Justin Hartley, Passions
He would eventually hit it big on primetime as one of This Is Us’ Big Three, but Justin Hartley picked up his first credit with a main role on Passions, playing Nicholas Foxworth “Fox” Crane from 2002–06.
Demi Moore, General Hospital
Long before 1990’s Ghost, 1992’s A Few Good Men, and her tabloid-heavy marriages to Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore played Jackie Templeton on General Hospital. From 1982 to 1983, Moore portrayed the investigative journalist on the daytime soap.
Brad Pitt, Another World
Brad Pitt may be one of the biggest stars in the world now, but before he made a name for himself in films like 1999’s Fight Club and 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, Pitt got his first television speaking role on the soap opera Another World in 1987. The actor played a young basketball player named Chris.
Amber Tamblyn, General Hospital
The Joan of Arcadia star and one-time sister of the Traveling Pants kicked off her career on General Hospital, where she originated the role of Emily Quartermaine, which she held from 1995–2001.
Shemar Moore, The Young and the Restless
The Criminal Minds and S.W.A.T. star kicked off his TV career starring as Malcolm Winters on The Young and the Restless from 1994–2005 (with a hiatus from 2002–2004). He returned to the soap for a guest appearance in 2014.
Jensen Ackles, Days of Our Lives
Ackles had been a model since the age of 4, and broke into acting at around 18 as Eric Brady on Days of Our Lives. He landed the role in 1997 and held it until 2000. Ackles’ soap opera past was referenced in an episode of his show Supernatural, where his character enters a parallel universe and discovers himself to be former daytime soap star Jensen Ackles.
Brittany Snow, Guiding Light
Before scoring roles in teen movies like John Tucker Must Die, Hairspray, and then starring in the beloved Pitch Perfect trilogy, Brittany Snow picked up her first live-action credit as Daisy Lemay on Guiding Light from 1998–2002.
Laurence Fishburne, One Life to Live
Before going on to appear in such iconic films as Apocalypse Now, Boyz n the Hood, and the Matrix trilogy, a pre-teen Laurence Fishburne played Josh Hall on One Life to Live from 1973–76.
Julianne Moore, As the World Turns
Before she won Oscars and Golden Globes, Moore won a Daytime Emmy for portraying both Frannie and Sabrina Hughes on As the World Turns. From 1985 to 1988, Moore played Frannie, and then did double the work by also playing Frannie’s identical half-sister and cousin Sabrina starting in ’86. In 2010, Moore reprised her role as Frannie by coming back to appear on the show for an episode.
Ricky Martin, General Hospital
Ricky Martin wasn’t always just known for his singing. Back in the mid-‘90s, Martin was living la vida drama on General Hospital. He played Miguel Morez, a singer with a troubled past.
Sarah Michelle Gellar, All My Children
Sarah Michelle Gellar may have become a household name from her role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but soap opera fans knew that she had a talent for acting even before she started dusting vampires. From 1993 to 1995, the actress played troubled teen Kendall Hart on All My Children. The performance was well received, and even won Gellar a Daytime Emmy Award, but she still decided to leave the show in 1995 to focus on different projects.
Josh Duhamel, All My Children
From 1999 to 2002, Josh Duhamel ruled the soap world as one half of the All My Children supercouple Leo and Greenlee. Duhamel earned a Daytime Emmy for the role, but left the show to pursue other opportunities, leaving his character of Leo to die in a shocking twist.
Elizabeth Banks, All My Children
In his very first episode of All My Children, Josh Duhamel charms a waitress into paying for his meal — and that waitress is none other than Elizabeth Banks. When the episode aired in 1999, Banks was just getting started as an actress. Her character only appeared in one scene.
John Stamos, General Hospital
Well before Uncle Jesse moved into Full House, Stamos played the street-wise Blackie Parrish on General Hospital. Even back in his early ’80s stint on the soap, Stamos was interested in music: his character formed the band Blackie and the Riff Raff, although they were definitely no Jesse and the Rippers.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Santa Barbara
Many fans know of DiCaprio’s days as a child actor thanks to Roseanne and Growing Pains, but even before those early ’90s roles, DiCaprio made an appearance on the ‘80s soap opera Santa Barbara. The future Titanic and Inception star appeared as the younger version of the character Mason in a flashback.
Marisa Tomei, As the World Turns
Tomei’s first acting job was on As the World Turns. She played Marcy Thompson on the show in the mid-1980s.
Kevin Bacon, Guiding Light
Bacon moved to New York City at 17 to try to make it big. National Lampoon’s Animal House was eyed as his big break in 1978 but it didn’t quite launch him to fame, so he went back to waiting tables and taking small roles on soap operas like Guiding Light.
Alec Baldwin, The Doctors
Baldwin’s first television role was that of Billy Aldrich on The Doctors from 1980-1982. His character marked a more dramatic turn for the show, as he would die the longer an older female character continued using a serum to make herself appear younger.
Morgan Freeman, Ryan’s Hope
Freeman didn’t start his acting career until he was well into his twenties. Before becoming the Morgan Freeman we all know today, he used his iconic voice in roles on soap operas like Ryan’s Hope and Another World through the early ‘80s.
Lindsay Lohan, Another World
Before fans fell in love with LiLo in The Parent Trap, she was playing Alli Fowler on Another World from 1996 to 1997. Lohan had already been a fashion model with Ford Models since the age of 3, and at the time of her television debut, was considered a young show-business veteran.
Hayden Panettiere, One Life to Live
Fans may remember Panettiere’s early acting days from her role in the classic 2000 film Remember the Titans, but she was acting on soap operas years before that. The young star played Sarah Roberts on One Life to Live from 1994 to 1997, and then went on to play Lizzie Spaulding on Guiding Light in the late 1990s.
Taye Diggs, Guiding Light
Diggs had already shown off his acting chops on the stage with performances in Rent and Chicago, before making his television debut in Guiding Light in 1997. Diggs played Adrian “Sugar” Hill, one of the men whom Dahlia Crede dated.
Ryan Phillippe, One Life to Live
Phillippe’s first television role was a pretty groundbreaking one. As Billy Douglas on One Life to Live, he portrayed the first openly gay teenager on daytime TV. Phillippe was 18 at the time, and would go on to fill his resume with film roles.
Nathan Fillion, One Life to Live
Fillion booked one of his first roles with a gig on One Life to Live in the mid-’90s as the teenaged Joey Buchanan. A large part of Fillion’s time as Joey involved a romance with his mother’s nemesis, Dorian Lord. Fillion briefly returned to the show as Joey in 2007 for the funeral of his character’s adopted grandfather.
David Hasselhoff, The Young and the Restless
Hasselhoff is famous for his roles in Knight Rider and Baywatch, but to soap opera fans he is known as Dr. William “Snapper” Foster from The Young and the Restless. Hasselhoff played Snapper throughout the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Robin Wright, Santa Barbara
Wright is now famous for playing the icy Claire Underwood on House of Cards and for her roles in 1994’s Forrest Gump and 1987’s The Princess Bride, but her first acting job was playing Kelly Capwell, one of the protagonists on the soap opera Santa Barbara. In the late ’80s, Wright portrayed Kelly as she struggled to choose between two men, and found out one turned out to be a serial killer. She was nominated for three Daytime Emmys for the role.
Eva Longoria, General Hospital
Longoria had a flair for the dramatic in her hit show Desperate Housewives, but it all started for her on daytime soaps. The actress landed a guest spot on General Hospital back in 2000 and went on to book a regular role on The Young and the Restless as Isabella Brana.
Lauryn Hill, As the World Turns
Hill is most famous for her music, but before she joined the Fugees and embarked on her critically acclaimed solo career, she gave acting a try. In the early ‘90s, Hill appeared as Kira Johnson on As the World Turns.