Soap Operas The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps  

Robert Wabash
24.3k votes 2.1k voters 136.5k views 85 items

List Rules Famous Actors Who Got Their Start On Soap Operas

This is a list of the best actors to start their careers on soap operas, as voted on by experts and fans alike. Like the best film actors who got famous on TV first, one can take many routes to become Hollywood stars. Some actors start out on in theatre, while others start out in modeling. Many notable actors though start their careers on daytime soap operas. Famous actors that started on soaps gained credits and notoriety on daytime television so they could move on to land bigger roles. While many of them are now bigshots in Hollywood, to some, they will always just be old soap opera stars. 

Soap operas are a guilty pleasure among many television viewers, whether they are during the daytime or at night. The stories may be far-fetched -- with the dead returning as their own twin and heiresses who have been switched at birth -- and even sexy, with several characters bedding one another at the same time -- but they are nonetheless intriguing escapism. The plots keep viewers glued to their television sets and the acting is larger than life. No one has ever said that a soap opera is boring.

The list contains many notable actors. Actors like Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Pitt, and Sarah Michelle Gellar all appeared on soap operas before moving on in their professional acting career. Latter generations of film and television fans will be surprised to find out a top-notch actor like Kevin Kline and Susan Sarandon got their starts as part of the cast of the long-forgotten "A World Apart"

This answers the question "What actors got their starts on soaps?" and "What actors started out in soap operas?"

Vote for the greatest actors who got their start on soaps. If you don't see your favorite performers on this list, feel free to add them so that other voters could chime in. And when you're done, please check out this list: Best Film Actors Who Got Famous On TV First.

Check out more lists like the actors who became musicians, actors who hate what made them famous, and the most intense method actors in the business
list ordered by

1
765 206
Morgan Freeman is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Another World (1982-84)

2
777 272
Jensen Ackles is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Benjamin Dunn added Days of Our Lives (1998-2002)

3
635 207
Leonardo DiCaprio is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Santa Barbara (1990)

4
542 187
Tommy Lee Jones is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
One Life to Live (1971-75)

5
441 165
James Earl Jones is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Guiding Light (1966)

6
454 182
Brad Pitt is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Another World (1987)

7
432 186
Tom Selleck is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
The Young and the Restless (1974-75)

8
255 76
Chris Hemsworth is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Home and Away (2004-07)

9
386 171
Kevin Bacon is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Search for Tomorrow (1979), Guiding Light (1980-81)

10
364 157
Julianne Moore is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
As the World Turns (1985-88)

11
356 167
John Stamos is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
General Hospital (1982-84)

12
326 157
Susan Sarandon is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Search for Tomorrow (1972)

13
310 157
Sarah Michelle Gellar is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
All My Children (1993-95)

14
298 152
Meg Ryan is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
As the World Turns (1982)

15
162 50
Heath Ledger is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Roar, Home and Away, Ship to Shore

16
255 121
Shemar Moore is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
JimJennings added Criminal Minds, The Young and the Restless, Birds of Prey

17
295 155
Laurence Fishburne is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
One Life to Live (1973-76)

18
267 136
Ray Liotta is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Another World (1980-81)

19
319 177
Nathan Fillion is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
One Life to Live (1994-97)

20
264 142
Marisa Tomei is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
As the World Turns (1984)

21
228 119
Josh Duhamel is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Fanboy & Chum Chum, Las Vegas, All My Children

22
251 143
Courteney Cox is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Friends, Family Ties, Cougar Town

23
123 41
Kathy Bates is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
MarybethKramer added American Horror Story, Six Feet Under, NYPD Blue

24
217 127
Viggo Mortensen is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Search for Tomorrow, Filmland, Cinema 3

25
204 135
Hayden Panettiere is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Heroes, Nashville, Malcolm in the Middle

26
171 105
Lori Loughlin is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
hiitsjustme added Full House, 90210, The Edge of Night

27
216 149
Demi Moore is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
If These Walls Could Talk, Eric B, The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet

28
113 53
Russell Crowe is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Neighbours, The Late Show, The Young Doctors

29
181 121
Ed O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Modern Family, Married... with Children, Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil

30
193 134
Kathleen Turner is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
The Doctors

31
178 120
Christian Slater is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
My Own Worst Enemy, The Forgotten, Breaking In

32
189 139
Ving Rhames is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Another World, Zombie Apocalypse, Monday Mornings

33
167 119
Robin Wright is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
House of Cards, Santa Barbara, A TV Dante

34
180 136
Kyra Sedgwick is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
The Closer, Amazing Stories, Another World

35
119 78
Liam Hemsworth is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added The Elephant Princess

36
160 125
Kelsey Grammer is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Cheers, Frasier, Medium

37
157 123
Angela Bassett is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
American Horror Story, ER, Ryan's Hope

38
172 139
Eva Longoria is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
ginac02013 added Desperate Housewives, General Hospital, The Young and the Restless

39
164 134
Kevin Kline is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Great Performances

40
162 135
Teri Hatcher is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Desperate Housewives, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Capitol

41
85 65
Naomi Watts is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Sleepwalkers, Hey Dad..!, Brides of Christ

42
75 55
Amanda Seyfried is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
MarybethKramer added Veronica Mars, Big Love

43
137 131
Ryan Phillippe is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Damages, Secrets and Lies

44
142 137
Phylicia Rashād is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
The Cosby Show, Little Bill, Do No Harm

45
113 105
Donna Mills is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
hiitsjustme added Knots Landing, Love Is a Many Splendored Thing, Alice in Wonderland

46
128 124
Amber Tamblyn is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
House, Two and a Half Men, General Hospital

47
75 63
Isla Fisher is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Home and Away, Oliver Twist, Paradise Beach

48
71 59
Simon Baker is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added The Mentalist, The Guardian, Into the West

49
128 134
Jane Krakowski is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
30 Rock, Ally McBeal, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

50
62 54
Judith Light is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
MarybethKramer added Who's the Boss?, Ugly Betty, One Life to Live