“Soap operas are such a great way to break-in to the industry.”
Making it big in Hollywood is no easy feat and requires a lot of hard work along the way. Before stars can make it to the big screen, they hone their skills with a variety of projects and for a surprising number of celebs, their career started with a soap opera! With an intense filming schedule and a hefty amount of dialogue to memorize each day, soap operas have proven to be the perfect place for future stars to hone their craft.
From “Days of Our Lives” to “The Young and the Restless,” soaps have helped launch the careers of major stars like Brad Pitt, Chris Hemsworth, and Demi Moore. After making their mark small screen, each took Hollywood by storm.
Find out which stars started on daytime television…
1. Brad Pitt
Before he was a star on the big screen, Brad Pitt appeared on two different soap operas. In 1987, he landed a two-episode role on “Another World” before being featured on “Dallas” later that year until 1988.
“I’m just a dork from Missouri who had no training. I just couldn’t believe my luck,” Brad said on the “Story of Soaps” documentary.
Michael B. Jordan began his career on “All My Children,” playing reformed gang member Reggie from 2003 to 2006. He actually took over the role from his future “Black Panther” costar Chadwick Boseman when he departed the series after a short time on set.
“I’m younger than Chad, and I was coming into ‘All My Children’ — wide open, still learning. I was playing this role not knowing that a lot of the things I was going through were because of what he’d already done for me,” Michael told The Wrap.
Julianne Moore got her start on “As The World Turns” but didn’t just land one role — she landed two! From 1985 to 1988, she played the role of both Frannie Hughes and her half-sister Sabrina, which eventually earned her a Daytime Emmy. She even reprised her role during the show’s final season in 2010.
“When I was on ‘As the World Turns,’ I was so excited when they wrote two parts for me — the classic twin-sister role, the good and the evil one — and I couldn’t wait to do it. I was so excited, and then I realized it was super boring to act by myself,” Julianne said during the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2015.
4. John Stamos
John Stamos earned his heartthrob status while starring on “General Hospital” from 1982 to 1984. Things happened quickly for the actor, who says he auditioned on a Monday, shot his first episode that Wednesday and it aired the following week. Although his character Blackie was only supposed to be around for a short time, his stint on the show got extended, perhaps with a little help from his mom!
“All the stars lined up. I auditioned and my character was supposed to be knocked off. I was a street urchin…My mother wrote letters…to ABC saying how great the character was. I just ate it up. I loved every minute of it,” John said on the “Carlos Watson Show.”
Chris Hemsworth landed his first major role on Australian soap opera “Home and Away” back in 2004. He played hunky lifeguard Kim Hyde where he saved lives, survived heartbreak, battled a drug addiction and navigated a rocky relationship with his father. He remained on the show until 2007, when he moved to America to focus on his film career. While he had earned fame for his role, the transition to other projects wasn’t as easy as he had hoped.
“I did get the recognition of: ‘You’re famous’. I wouldn’t say it came with a whole lot of respect, though. I wasn’t considered an artist or actor. But, you know, it’s a soap opera. That’s kind of the universal opinion people have on that. I mean, I have a huge amount of respect for the show. I think it’s harder than just about anything. It’s 20 scenes a day and they’re not the greatest scripts at times,” Chris told the Associated Press.
6. Demi Moore
When Demi Moore was 19, she landed her breakout role on “General Hospital.” She reportedly beat out 1,000 other actresses for the coveted role of Jackie Templeton. From 1982 to 1984, Demi played the investigative reporter who showed up in search of her missing sister.
Margot Robbie got her start on Australian soap opera “Neighbours.” From 2008 to 2011, Margot portrayed Donna Freedman, even though she was only supposed to be a guest character. During her three years on the show, her character went from creepy stalker to a kooky, overzealous friend who experienced everything from stealing a police car to her husband’s death.
“‘Neighbours’ was the best training ground ever but more than that it was the best kind of family atmosphere because you all have one green room. You’re all in it together, there’s like 30 cast members and you’re together all the time. Day-in, day-out,” she told Vice.
8. Eva Longoria
Eva Longoria landed one of her first roles in a guest spot on “General Hospital” before joining the cast of “The Young and the Restless” the following year. While she was a regular on the show, it wasn’t actually enough for her to pay her bills and she had to keep her side job as a headhunter.
“I was a headhunter while I was on ‘The Young and the Restless.’ I was doing it out of my dressing room. It wasn’t until two years into ‘The Young and the Restless’ that I was actually able to live off just acting,” Eva told Entertainment Weekly.
Lindsay Lohan had been working as a child model for years when she made her television debut on “Another World.” The then 10-year-old actress portrayed Alli Fowler on the soap from 1996 to 1997 before landing her breakthrough role in “The Parent Trap” and skyrocketing to stardom.
10. Ryan Phillipe
Ryan Phillipe’s first professional acting gig was on “One Life To Live” from 1992 to 1993. At the time, Ryan’s role as Billy Douglas was groundbreaking as he portrayed the first openly gay teenager on daytime TV.
“I remember the fan mail that we would get, my mother and I would get, from gay teenagers or from parents of gay teenagers who found a way in to relate to or talk to their child through the show. Entertainment media can do those things, it can make people think differently or see a different side of something and I do remember and appreciating that — even back then when I was only a teenager myself… I’m proud to have done it, I’m proud that that’s something I can say was a part of my career,” Ryan told TooFab.
11. Vivica A. Fox
Vivica A. Fox’s first roles on television were a part of several different soap operas. She first appeared on “Days of Our Lives” in 1988 and then joined the cast of “Generations,” which was the first soap to feature a Black family. Vivica later joined the cast of “The Young and the Restless” from 1994 to 1995.
“I was green but very happy — and with a really big weave. It changed perceptions. I was happy to see us not be the maid or the best friend,” Vivica said on “The Story of Soaps.”
12. Allison Janney
Allison Janney appeared on “Guiding Light” from 1994 to 1995, where she portrayed a maid named Ginger. Not only did Allison get to show off her impression of a Brooklyn accent, but it was also the first job she actually was making money as an actress.
“The first job where I actually made money was on ‘Guiding Light,’ the soap opera. And I played a maid. My name was Ginger, and I had a Brooklyn accent—a really bad one, if I remember correctly. But I was thrilled that I had gotten a job where I could pay my rent in New York City,” Allison told W Magazine.
13. Bryan Cranston
When Bryan Cranston was in his 20s, he landed a role on “Loving,” which he says “really tested” himself as a performer. He later continued his soap opera career when he was cast on “One Life to Live.”
“I was 25 years old when I got the job on ‘Loving.’ It felt like I crossed a threshold. This genre, this job invited me in and put me to work like nobody’s business…It made me feel accomplished,” Bryan said on ‘The Story of Soaps.’
14. Josh Duhamel
Josh Duhamel got his start on “All My Children,” where he played Leo du Pres from 1999 to 2002. Josh credits the show with giving him his break but he eventually left to pursue other acting opportunities. Almost a decade after his departure, he made a return to the show for a brief appearance before the show went off the air.
“Soap operas are such a great way to break-in to the industry. The diminishing landscape of daytime TV means it’s going to be harder for young talent to get discovered,” Josh told Entertainment Weekly.
Hayden Panettiere followed in her mom’s soap opera footsteps when she was cast on “One Life to Live” at just five-years-old. She played Sarah Roberts on the show from 1994 to 1997 before going on to play Lizzie Spaulding on “Guiding Light.”
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