Then & Now: 15 Famous Actresses Who Started Out on Soap Operas (PHOTOS)

Michele Marin | Aug 26, 2015 Celebrities
Then & Now: 15 Famous Actresses Who Started Out on Soap Operas (PHOTOS)


Evil twins, dead characters emerging from graves, and the ever-popular switched-at-birth story line -- soap operas are nothing if not melodramatic. They also happen to be teeming with talent, the place where a lot of fresh, young starlets get their first paying acting gig. 

You wouldn't believe the number of major Hollywood stars who started out on soap operas. Many graduated to the big screen and went on to win huge awards, proving that soap operas are serious learning grounds. Check out these 15 famous actresses who were once soap stars. 


Image via NBC; Splash News/Corbis

  • Courteney Cox


    Image via CBS; Parisa/Corbis

    One of our favorite Friends stars, Cox was turning heads in As The World Turns. She played a debutante named --wait for it -- Bunny. But that's not where she got her big break. Believe it or not the Cougartown star got her start in Bruce Springstein's "Dancing in the Dark" video.

  • Demi Moore


    Image via ABC;Splash/Corbis

    Before she was sexy, sultry Jules on St. Elmo's Fire, Moore was Jackie Templeton, a reporter on General Hospital, complete with '80s hair and shoulder pads. Moore's latest project is rumored to be a stint on Dancing with the Stars.

  • Eva Longoria


    Image via CBS; Image Press/Corbis

    Geona City, the setting for The Young and the Restless, was home to Eva Longoria long before she resided on Desperate Housewives' Wisteria Lane. Longoria played a pregnant nut job who tried to kill her man's ex wife. Longoria's last episode aired in 2003. 

  • Robin Wright


    Image via NBC; Infusny-220/Corbis

    In 1984 Wright played Kelly Capwell on Santa Barbara, a woman smitten with a serial killer who murdered four women who looked just like her. She went on to become one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood, having garnered several acting award nominations. She was married to Sean Penn for a while, too. Today she stars as Claire Underwood in House of Cards.

    More from The Stir: 13 Oscar Winners Who Started Out on Soap Operas (PHOTOS)

  • Hayden Panettiere


    Image via CBS; Celebrity Monitor/Corbis

    Today Panettiere is a newly engaged mama and the star of Nashville. But long before, she was little Lizzie Spaulding on Guiding Light. Her storyline about a child battling leukemia brought so much attention to the disease, the soap received an award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Currently Panettiere is filming Custody alongside Viola Davis.

  • Kelly Ripa


    Image via ABC; Infusny-244/Corbis

    You would have to live in a bubble to not have caught at least one episode of All My Children, where Ripa played Hayley Vaughan. After all she did snag three Daytime Emmy nominations for her work. While Ripa rocked Pine Valley with her bad girl ways, she caught the affections of Mateo Santos, aka Mark Consuelos. The actors have been married for 19 years and have three children. Today, Ripa is enjoying success hosting Live With Kelly and Michael. 

  • Lacey Chabert


    Image via ABC; Photo Image Press/Corbis

    In 1992 Chabert played the daughter of soap opera icon Susan Lucci's character, Erica Kane, on All My Children. Chabert was cast as Bianca Montgomery (the name just screams soap opera!). She went on to star  in Party of Five, Mean Girls, and Elevator Girl.

  • Lindsay Lohan


    Image via NBC; Splash News/Corbis

    In a case of life imitating art, Lohan's life was a soap opera at one time. Young Lohan was only 10 when she played Alli Fowler on Another World. Starring roles in Parenthood and Mean Girls led to a rocky few years spent partying and getting in trouble with the law. 

    More from The Stir: 10 Child TV Stars From the '90s: Where Are They Now? (PHOTOS)

  • Marcia Cross


    Image via NBC; Birdie Thompson/Ad Media/Corbis

    Way before her Wisteria Lane days, Cross played Kate Roberts on One Life to Live, a woman thrilled to be marrying the love of her life until his dead wife appeared from the grave to stop the wedding and reveal she was pregnant (!). Even after Cross left OLTL, she continued with juicy plots on popular dramas, such as Knots Landing, Melrose Place, and of course, Desperate Housewives.

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar


    Image via ABC; Birdie Thompson/Ad Media/Corbis

    Gellar played Susan Lucci's daughter, Kendall Hart, on All My Children for years, winning a Daytime Emmy Award in 1995. Years later she starred in Cruel Intentions, Scooby Doo, and who can forget, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She's married to Freddie Prinze Jr. and the couple has two kids.  

  • Meg Ryan


    Image via CBS; INF Photo/Corbis

    If you missed the wedding of Steve and Betsy Stewart Andropolous on As The World Turns, you were one of the few, as it was the second highest-rated hour in soap opera history. This leading lady, whose first big break came via Top Gun, went on to score three Golden Globe nominations.

  • Teri Hatcher


    Image via CBS; Parisa/Corbis

    Long before she was a desperate housewife, Hatcher was Angelica Clegg on a long-forgotten soap called Capitol. Granted, she wasn't there for long. She used this stint on daytime TV to springboard her career. Her first starring role after her soap exit was in Tango and Cash, but we all know her as Susan Mayer from Desperate Housewives. If acting is like riding a bike, Hatcher must have been right at home with the outlandish plots!

    More from The Stir: 21 Female Hollywood Stars Who Married Regular People (PHOTOS)

  • Vivica A. Fox


    Image via NBC; S.Landao/Corbis

    Ms. Fox was a daytime diva long ago, having played Carmen Silva on Days of Our Lives. But that wasn't Fox's only daytime TV cred; she made soap opera rounds on Generations and Young and the Restless, too. She was recently on Celebrity Apprentice 7, Sharknado 2, and lent her voice to Carol on Sofia the First.

  • Anne Heche


    Image via NBC; Bryon Purvis/Corbis

    Let's start with the classic good vs. evil twin storyline, shall we? Who remembers Vicky and Marley from Another World? The twins were played by a young Anne Heche, and she nailed it! Heche won a Daytime Emmy for her role. Since then her credits have included Milk Money, Six Days Seven Nights, and Ally McBeal.

  • Lauryn Hill


    Image via CBS; Ramey Pix/Corbis

    The Fugees' singer got her start some time ago as Kira Johnson, the troubled runaway on As the World Turns. Hill later scored a part alongside Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act II and eventually won several Grammys for her groundbreaking album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Today she's largely out of the limelight, and she has six kids. 


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