5 surprising celebrity soap opera stars

By Arden Davidson, Contributing writer
Published On: Apr 03 2013 02:34:42 AM HST
Updated On: Apr 14 2014 04:20:42 AM HST
women watching television together

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Anyone who thinks that soap opera stars are second-rate performers clearly isn't aware of how many of America's most revered and popular actors and actresses started their careers on daytime television.

Soap operas have been around even longer than television and, although they have been struggling for ratings in recent years, their core audiences remain loyal fans five days a week.

The laughter, the tears, the betrayals, the secrets, the affairs, the romance ... all these features keep soap viewers coming back to their favorite shows week after week and year after year. But these compelling storylines just wouldn't work if not for the highly talented actors playing the parts.

So next time you hear someone say that soap stars can't act, make sure you let them know that dozens of highly acclaimed actors got their start on daytime TV. The list goes on and on, but we've collected the cream of the crop.

Laurence Fishburne on One Live to Live

No. 5: Laurence Fishburne - "One Life to Live"

Who would have guessed that Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning actor Laurence Fishburne started out his career by playing street kid Joshua Hall on ABC's "One Life to Live"?

A young, talented Fishburne played the role of the "adolescent with an attitude" between 1973 and 1976. It was only a few years later that he got the opportunity to play Tyrone "Clean" Miller in the renowned war movie "Apocalypse Now."

Since then, he has gone on to star in a string of action flicks including "Red Heat," "Boyz n the Hood," "The Matrix" trilogy and "Mission Impossible III." He now has a regular role back on the small screen as Dr. Raymond Langston on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

Fishburne is living proof that soap operas have discovered some incredible actors and launched some amazing careers -- including one of the most famous actresses of our time ...

Meg Ryan on As the World Turns

No. 4: Meg Ryan - "As the World Turns"

Meg Ryan may have been only one of 10 actresses to play the role of Betsy Stewart on CBS's "As the World Turns," but her two years playing this role left an indelible stamp on the character.

Between 1982 and 1984, Ryan started building her first major fan base with her mesmerizing portrayal of the troubled young Betsy. Now the undeniable queen of the late-20th-century "rom-com," Ryan's movie career is the stuff young starlet's dreams are made of.

In fact, her restaurant scene in "When Harry Met Sally" is one of the most iconic movie scenes of all time.

Ryan has also explored more serious acting roles such as a war-torn soldier in "Courage Under Fire" and a self-destructive alcoholic in "When a Man Loves a Woman." She undoubtedly picked up some of those dramatic skills from her soap opera years, and she has definitely put them to good use.

And so has our next star ...

Sarah Michelle Gellar on All My Children

No. 3: Sarah Michelle Gellar - "All My Children"

Before she was slaying vampires, Sarah Michelle Gellar was wowing audiences with her portrayal of the selfish, mean-spirited daughter of Erica Kane on ABC's "All My Children."

Her character, Kendall Hart, was definitely one of those "love to hate" personas. But it would have been all hate, if not for the superb acting skills and innate likability of Gellar. In fact, she won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Younger Leading Actress in a Drama Series in 1995, two years after she originated the role of Kendall.

Shortly after her Emmy win, Gellar left daytime TV to star in her biggest claim to fame, the hit TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Since then, she has gone on to star as the iconic character of Daphne in two "Scooby Doo" movies, as well as blockbuster horror flicks such as "Scream 2," "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "The Grudge."

Not too shabby for a "soap actor," wouldn't you say? And wait until you see who else got his start on a sudsy daytime drama ...

Frasier and Niles drinking coffee

No. 2: Kelsey Grammer - "Another World"

Before he was Dr. Frasier Crane on "Cheers" and "Frasier," Kelsey Grammer was Dr. Canard on the NBC soap "Another World."

The Julliard-trained actor played the role only for less than a year in 1984, but it was the stepping stone he needed to launch a career that has remained at its peak for decades.

Most people know him as the lovable but somewhat neurotic psychiatrist who was a regular at the Cheers bar before moving to Seattle to start his own radio talk show. But did you know that Grammer also has the distinction of being the first and only TV actor in history to receive Emmy nominations for playing the same role on three different TV series ("Cheers," "Frasier" and "Wings")?

He actually won five of those Emmys he was nominated for, proving once again that soap operas have launched some of the most successful acting careers of all time -- including the phenomenal career of our last selection ...

Demi Moore on All My Children

No. 1: Demi Moore - "General Hospital"

When Demi Moore first hit Port Charles (the setting of ABC's "General Hospital") as Jackie Templeton in 1982, she was not alone. Her debut came in conjunction with the character of her sister, Laura Templeton, played by Janine Turner.

Turner also went on to have a fairly successful acting career as the star of the hit prime-time series "Northern Exposure." However it was Moore who reached true superstardom after her soap stint, and she remains an A-list celebrity today.

Moore has starred in some of the biggest box office hits of all time, including "Ghost," "Indecent Proposal" and "A Few Good Men."

So never let anyone tell you that starring on a soap opera puts you on a fast track to a bartending career. Clearly, some of the greatest, most popular actors and actresses in Hollywood got their start on a daytime drama.

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