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Top 10 Actors Who Got Their Start on Daytime Soaps

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script Written by Niki Neptune. Sometimes the road to the A-List includes a detour first into afternoon TV dramas. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Actors Who Got Their Start on Daytime Soaps. For this list, we’re taking a look at actors who paid their dues and honed their acting chops starring in soap operas before they really made it big in Hollywood. Special thanks to our users MikeMJPMUNCH, ninou78, filmfanatic101, Mar Brody, JK89 and nneptune for submitting the idea on our Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 Actors Who Got Their Start on Daytime Soaps

Sometimes the road to the A-List includes a detour first into afternoon TV dramas. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Actors Who Got Their Start on Daytime Soaps.

For this list, we’re taking a look at actors who paid their dues and honed their acting chops starring in soap operas before they really made it big in Hollywood. Most actors have to get their start somewhere, and while daytime soaps aren’t exactly the bedrock for groundbreaking material, they’re at least a step up from cheesy fast food commercials. Even Brad Pitt starred in a couple of episodes of “Another World,” though we are excluding him from this list as he only did two solitary episodes while tackling other projects as an up and coming actor.

#10: Ray Liotta as Joey Perrini #2
“Another World” (1964-99)

He may be best known for playing mobsters and tough guys, but this veteran actor didn’t get his start with intimidating roles. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Liotta had his small screen debut as Joey Perrini, on “Another World,” whose romance with one of the show’s female characters was complicated by the fact that they came from different backgrounds. It would be close to a decade before he landed the role of Henry Hill in “Goodfellas”, who was a mobster alongside the likes of Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. And while that role may have propelled him into the limelight, we can’t forget that he got his initial shine on with the “stay at home” crowd.

#9: Josh Duhamel as Leo du Pres
“All My Children” (1970-2011)

Back before Fergie’s husband was fighting Decepticons and playing a self-absorbed actor who falls for a commoner, he starred as Leo du Pres on one of TV’s longest running soap operas. The son of Vanessa du Pres, he shows up on the scene looking to con his way through life. As a series regular, he established a pretty strong fan base, particularly thanks to his on-again, off-again romantic storyline with Greenlee Smythe. The role even earned Josh Duhamel a Daytime Emmy in 2002 and despite the character’s death that same year, the actor returned to play the role – albeit briefly - in 2011.

#8: John Stamos as Blackie Parrish
“General Hospital” (1963-)

This Greek yogurt spokes-hunk wasn’t always everybody’s favorite rebellious uncle. At one point, he was a struggling actor who managed to land a recurring role on a daytime soap. In his breakout role during the early ‘80s, Stamos played Blackie Parrish, an orphaned street tough guy who gets taken in by a couple on the show. In typical soap opera fashion, Stamos’ character ends up accidentally killing his love interest and his character is sent to jail. Which is a tidy wrap up, since it allowed him to move on to “Full House” just a few years later. And the rest is, as they say, history.

#7: Tommy Lee Jones as Dr. Mark Toland
“One Life to Live” (1968-2012)

Before he was hunting wrongly accused fugitives and renegade space aliens, this Oscar-nominated actor honed his acting chops on Broadway before landing a spot on “One Life to Live” as Dr. Mark Toland. Back in the ‘70s, this no-nonsense tough guy took to the small screen to play a handsome doctor who was a smash hit with the ladies. Naturally, his character gets mixed up in extramarital affairs, a medical malpractice murder mystery, and blackmail. So, standard soap opera stuff. But with a TLJ twist.

#6: Ryan Phillipe as Billy Douglas
“One Life to Live” (1968-2012)

Back before he was pouting around on screen and impregnating his co-stars, Mr. Phillipe took on the groundbreaking role of Billy Douglas, one of the first openly gay teens on daytime T.V. His one year run on the long-running soap in the early ‘90s may have been brief, but it was definitely impactful. The plotline surrounding his character’s sexuality allowed “One Life to Live” to address issues such as homophobia and the spread of the AIDS epidemic at the beginning of the decade. Ryan Phillipe would go on to play manly-man heartthrobs, but it was his small screen role as a closeted teenager with a hateful father that would launch him into the public eye.

#5: Susan Sarandon as Patrice Kahlman
“A World Apart” (1970-71)

Years before “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” would become a cult hit, and way before “Thelma & Louise” reached icon status, this Oscar-winning actress played an unwed single mother on early morning television. And while baby mamas may not be a big deal to us nowadays, they were all but an embarrassment back in the day, when the world hadn’t quite evolved in its political views. The series itself was revolutionary, as its themes involved a number of social issues ranging from racism, to, well, pregnancy. Susan Sarandon’s turn as a single mother who decides to give up her infant child for adoption was heartbreaking. It also let us know she could master some pretty tough material.

#4: Kevin Bacon as T. J. ‘Tim’ Werner No. 2
“Guiding Light” (1952-2009)

There was a time when his degrees of separation led him back to daytime television. Although he’d already gotten a look playing a murdered teen in 1980’s “Friday the 13th”, he hadn’t quite broken into stardom yet. Following his role on the CBS soap, “Search for Tomorrow,” his acting journey would see him playing an alcoholic teenager suffering through unrequited love in the early ‘80s on “Guiding Light.” Soap opera teenagers usually have an entire slew of obstacles to overcome, including tracking down your girlfriend’s kidnapper and going to rehab to get help with your underage drinking, and Tim Werner was no exception. By the time Kevin Bacon landed his breakout role as a rebellious, dancing teenager in 1984’s “Footloose”, he’d already been shunned, stabbed, and rehabbed.

#3: Meg Ryan as Betsy Stewart Montgomery Andropoulos
“As the World Turns” (1956-2010)

She wasn’t always just America’s sweetheart; there was a time when she was one half of daytime TV super-couple, Steve and Betsy. Their on-again-never-really-off-again romance was fraught with obstacles, including Betsy’s marriage to another man. Not to mention the fact that the baby that may or may not have been her husband’s. The relationship would culminate in one of the most highly watched moments in soap opera history. Of course, Ryan would go on to leave the show and become a rom-com darling, and the character of Betsy would live on through a facially disfiguring car accident.

#2: Demi Moore as Jackie Templeton
“General Hospital” (1963-)

Her rise from ‘80s actress to 90s’ superstar to Ashton Kutcher’s ex-wife may have spanned decades, but it all started on the small screen. Her decision to drop out of high school at the age of 16 thankfully worked out for her, and she landed a role on “General Hospital” as a spitfire journalist on the hunt for her missing sister in the early ‘80s. Although her character falls in love with a spy, Demi Moore’s stint on the show was brief. Which is a good thing, since it freed her up to firmly entrench herself in the “Brat Pack” and star in a series of movies with the same actors over and over again.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Sarah Michelle Gellar as Kendall Hart
“All My Children” (1970-2011)
- Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Canard
“Another World” (1964-99)
- Eva Longoria as Isabella Braña
“The Young and the Restless” (1973-)
- David Hasselhoff as Dr. William ‘Snapper’ Foster
“The Young and the Restless” (1973-)

#1: Julianne Moore as Frannie & Sabrina Hughes
“As the World Turns” (1956-2010)

While there are more than a few A-list actors who found early success on daytime soaps, few have done it with such a quintessential soap opera story arc. In the mid-to-late ‘80s, Julianne Moore took on the role of Frannie Hughes, a young woman who discovers that she has a half-sister after spotting her during a trip to England. For three years, Moore played both Frannie and Sabrina, which would be tricky for even the most seasoned actor, let alone a brand new up-and-coming star. Her Daytime Emmy-winning ability to deftly navigate the tricky waters of soap opera storylines foreshadowed her lengthy, Oscar-winning career.

Do you agree with our list? Who is your favorite breakout soap opera star? For more entertaining Top10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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