From Soap Stars to Superstars: Find Out Which A-Listers Got Their Start on TV Soap Operas

From soap opera sweethearts like Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos to Oscar winners like Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio, see the Hollywood legends who made some of their first acting appearances on soaps.

By Samantha Bergeson Jun 09, 2021 1:00 PMTags
Watch: "Reunion Road Trip: All My Children" Stars Reunite 10 Years Later

Talk about a dramatic entrance!

Plenty of actors have launched their careers—and even their whole lives—on TV soap operas.

Justin Hartley found love three times with co-stars on various soaps, while All My Children alum Kelly Ripa fell for her onscreen love interest Mark Consuelos. The couple even celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in May 2021! "Hayley and Mateo. Because what does 'that's a wrap' even mean? #pinevalley #amc," Ripa adorably captioned a throwback photo of herself and Consuelos on set.

It's no wonder that Ripa will be returning for E!'s new series Reunion Road Trip on Thursday, June 10 to reunite with her former AMC co-stars like Rebecca BudigCameron MathisonDebbi MorganDarnell WilliamsSusan Lucci and Eva LaRue, who also is the godmother of Ripa and Consuelos' eldest child Michael Consuelos. It truly is a family affair!

Plenty of other A-listers have more reasons to thank soap operas.

Soap Opera Star Romances

The famed nightly dramas launched the careers of Morgan FreemanDemi Moore and Susan Sarandon. Child stars Lindsay LohanLacey Chabert and Amber Tamblyn all graced the metaphorical soap opera stage—Christina Applegate made her TV debut at just a few months old! Even Oscar winners Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio had minor appearances on different hit series back in the day.

So which of your favorite stars got their start in soap operas? Keep scrolling to find out! 

Brad Pitt

Ah yes, one of the world's biggest movie stars landed his first speaking role on Another World. It was for only two episodes that he played a young basketball player. Everyone has to start somewhere and then end up an Academy Award winner.

Elizabeth Banks

Elizabeth Banks appeared only in one scene of All My Children as none other than a waitress that Josh Duhamel's character is flirting with. The episode aired in 1999, two years before Banks starred in cult star-studded classic Wet Hot American Summer. 

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio is Hollywood gold, but few know he was on sitcoms like Roseanne and Growing Pains before his Titanic fame. He even made an appearance in soap opera Santa Barbara in a brief flashback sequence in 1990.


Demi Moore

Before becoming a screen icon, Demi Moore did her her time (1982-83, to be exact) on General Hospital. She played Jackie Templeton, an investigative reporter from New York City trying to track down her missing sister.

Julianne Moore

The Academy Award winner also landed a Daytime Emmy Award in 1988 for her portrayal of long-lost half-sisters Frannie and Sabrina Hughes on As The World Turns.

Kelly Ripa

The Live With Kelly and Ryan host played Hayley Vaughan on All My Children from 1990 to 2002. It was here that she met her real husband, Mark Consuelos—who also played her husband on the series

Mark Consuelos

Prior to being a famed baddie mob boss on Riverdale, Mark Consuelos got his first big break on All My Children in 1995.

John Stamos

Prior to being Uncle Jesse on Full House, heartthrob John Stamos played teen rocker Blackie Parrish on General Hospital. 

Josh Duhamel

 The Jupiter's Legacy star started out in soaps with the role of Leo du Pres on All My Children; his character eventually perished in a freak waterfall accident.

Eva Longoria

There's nothing like playing a crazy wife who was put away in a mental hospital after trying to kill her lover's first wife to kick off a career. At least, that's how Eva Longoria made it happen on The Young and the Restless from 2001 to 2003. 

Lindsay Lohan

Before capturing hearts with Parent Trap, a young Lindsay Lohan played the adorable Alli Fowler on Another World from 1996 to 1997. 

Ryan Phillipe

A then-18 year old Ryan Phillipe's role on One Life to Live as Billy Douglas made history as the first only gay teenager on daytime TV. 

Hayden Panettiere

From 1996 to 2001, the Nashville star played the first incarnation of Guiding Light's Lizzie Spaulding. 

Susan Sarandon

Susan Sarandon was the leading actress on A World Apart from 1970 to 1971, with a whopping 325 episodes total—and Sarandon appeared in every single one as main character Patrice Kahlman. 

Justin Hartley

Justin Hartley is heartbreaker actor Kevin Pearson in This Is Us and it seems art does imitate life: Hartley first got his start on Passions before wooing audiences in The Young and the Restless.

Chrishell Strause

The former Mrs. Justin Hartley is now a real estate agent on Selling Sunset, but before earning her realtor license, Chrishell Strause sold every line on The Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless.

Naomi Watts

Naomi Watts may be best known for thriller Mulholland Drive yet the talented star first started on Home and Away

Michael B. Jordan

Michael B. Jordan proved his talent on critically-acclaimed drama The Wire before landing a coveted role on All My Children as teen Reggie Montgomery. Chadwick Boseman originally was cast as Reggie but famously left following claims of perpetuating a stereotype. Jordan parted ways with AMC in 2006 and went on to star in Parenthood before captivating audiences with turns in Black Panther and Creed.

Nathan Fillion

You fell in love with him as Castle's sexy crime-solving mystery writer Richard Castle, but the fan-fave Canadian first made his name as favorite son Joey Buchanan on One Life to Live from 1994 to 1997. 

Christian Slater

The Dr. Death star was a high schooler with a secret in Ryan's Hope for 20 episodes in 1985.

Marcia Cross

Before she was a Desperate Housewife, before she was Linda on Everwood, heck, before she was eccentric Kimberly Shaw on Melrose Place, the redhead played a feisty archeologist named Katheryn "Kate" Sanders who came between Cord and Tina on One Life to Live from 1986 to 1987.

Laurence Fishburne

Morpheus began as a teenager with a three-year stint on One Life to Live, playing the role of Joshua Hall.

Heather Locklear

The Melrose Place star first captivated audiences as Sammy Jo Dean in Dynasty from 1981 to 1989. 

Tommy Lee Jones

Before he was married to a Coal Miner's Daughter or schooling aliens with Will Smith in Men in Black, the Harvard-educated actor played sneaky Dr. Mark Toland on One Life to Live from 1971 to 1975.

Taye Diggs

Taye Diggs already had found Broadway fame with Rent and Chicago but he made his TV debut with Guiding Light in 1997. 

Lacey Chabert

Pre-Mean Girls, Lacey Chabert was a famed child star in Party of Five and soap opera All My Children.

Colin Egglesfield

He may have wooed both Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin in Something Borrowed, but Colin Egglesfield was well-known to soap opera fans long before the hit 2011 romantic comedy. Egglesfield played Joshua Madden in All My Children from 2005 to 2009.

Sarah Michelle Gellar

During her time at All My Children, Sarah Michelle Gellar played Erica Kane's long-lost daughter, Kendall Hart. Now, Kendall had anger issues because she was the product of rape and pissed that her mom left her, so she was all about vengeance—locking her little sister in a crypt and trying to seduce her stepfather. In 1995, Gellar left along—with her Daytime Emmy.

Morgan Freeman

The iconic film star began his career in TV, with soap operas Ryan's Hope and Another World. 

Ted Danson

Mr. Mayor found his Good Place on soap operas! Ted Danson wowed on Somerset and The Doctors for years. 

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