From Soap Star To Superstar: 12 of the Most Surprising Actors Who Started on Daytime TV

John Stamos, Demi Moore, Meg Ryan collage
Everett Collection

Like TV Westerns of the 1950s and 1960s, many of today’s Hollywood A-listers got their start on soaps. Here we showcase 20 of the most surprising.


Alec Baldwin

DOCTORS, Alec Baldwin (1980-82), 1963-82, photo taken fall of 1980

Everett Collection

The two-time Emmy winner for 30 Rock and 17-time host of Saturday Night Live has a long history with the Peacock Network. The eldest Baldwin brother’s very first role was a two-year stint on the NBC daytime soap The Doctors, before his career took off with roles in Knots Landing, Beetlejuice and Working Girl.

Brad Pitt

People magazine’s two-time sexiest man alive started off as a hunky jock named Chris in two 1987 episodes of Another World — his first speaking role. From there, the young Pitt moved on to the nighttime soap Dallas for a four-episode stint as Randy, Charlie Wade’s boyfriend. In the 30 years since, Pitt has built up quite a resumé as a versatile actor and producer, earning himself an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a whole host of other prestigious awards.

David Hasselhoff

THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, David Hasselhoff, 1973-

Everett Collection

Before the Hoff owned the world’s coolest talking car on Knight Rider, ran slo-mo down the Baywatch beach, or used his music to help bring down the Berlin Wall, the handsome leading man was a plucky but poor med student on The Young and the Restless. Hasselhoff played Snapper Foster for nearly seven years before leaving the soap, and in gratitude to the show that gave him his start, he returned for a few memorable episodes in 2010.

Demi Moore

GENERAL HOSPITAL, Demi Moore, (1982-83), 1963-.

ABC/Courtesy Everett Collection

Moore was a fresh-faced starlet when she arrived in Port Charles as an investigative reporter from New York City in search of her missing sister. The brunette beauty didn’t stay on General Hospital for long: Stardom was calling, and with her role in St. Elmo’s Fire, she earned her membership in the Brat Pack.

John Stamos

GENERAL HOSPITAL, from left: Sharon Wyatt, John Stamos, (1982), 1963- , /

ABC /Courtesy Everett Collection

Before he was Dr. Brock Holt at the C.U.R.E. Institute Hospital (Scream Queens), he was Dr. Tony Gates at County General Hospital (ER). And well before he was at County General, he was on General Hospital — but not as a doctor. Stamos started off his career on the soap as Blackie Parrish, a street kid turned foster kid to a couple whose daughter disappeared. He played the role from 1982-84, was nominated for a Daytime Emmy in 1983, and won Soapy Awards for his performance in both 1983 and ’84. He went on to a successful TV career that’s still thriving today.

Julianne Moore

AS THE WORLD TURNS, Julianne Moore, Bill Shanks, 1986. (1956-2010.)

CBS/Courtesy: Everett Collection

Long before the crimson-haired beauty won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Still Alice (2015), she won a Daytime Emmy in 1988 for Outstanding Ingénue in a Drama Series for her work on As the World Turns. One of Moore’s earlier acting roles was Frannie Hughes and Frannie’s half-sister and cousin (yes, you read that right) Sabrina on the soap.

Kelly Ripa

ALL MY CHILDREN, center, from left: Kelly Ripa, Mark Consuelos, 1996, 1970-2011.

Robert Milazzo/ABC /Courtesy Everett Collection

She’s been the host of Live! With Kelly (and its many incarnations, with multiple cohosts, currently with husband Mark Consuelos) since 2001. That’s a longtime gig, for sure — but so was her first major acting role. Ripa got her start playing the rebellious, popular party girl Hayley Vaughan on ABC’s All My Children in 1990 — that role lasted until 2002 (and she made a two-episode return in 2010). Bonus fact, she met her hubby on the show.

Kevin Bacon

After Bacon made his debut in 1978’s Animal House, he moved on to soaps. He had a short stint on Search for Tomorrow in 1979 and appeared in seven episodes of Guiding Light in 1980 and ’81 as teenage alcoholic Tim Werner. From there, his career took off; some of his notable achievements include Footloose, A Few Good Men, JFK, the TV series The Following, multiple awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Meg Ryan

AS THE WORLD TURNS, Frank Runyeon, Meg Ryan, Scott Bryce, (1983), 1956-2010.

CBS/Courtesy: Everett Collection

The three-time Golden Globe nominee is one of America’s favorite rom-com darlings (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, to name just a few), but before she went big-time on the silver screen, she was an American sweetheart on the small screen. After a few small roles in film and TV, she got her big break in 1982 as Betsy Stewart on As the World Turns. She played half of a popular supercouple — when Betsy wed her boyfriend Steve Andropoulos on the show in 1984, it was a huge TV event, bringing in over 20 million viewers.

Ray Liotta

ANOTHER WORLD, Ray Liotta, Bradley Bliss, (1980), 1964-99

Everett Collection

Liotta has enjoyed diverse roles like Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, a mobster in Goodfellas, and many, many roles as a cop — including his current gig on NBC’s Shades of Blue. But when Liotta was a young actor, he learned a few of the tools of his trade on the soap opera Another World, where he played blue-collar hunk Joey Perrini. Liotta appeared on the series from 1978-81 and left to try his luck in L.A.

Robin Wright

SANTA BARBARA, from left: Stephen Meadows, Robin Wright, 1984-1993.

New World Television/courtesy Everett Collection

Before Wright busted balls on House of Cards or stole our hearts as the ethereal Buttercup in The Princess Bride or as Jenny in Forrest Gump, the blond beauty starred as Kelly Capwell on the daytime soap Santa Barbara from 1984-88. Though Wright — a former model — was new to the craft of acting, she proved she had chops by earning three Daytime Emmy nominations for her work on the show.

Tommy Lee Jones

ONE LIFE TO LIVE, from left: Tommy Lee Jones, Lee Warrick, Jane Alice Brandon, (episode aired May 5, 1971), 1968-2013

Everett Collection

When the ruggedly good-looking Texan was a student at Harvard, he was friends with Al Gore, John Lithgow and Erich Segal, writer of the novel Love Story. In fact, Jones was the inspiration behind aspects of the book, and the weepy film version of the story was his first movie role. After graduation, Jones practiced his craft on the stage before earning the role of Dr. Mark Toland on One Life to Live, which he played from 1971-75 before heading to L.A.


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