Peil look the part of a legitimate granny, according to Buzzfeed.

Mary Beth Peil’s career outside of ‘Dawson’s Creek’? 

Peil’s character in Dawson’s Creek was probably one of her most memorable roles in her acting career. However, viewers and fans of the beloved series may be curious about her time off the series. Other than a brief appearance on Law & Order, prior to Dawson’s Creek, all of Peil’s experiences had been in the film industry. Jersey Girl and Reckless are two movies Peil was cast in during the early 1990s, according to IMDb.

The inconsistency between Peil’s age and the age of the fictional Grams on Dawson’s Creek becomes even more evident when you look at the tremendous amount of productions Peil went on to appear in after Dawson’s Creek came to an end. Peil is also well-known for her performance in the 2008 film Mirrors. She has also starred in Broadway productions, including Anastasia. Though people may have been surprised about Peil’s real age while on Dawson’s Creek, it is unlikely that people were surprised by her talent and skills.