Once upon a time, soap operas ruled daytime television, giving those who needed something to do in the middle of the day some intense drama. Back in the day, this particular television genre was a great launch point for a lot of today’s megastars, including a few Academy Award winners.
From Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio to Demi Moore and Sarah Michelle Gellar, these stars got their Hollywood start in daytime soaps. General Hospital, As The World Turns, and Days of Our Lives were a launching pad for many big acting careers. Keep going; you might be surprised by some of the big-name celebrities on this list!
John Stamos Was On General Hospital
Before gaining recognition as the hunky singer and uncle Jesse Katsopolis in the sitcom Full House, actor John Stamos was a bit more dramatic and a bit less funny. Stamos actually first gained recognition for his role in the longest-running serial drama General Hospital.
In the soap opera, Stamos played Blackie Parrish, Rick and Lesley Webber’s foster child. He played the role from 1982 until 1984, earning consecutive Daytime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in ’83 and ’84.
Susan Sarandon Was In A World Apart
Academy Award-winner Susan Sarandon didn’t get her start in award-winning films or cult classics like Rocky Horror Picture Show. Instead, daytime television fans might remember the actress as a soap opera star! From 1970 until 1971, Sarandon appeared as Patrice Kahlman in the soap A World Apart.
Unfortunately, this particular soap didn’t last long in its daytime time-slot. But, its cancelation might have been a blessing in disguise for Sarandon, as she was able to work on other projects, such as Atlantic City, a film with earned the actress her first Oscar nomination.
Heather Locklear Was In Melrose Place
Following her Razzie Award for Worst Actress, Heather Locklear rebooted her image. In 1993, she landed the role of Amanda Woodward in the soap opera Melrose Place, a spin-off of the beloved soap opera Beverly Hills, 90210. Originally, Locklear was only signed on for a four-episode contract.
But after her four-episode performance as Amanda, Locklear became a full-time cast member, staying on as part of the Melrose Place cast until the series cancellation in 1999. During her stint on the soap, Locklear was nominated for a series of awards, only winning the First Americans in the Arts Award for Best Actress in a Television Series.
Alison Sweeney Was In Days Of Our Lives
Allison Sweeney got her onscreen start as Samantha “Sami” Brady, the go-getter who does whatever it takes to get what she wants on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. Now, Sweeney didn’t portray this character for only a few years; her contract lasted from 1993 until 2003!
During her time on the soap opera, Sweeney wound up earning 13 award nominations, winning eight. Some of her wins include the Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress, a Soap Opera Digest Award for Favorite New Couple, and a Daytime Emmy Award for America’s Favorite Villain — Special Fan Award.
Meg Ryan Was On As The World Turns
Actress Meg Ryan is now known as one of the all-star rom-com queens in film. But, she didn’t get her start in blockbusters like Sleepless in Seattle. Instead, from 1982 to 1984, a young Ryan portrayed Betsy Stewart in the popular soap opera As The World Turns.
Maybe not so ironically, but Ryan’s character was actually part of a very popular love story arc. It seems as though Ryan knew what she was going to excel in when it came to acting!
Demi Moore Was In General Hospital
Demi Moore might be known as one of the members of the Brat Pack, but before she was starring in films such as St. Elmo’s Fire and About Last Night, she was getting her start in the soap opera General Hospital. For two years, Moore played the role of Jackie Templeton, an investigative reporter.
After her stint on the show, it didn’t take long for Moore to land film roles. A few years after leaving General Hospital, Moore landed the role of Molly Jensen in the romantic fantasy thriller film Ghost. The film earned the actress her first Golden Globe nomination.
Tom Selleck Was On The Young And The Restless
Tom Selleck found fame as Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV in the hit series Magnum, P.I. But before he was a private investigator, Selleck was part of one of the most popular soap operas on television, The Young and the Restless.
Now, he might be unrecognizable without his signature mustache, but Selleck once played the role of Jed Andrews on the drama. Of course, Selleck didn’t stay in this particular genre, expanding to sitcoms and police dramas, the work he is arguably most known for.
Ryan Phillippe Was On One Life To Live
Before breaking into film, Ryan Phillippe had the pleasure of playing the first openly gay teenager on not only daytime television but television in general. In the soap opera One Life to Live, Phillippe played Billy Douglas, a closeted jock and high school class president.
The character was Phillippe’s breakthrough role, one that he is very proud to have had the honor of portraying. Today, the actor isn’t really known for his soap opera appearances, but more so for the films Cruel Intentions, I Know What You Did Last Summer, the USA series Shooter, and the up-and-coming series Big Sky.
Mark Hamill Was In General Hospital
Mark Hamill has made a living off of his character Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars franchise. Not to mention the animated series he’s lent his voice to, like the Joker in Batman. But he had to work his way up to those parts.
And what better way to get a start than in a daytime soap opera? In the early 1970s, Hamill landed the role of Kent Murray in the popular soap General Hospital. It was only a few years later that the actor landed the role of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.
Sarah Michelle Gellar Was In All My Children
Before becoming known as Buffy Summers, Sarah Michelle Gellar was Kendall Hart on the soap opera All My Children. Playing the original character in her television debut, Gellar turned heads and began making a name for herself in the world of Hollywood.
For her performance, Gellar wound up winning the 1995 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series. Two years later, her career changed for the better. Gellar landed the role of Buffy Summers in the hit series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Leonardo DiCaprio Was In Santa Barbara
From July 30, 1984, to January 15, 1993, people tuned in to NBC to watch the dramatic lives of the wealthy Capwell family unfold in the soap opera Santa Barbara. What they probably didn’t realize, though, was that one of the minor characters was going to grow up to be one of the biggest names in Hollywood.
For five episodes, Leonardo DiCaprio played the role of the young Mason Capwell. A few years later, the young soon-to-be Academy Award Winning-actor began receiving worldwide recognition for his performances in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Titanic.
Julianne Moore Was In As The World Turns
Julianna Moore might have won an Academy Award for Best Actress in the film Still Alice, but she was recognized for something else long before her 2015 win. From 1985 until 1988, Moore was a regular on the soap opera As the World Turns as Frannie Hughes.
For her performance in the soap, Moore received her first and only Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series. Not bad for someone who had just graduated from college and was just getting into professional acting!
Brad Pitt Was On Another World
The soap opera Another World aired from 1964 unto 1999 for a total of 35 seasons. Lone and behold, the two-time Academy Award-winning actor Brad Pitt made his television debut in this particular daytime soap. For two episodes, Pitt played the character of Chris, a high school basketball player.
A few years after Pitt’s performance in Another World, he appeared in a few television series, but never as the lead character. It wasn’t until his “career-changing performance” in the 1992 film A River Runs Through It that Pitt began to make a name for himself in Hollywood.
Shemar Moore Was On The Young And The Restless
Before becoming one of the behavioral analysts on television for eight years, Shemar Moore played the role of Malcolm Winters on the popular soap opera The Young and the Restless. In 2005, Moore was done with the soap opera, wanting to spread his wings a bit.
That same year, the actor stepped onscreen as Special Agent Derek Morgan of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit in the hit drama series Criminal Minds. As it turned out, Moore has an affinity for long-lasting shows. He was part of the Criminal Minds cast for 11 seasons before moving on to star in S.W.A.T.
Lindsay Lohan Was In Another World
At the age of 10, actress Lindsay Lohan appeared in the soap opera Another World as Alexandra “Alli” Fowler. After landing the role, Soap Opera Magazine called her a seasoned entertainment veteran after her time working as a model and commercial actress.
Even so, Lohan didn’t gain a tween and teen audience until the year after she left Another World, when she landed the dual role of identical twins Annie and Hallie in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap.
Hayden Panettiere Was In One Life To Live
A young Hayden Panettiere might be recognized for her role in the Disney film Remember the Titians. But the actress was even younger when she first got her start in the entertainment industry. Aside from her advertisement work, Panettiere’s first onscreen acting gig was as Sarah Roberts in the soap opera One Life to Live.
That wasn’t the last time the Heroes star found herself in a soap opera. After her time on One Life to Live, Panettiere landed the role of Lizzie Spaulding, a young girl battling leukemia in Guiding Light.
Ricky Martin Was In General Hospital
While Ricky Martin might be better known for his work in the music industry, the singer was actually part of the General Hospital cast in 1994. In the soap, Martin played the role of Miguel Morez, a singer and bartender.
Unfortunately, Martin felt like an outsider on the set of the show, feeling a lack of chemistry with the rest of the cast. So, in 1995, he refocused his career, wanting to throw all he had into his music. As a result, A Medio Vivir was released.
Kevin Bacon Was In Search For Tomorrow
Before Kevin Bacon was trying to overrun a ban on dancing in Footloose or taking over the world in X-Men: First Class, he was breaking into daytime television as Todd Adamson in Search for Tomorrow. But his 1979 debut wasn’t Bacon’s only soap opera appearance.
A year later, fans of the actor watched him as the character, Tim, on the soap Guiding Light. But after seven episodes, Bacon wouldn’t be seen in a television series again until 1986, favoring the silver screen.
Kelly Ripa Was In All My Children
Before becoming known as a grade-A talk show host, Kelly Ripa was a troubled party girl on All My Children. For 12 years, Ripa played the role of Hayley Vaughan, finally leaving the role behind in 2002.
Aside from the experience the soap gave the aspiring newscaster, Ripa also left the set of All My Children with something else. The actress and Live! with Kelly and Ryan co-host actually met her husband Mark Consuelos on the soap opera! Ironically, the two were love interests on the soap.
Mark Consuelos Was In All My Children
In 1995, Mark Consuelos got his breakthrough role as Mateo Santos in the soap opera All My Children. Interestingly, Consuelos’ character isn’t the only one who fell for Hayley Vaughan. Well, technically, the actor fell for Kelly Ripa, and not the character.
Still, the on-screen lovers Mateo and Hayley turned in to the real-life couple of Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos. The two married in 1996, one year after Consuelos joined the cast of All My Children.
Michael B. Jordan Was In All My Children
Michael B. Jordan had a lot of practice in being an angsty character before portraying the villain Erik Killmonger in Black Panther. From 2003 until 2006, the Creed star was part of the dramatic cast of All My Children. In the soap opera, Jordan played the troubled teenager Reggie Montgomery.
Ironically, Jordan took over the part of Reggie after one of his former Black Panther co-stars left the show. After Jordan was released from his contract in 2006, it took a little before he was critically recognized. It wasn’t until his performance in the 2013 film Fruitvale Station that critics said he was “someone to watch.”
Nathan Fillion Was In One Life To Live
After moving to New York in 1994, Nathan Fillion quickly found himself part of the soap opera One Life to Live. Until 1997, Fillion played the role of 18-year-old Joey Buchanan, the son of the series original protagonists Victoria Lord and Joe Riley, Sr.
For his role in the soap, in 1996, Fillion was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series as well as a Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Younger Leading Actor.
Josh Duhamel Was In All My Children
Starting off his career as a model, in 1999, Josh Duhamel finally broke through into television. That year, he landed the role of Leo Du Pres in the popular soap opera All My Children. Duhamel wound up sticking with the character up until 2002 and his onscreen death.
He even wound up winning the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor for his performance. But this wasn’t the last time people saw the actor onscreen. After his time on All My Children, Duhamel ventured into film. Some of his more notable roles include Transformers, Life as We Know It, and You’re Not You.
Marisa Tomei Was In As the World Turns
New York actress Marisa Tomei landed her first gig in 1983, as Marcy Thompson Cushing in the soap opera As The World Turns. For two years, Tomei played the role of the teenager, turning her sites to other television ventures in 1985. After her time on the soap, Tomei moved to sitcoms and film, landing one high-profile role after the next.
One of her most well-known performances being Mona Lisa Vito in the 1992 film My Cousin Vinny. After the film was released, it didn’t take Tomei long to wow critics and viewers alike with her roles in The Wrestler, Cyrus, and Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Alec Baldwin Was In The Doctors
While actor Alec Baldwin is most likely best known for his comedic roles in works such as Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, Saturday Night Live, and It’s Complicated, he didn’t get his start as a funny man. Actually, it’s quite the opposite! Baldwin got his start in the entertainment industry on the set of the soap opera The Doctors.
Airing from 1963 until 1982, The Doctors was a medical soap opera set in the fictional hospital of Hope Memorial Hospital. For his part, Baldwin played the role of Billy Aldrich. a man who winds up dying because of a woman who takes a serum to stay younger.
Jensen Ackles Was In Days Of Our Lives
Jensen Ackles is best known for portraying Dean Winchester in the hit series Supernatural. But before he became a hunter of supernatural creatures, Ackles was none other than Eric Brady, a saintly character in the soap opera Days of Our Lives.
For his performance in the NBC soap opera, Ackles wound up winning a Soap Opera Digest Award for Best Male Newcomer. He then went on to earn three consecutive nominations for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series.
Amber Tamblyn Was In General Hospital
Actress Amber Tamblyn gained national attention as Emily Bowen, later known as Emily Quartermaine, on the soap opera General Hospital. She played the troubled teen from 1995 until 2001, when she left the show to pursue other opportunities.
After six years as Emily, Tamblyn went on to star in a few different television series. First, she portrayed the title character of Joan Girardi in Joan of Arcadia, a role for which she was nominated for both a Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe.
David Hasselhoff Was In The Young And The Restless
David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff wasn’t always the hunky lifeguard in Baywatch. His first onscreen career couldn’t have been more different, in fact. Before he was known for running in slow motion down a beach, The Hoff was known for his role as Dr. Snapper Foster in the soap opera The Young and the Restless.
Playing the character from 1975 to 1982, Hasselhoff eventually said goodbye to The Young and the Restless cast after many of the original characters were written out of the show.
Justin Hartley Was In Passions
Most know Justin Hartley as Kevin from the critically acclaimed series This Is Us. What a lot of those fans don’t know, though, is that the actor got his start in a different type of drama. From 2002 until 2006, Hartley portrayed Fox Crane in the NBC soap opera Passions.
Some years later, he joined the cast of The Young and the Reckless as Adam Newman. This particular role earned Hartley a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
Robin Wright Was In Santa Barbara
Actress Robin Wright might be known for her dramatic role in House of Cards and for shooting off orders to a farm boy in Princess Bride, but she got her start on a daytime soap opera. From 1984 to 1988, Wright played the role of Kelly Capwell, the daughter of the wealthy Capwell family in Santa Barbara.
Wright received numerous Daytime Emmy Award nominations for her performance as Kelly, finally winning a Soap Opera Digest Award in 1988 for Outstanding Heroine: Daytime.