Some stars shoot to stardom as kids or in a groundbreaking film. But some others got their start the old-fashioned way: by working really hard, taking a bunch of roles, and hoping for the best. Most of these actors did a stint or two on a soap opera along the way. Weekly soaps have been a jumping off point for some of the biggest celebrities in the world, believe it or not.
Soaps are known for being the ultimate in crazy drama. Falling down elevator shafts? Yup. Finding your long lost twin? Oh, yeah. Being in a train accident, a plane accident, and a car accident all in the same year? You betcha! These juicy storylines prepped and primed some of the biggest stars in the world to act out anything. Here are some of the most famous celebs that got their start on dramatic daytime TV!
1. Josh Duhmal, All My Children (1999-2002)
Duhmal played beloved con artist Leo du Pres in the daytime soap for three years. His work was so good that he won a Daytime Emmy for Oustanding Supporting Actor for the role! It was the actor’s very first role in film or TV and it set the stage for a long career. He went on to more TV work, like the show Las Vegas, and work in the Transformers films.
2. Julianne Moore, As The World Turns (1985-1988)
Moore didn’t just play one soap opera role, but two in the same show! She played Frannie Hughes and Sabrina, her British half-sister… and cousin! That’s true soap opera juiciness there. Moore won a Daytime Emmy for her portrayal of the two roles for “Outstanding Ingenue,” an award you’d definitely only win at a soap opera awards show. Moore is now one of the biggest stars in the world and in 2014 she traded in her Daytime Emmy for an Academy Award for Best Actress for the film Still Alice.
3. Kelly Ripa, All My Children (1990-2002)
Ripa played her breakout role as Hayley Vaughan for 12 years on the venerable soap! Ripa transitioned her career to hosting a morning show in various incarnations since 2001. She also found love on the soap — her on-screen love interest was played by Mark Conseulos who became her real-life love. The two have been married for over 20 years and I’m sure their love isn’t as dramatic as their characters!
4. Hayden Panettiere, One Life to Live (1994-1997)
Many remember Panettiere as the coach’s daughter in Remember the Titans but that wasn’t the actress’s first role. She originally appeared as Sarah Roberts when she was only five years old. She followed that up with another soap opera gig before landing her breakout role as Cheryl Yoast in the Remember the Titans. From there she’s only gone up — becoming the focus of saving the world (save the cheerleader, save the world!) on Heroes and slipping into a nighttime soap for the country music drama Nashville.
5. Lindsay Lohan, Another World (1996-1997)
Lohan played one of the many Alli Fowlers on the soap Another World. The role was just a pit stop on the way to childhood fame. The next year she made her big screen debut in the film that made her a star, The Parent Trap. She made plenty of films as a child and young adult until she hit a little rough patch in her life. She hasn’t acted much in the last few years, focusing more on her weird accents and personal drama that could rival a soap!
6. Ryan Phillippe, One Life to Live (1992-1993)
Phillippe played Billy Douglas on the soap, and his role was very notable because he played the first openly gan teenager featured on a TV series. Pretty groundbreaking stuff! The show depicted the surrounding homophobia that the teen faced and his relationships. Since the important role, Phillippe has been a mainstay in film and television, starring in classics like Cruel Intentions and Stop-Loss.
7. Meg Ryan, As the World Turns (1982-1984)
Ryan played Betsy Stewart, one half the soap opera super couple of “Betsy and Steve.” The pair’s nuptials remains the second most-watched hour in soap opera history! Ryan left the soap that year and got her big-screen breakout in Top Gun just two years later. The rest is movie history as Ryan became a Tinseltown darling, starring in basically everything the ’90s and early ’00s had to offer.
8. Alec Baldwin, The Doctors (1980-1982)
Baldwin played diabolical Billy Aldrich on the short-lived soap (well, 20 years is considered short-lived for a soap opera!). When the show shuttered in 1982 due to low ratings, Baldwin jumped to wherever he could find work, including the soap Knots Landing. Now Baldwin is one of the biggest comedy forces in the world and known for his work on 30 Rock and for his current Donald Trump impersonation on Saturday Night Live.
9. David Hasselhoff, The Young and the Restless (1975-1982)
Before he was running on the beach in slow-mo on Baywatch, he was Dr. Snapper Foster on a daytime soap opera. If that’s not a soap opera name then I don’t know what is. Hasselhoff became the “most watched man in TV” for reason — right after he left the soap he joined the show Knight Rider, followed then by Baywatch. He’s been on television and in movies ever since, always working in some capacity.
10. Ray Liotta, Another World (1978-1981)
Before he was playing gangsters and wise guys, Liotta was just a guy on a soap opera. He played Joey Perrini on Another World for a few years, leaving the show to pursue a career in film. The gamble worked out for him and he’s gone on to star in hit films like Goodfellas and Field of Dreams.
11. Ricky Martin, General Hospital (1994-1996)
In his years before he was “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” he was Puerto Rican singer Miguel Morez on General Hospital. He had long flowing locks and looked every bit the part of a ’90s heartthrob. Soon after, his solo efforts blew up and he had one of the biggest songs on the planet. He’s still making music and appears on TV occasionally, like when he participated as a coach on The Voice Australia.
12. Sarah Michelle Gellar, All My Children (1993-1995)
Gellar was the first Kendall Hart on the show, the daughter of soap opera character superstar Erica Kane. The role garnered her a Daytime Emmy award for Outstanding Younger Actress before she left the series. It was two years later that Gellar would go on to star in her defining role: Buffy Summers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s been in all kinds of things since, from her status as a mid-’90s teen queen to more mature TV roles in the last few years.
13. Jensen Ackles, Days of Our Lives (1997-2000)
Nowadays, the hunky Texan is known for his role on The CW hit Supernatural, but once upon a time he was a soap star. He earned a few Daytime Emmy noms for his work on the show before he departed in 2000. It was three years later that he would join The WB/The CW family, first guest starring on Dawson’s Creek and Smallville before landing his own show in 2005. He’s been on Supernatural since then, with the show still going strong in its 13th season.
14. Demi Moore, General Hospital (1982-1983)
When Moore was just starting out, she spent a year on General Hospital as investigative reporter Jackie Templeton. Her career blew up in the next year when she starred in Blame it on Rio, catapulting her to ’80s brat-pack fame. She’s been acting since, though she’s slowed down in the last few years.
15. Brad Pitt, Another World (1987)
Pitt’s very-first speaking role on television was on the soap opera Another World. While his gig was short-lived (only two episodes), it was the role that helped him get other TV work and turn him into the star he is today. He did work as a guest star on TV and in bit roles on film until he finally had his breakout moment in 1991’s Thema & Louise. He’s only become more famous since — becoming one of the most recognizable actors on the planet.
16. John Stamos, General Hospital (1982-1984)
For a few years, feather-haired Stamos played Blackie Parrish on General Hospital. In the show, he was a musician, starting the band “Blackie and the Riff Raff,” though they were no “Jessie and the Rippers.” After a few failed sitcoms post-his soap days, he landed his big break: Full House. Most fans have known Stamos as Uncle Jesse from the show, a moniker he’s definitely never going to escape.
17. Leonardo DiCaprio, Santa Barbara (1990)
After appearing mainly in commercials, a young DiCaprio had a brief stint on Santa Barbara as Mason Capwell. This role got him his first awards recognition, as he got a nomination for a Young Artist Award. This helped propel his career, and the next year he got his breakout TV role on Growing Pains. It’s all history from there for one of the most celebrated actors of all time. He’s appeared in countless amazing films and won countless awards and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.