soap operas The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps  

Robert Wabash
24.1k votes 2.1k voters 136.4k 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
760 206
Morgan Freeman is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Morgan Freeman Another World (1982-84)

2
775 272
Jensen Ackles is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Benjamin Dunn added Jensen Ackles Days of Our Lives (1998-2002)

3
632 207
Leonardo DiCaprio is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Leonardo DiCaprio Santa Barbara (1990)

4
540 187
Tommy Lee Jones is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Tommy Lee Jones One Life to Live (1971-75)

5
439 165
James Earl Jones is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
James Earl Jones Guiding Light (1966)

6
450 181
Brad Pitt is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Brad Pitt Another World (1987)

7
431 186
Tom Selleck is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Tom Selleck The Young and the Restless (1974-75)

8
252 76
Chris Hemsworth is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Chris Hemsworth Home and Away (2004-07)

9
385 171
Kevin Bacon is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Kevin Bacon Search for Tomorrow (1979), Guiding Light (1980-81)

10
362 157
Julianne Moore is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Julianne Moore As the World Turns (1985-88)

11
354 167
John Stamos is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
John Stamos General Hospital (1982-84)

12
325 157
Susan Sarandon is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Susan Sarandon Search for Tomorrow (1972)

13
307 157
Sarah Michelle Gellar is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Sarah Michelle Gellar All My Children (1993-95)

14
296 152
Meg Ryan is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Meg Ryan As the World Turns (1982)

50 Famous Actors Who Started in Daytime Soaps

15
254 121
Shemar Moore is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
JimJennings added Shemar Moore Criminal Minds, The Young and the Restless, Birds of Prey

16
160 50
Heath Ledger is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Heath Ledger Roar, Home and Away, Ship to Shore

17
293 155
Laurence Fishburne is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Laurence Fishburne One Life to Live (1973-76)

18
265 136
Ray Liotta is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Ray Liotta Another World (1980-81)

19
317 177
Nathan Fillion is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Nathan Fillion One Life to Live (1994-97)

20
262 142
Marisa Tomei is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Marisa Tomei As the World Turns (1984)

21
227 119
Josh Duhamel is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Josh Duhamel Fanboy & Chum Chum, Las Vegas, All My Children

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22
247 143
Courteney Cox is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Courteney Cox Friends, Family Ties, Cougar Town

23
121 41
Kathy Bates is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
MarybethKramer added Kathy Bates American Horror Story, Six Feet Under, NYPD Blue

24
215 127
Viggo Mortensen is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Viggo Mortensen Search for Tomorrow, Filmland, Cinema 3

25
203 134
Hayden Panettiere is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Hayden Panettiere Heroes, Nashville, Malcolm in the Middle

26
168 105
Lori Loughlin is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
hiitsjustme added Lori Loughlin Full House, 90210, The Edge of Night

27
214 149
Demi Moore is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Demi Moore If These Walls Could Talk, Eric B, The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet

28
112 53
Russell Crowe is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Russell Crowe Neighbours, The Late Show, The Young Doctors

Longest Running US Soap Operas

29
179 121
Ed O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Ed O'Neill Modern Family, Married... with Children, Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil

30
191 134
Kathleen Turner is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Kathleen Turner The Doctors

31
176 120
Christian Slater is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Christian Slater My Own Worst Enemy, The Forgotten, Breaking In

32
187 139
Ving Rhames is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Ving Rhames Another World, Zombie Apocalypse, Monday Mornings

33
166 119
Robin Wright is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Robin Wright House of Cards, Santa Barbara, A TV Dante

34
178 136
Kyra Sedgwick is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Kyra Sedgwick The Closer, Amazing Stories, Another World

35
117 77
Liam Hemsworth is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Liam Hemsworth The Elephant Princess

The Greatest Characters We Watched Grow Up on TV

36
159 124
Kelsey Grammer is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Kelsey Grammer Cheers, Frasier, Medium

37
156 122
Angela Bassett is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Angela Bassett American Horror Story, ER, Ryan's Hope

38
170 138
Eva Longoria is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
ginac02013 added Eva Longoria 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
Kevin Kline Great Performances

40
161 134
Teri Hatcher is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Teri Hatcher Desperate Housewives, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Capitol

41
84 64
Naomi Watts is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Naomi Watts Sleepwalkers, Hey Dad..!, Brides of Christ

42
74 54
Amanda Seyfried is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
MarybethKramer added Amanda Seyfried Veronica Mars, Big Love

The Most Horrible TV Character Personalities Ever

43
136 130
Ryan Phillippe is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Ryan Phillippe Damages, Secrets and Lies

44
141 136
Phylicia Rashād is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Phylicia Rashād The Cosby Show, Little Bill, Do No Harm

45
111 105
Donna Mills is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
hiitsjustme added Donna Mills Knots Landing, Love Is a Many Splendored Thing, Alice in Wonderland

46
126 124
Amber Tamblyn is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Amber Tamblyn House, Two and a Half Men, General Hospital

47
74 62
Isla Fisher is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Isla Fisher Home and Away, Oliver Twist, Paradise Beach

48
70 58
Simon Baker is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
dee123 added Simon Baker The Mentalist, The Guardian, Into the West

49
127 133
Jane Krakowski is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Jane Krakowski 30 Rock, Ally McBeal, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

50
116 124
Mark Hamill is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Actors to Start Their Careers on Soaps
Mark Hamill Batman: The Animated Series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Adventure Time