Actors Who You'd Never Guess Got Their Start On A Soap Opera

Tom Selleck on 'Magnum, P.I.'
instagram | @tomselleckofficial

Everybody has an origin story — and if you're a recognizable Hollywood star, your origin story may well be more humble than expected. While plenty of actors get their start with a bit part or a role in a commercial, many cut their teeth in the acting game by starring in soap operas.

Believe it or not, the worst kind of daytime TV can often spawn the best kinds of actors.

Lindsay Lohan

Lots of people likely remember Lohan's star turn in Freaky Friday, but this wasn't her first role. At the young age of ten, she was appearing in the soap Another World, with Soap Opera Magazine referring to the young Lohan as a "show business veteran."

Josh Duhamel

When Duhamel first moved to Hollywood, he found very limited success, acknowledging that he had to work lots of odd jobs in order to get by. But when he landed a role on the soap All My Children, he'd definitely arrived. Duhamel's portrayal of Leo du Pres won critical acclaim and helped springboard him to bigger and better roles.

Kylie Minogue

North American audiences may think of Lohan as a singer who's occasionally acted, but Minogue's first brush with show business success was in the Aussie soap The Sullivans. It was a minor role, but she'd find bigger success with another Australian soap opera, Neighbours, starting in 1986.

Viggo Mortensen

Mortensen's first appearance on the big screen came with a small role in Witness. His first role on the small screen, though, was what made him famous. Playing the role of Bragg in the soap opera Search for Tomorrow helped Mortensen become a known quantity, and his career really took off in the years that followed.

Vivica A. Fox

Fox was a bit of a late bloomer on the entertainment scene. After appearing as a Soul Train dancer in her early 20s, her first big acting role came in the well-known NBC daytime soap Days of Our Lives at the age of 24, where she played Carmen Silva.

Nathan Fillion

The Canadian-born Fillion is probably best known for his various TV roles, although he's appeared in plenty of movies as well. His first big TV role came in One Life to Live, which helped show off his acting chops, as he was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award.

Parker Posey

Parker Posey has been appearing in big films, most notably Christopher Guest mockumentaries, for more than three decades. Before her star turn in Dazed and Confused, she cut her teeth with a role in As the World Turns, where she played Tess Shelby.

Ray Liotta

The late Ray Liotta appeared in all sorts of critically acclaimed movies, often playing a gangster. Way back in 1978, he got one of his first roles, playing Joey Perrini on Another World. Liotta would play the character for three years before moving to the big screen.

Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie on Neighbours and in the present day.
Soap Opera Spy | Soap Opera Spy

Robbie first found limited Hollywood success with bit parts in independent films and TV series, but her first big success came in an Australian soap opera. Just like fellow Aussie Kylie Minogue, Margot Robbie had some of her earliest success with a role in the series Neighbours.

Susan Sarandon

Susan Sarandon is one of the most recognizable Hollywood stars of the past half century. Before she was appearing in big screen roles, she appeared in a pair of soap operas in the early '70s, playing Patrice Kahlman in A World Apart and Sarah Fairbanks in Search for Tomorrow.

Russell Crowe

Although Crowe isn't Australian (he's from New Zealand), he's yet another actor who appeared on Neighbours. He wanted to be a musician, but after his music career yielded disappointing results, he turned to acting. Starting in 1987, he played the character Kenny Larkin on the beloved Aussie soap.

Meg Ryan

Ryan first acted in the film Rich and Famous, but her portrayal of the character Betsy Stewart on the soap opera As the World Turns in the early '80s is what catapulted her to stardom. She went on to appear in commercials before transitioning into bigger film roles.

Kevin Bacon

Kevin Bacon started out looking for a career in theater, and he found it. But after this avenue fizzled out, he looked for television roles. He played small parts in the soap operas Search for Tomorrow and Guiding Light.

Sarah Michelle Gellar

Before she was Buffy, she was Kendall Hart in the soap All My Children, playing the role from 1993 to 1995. By 1995, she was a hot commodity in Hollywood and left the soap to pursue other roles, including the iconic Buffy Summers.

Brad Pitt

Most people probably first spotted Brad Pitt with his small, but memorable, role in Thelma and Louise. But a few years earlier, he had a brief two-episode arc in the NBC soap Another World. After a few more TV appearances, he started getting movie roles.

Kathy Bates

Kathy Bates eating a chocolate bar
Giphy | Laff

One of Hollywood's most reliable character actors for decades, Bates took awhile to find her footing in Hollywood. Following some false starts in the '70s, she found success throughout the '80s, appearing in soap operas like One Life to Live, All My Children and The Doctors.

Tom Selleck

Selleck used his rugged good looks to his advantage, finding his first success as a commercial pitchman. Before he got to show off his acting chops with his iconic role in Magnum, P.I., Selleck had a small role in The Young and the Restless.

Julianne Moore

Moore's very first screen role was in a single episode of the soap opera The Edge of Night. But the next year, she got a bigger soap role, joining the main cast of As the World Turns, where she played half-sisters Frannie and Sabrina Hughes.

Morgan Freeman

Freeman has had a long career in show business, going all the way back to 1964. Besides his role in The Electric Company, he mostly appeared in stage productions throughout the '70s. Starting in 1982, though, he gained recognition for his role in Another World, where he played Roy Bingham.