Days of our Lives

Michael Desmond/NBC

Days of Our Lives has withstood the test of time.

With so many of its contemporaries having left the air in recent years, the long-running soap opera is still going strong, each romance, birth, death, fake death, kidnapping, secret [insert anything you can keep secret], serial killer, revenge plot, love triangle and feud entangling the people of Salem has served to keep the series' loyal viewership entranced for five decades now.

In fact, today marks the 50th anniversary of the daytime staple's premiere on NBC, meaning it's been on nearly every day—yes!—of your life if you're anywhere between the age of 50 and a few days old.

Over the course of 50 years and more than 12,700 episodes, Days has won 43 Daytime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Daytime Drama in 2015. Only General Hospital, which premiered in 1963, has been around longer among the daytime soaps that are still on the air, the oldest—Guiding Light and As the World Turns—having ended in 2009 and 2010.

The likes of Josh Taylor, Brian Datillo, Jason Cook, Mary Beth Evans, Deidre Hall, Kristian Alfonso, Melissa Reeves and John Aniston (yup, Jen's dad!) are household names among the Days-loving set but, as you know, soap stardom has also served as a starting-off point for dozens of actors before they popped up in prime time or on the big screen—or made for juicy side projects after the fact (James Franco playing a real nut on General Hospital, anyone?).

Farah Fath, Kirsten Storms, Nadia Bjorlin, Days of Our Lives cast


Whether you've been watching for five years or 50, you've seen hundreds, if not thousands, of preternaturally good-looking faces with decade-defining hairdos pass through Salem (the Springfield of the soaps), including 21-year veteran Alison Sweeney and those who had shorter stays in town, such as Rob Estes, Hunter Tylo and Patrick Muldoon.

But if you missed a patch of episodes here and there (or even if you didn't), you may not have noticed these six stars, all of whom are some of the most familiar of faces today.

Enjoy the trip down memory lane in honor of the 50th anniversary of Days of Our Lives:

Jensen Ackles, Days of our Lives


1. Jensen Ackles: Ooh, teen dream alert! No less than six actors have portrayed Eric Brady at various stages of life over the years and, long before Ackles scored Supernatural, he was one of them. From 1997 until 2000, the actor was teenage Eric, who made better decisions than twin sister Sami (Alison Sweeney) and ultimately fell head over heels for Nicole (Arianne Zucker). That didn't work out and he left town, only to return to Salem in 2012. As priest Eric, played by Greg Vaughn. But such is how the soap world turns...

Shirley Jones, Days of our Lives


2. Shirley Jones: Mama Partridge had a six-episode arc on Days in 2008 playing the since-deceased Colleen Brady (portrayed in flashbacks as a younger woman by Sweeney), who was thought to be the mother of John Black (Drake Hogestyn)—but isn't! We still don't know who John Black's real mother is! He's the Jon Snow of Salem!

Frances Fisher, Days of our Lives


3. Frances Fisher: Kate Winslet's mom in Titanic, Clint Eastwood's most famous ex and a U.K.-born actress you recognize from many more things showed up in Salem as Gladys Pierce, Sami and "Safe" Rafe's neighbor, for two episodes in 2011.

Ashley Benson, Days of our Lives


4. Ashley Benson: The Pretty Little Liars star was Abby Deveraux (who's now played by Kate Mansi) from 2004 until 2007, during which she had quite the turbulent romantic history for a teenager. First Josh (who disappears), then Max Brady and then, finally, herself as she heads to London to visit her parents, prolific Salem couple Jack Deveraux and Jennifer Horton, for the summer.

Jack Coleman, Days of our Lives


5. Jack Coleman: Maybe he looks a little different to you without his glasses? The actor who would become Heroes' HRG/Noah Bennet, Beckett's chief nemesis on Castle and a character actor who's known for recurring roles on The Office, Scandal, Burn Notice, The Vampire Diaries and more started off (literally, it was his first role on a TV series) as Jake Kositchek—the Salem Strangler, people!—in 1981. He was the first of seven serial killers (so far, anyway) to terrorize Salem, the most recent being the Necktie Killer.

Mila Kunis, Days of our Lives


6. Mila Kunis: Long before That '70s Show, Black Swan, Ted and marrying Ashton Kutcher, she was that kid from Days of Our Lives! She made her TV series debut at 11 on the soap playing Hope Williams—Salem Police Department detective; wife of Bo Brady; mother of Shawn-Douglas, Zach (deceased) and Ciara; step-mother of Chelsea; survivor of a fall from a car being driven by a drunk friend; and kidnapping victim once presumed dead when the cave she was held captive in exploded—as a little girl in a one-off appearance in 1994. Hope, who's been played as an adult by Kristian Alfonso since 1983, looked so unburdened by issues then...

Meanwhile, Days has been renewed until at least September 2016, and who knows what—or who—will happen to Salem between now and then. Happy 50th anniversary, Days of Our Lives!

(E! Online is a member of the NBCUniversal family.)

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