Soap fans know that some of the best acting in Hollywood takes place on the sets of our favorite daytime dramas. We all know that Demi Moore started out on General Hospital back in the 80s, but what you might not know is that there’s a whole roster of award-winning actors and actresses that got their start on the soaps. Today we’ll take a look at a surprising list of 10 talents that have won Oscars, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild awards and more after getting their big break on the small screen.
#10 Laurence Fishburne
Long before he was Morpheus in The Matrix offering Neo the red or blue pill, Atlanta-born Laurence Fishburne got his start on One Life to Live playing Dr. Joshua Hall from 1973 through 1976. From there, he landed a recurring part on Pee Wee’s Playhouse before moving into the big leagues. Fishburne was nominated for an Oscar in 1993 for his role as Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It and then for a Golden Globe in 1995 for The Tuskegee Airmen. He’s also a two time Emmy winner. Since finishing his work on the well-reviewed TV show Hannibal, he can now be seen on ABC hit comedy Black-ish.
#9 Ryan Phillippe
Before he was breaking hearts as Sebastian Valmont in Cruel Intentions, sexy Ryan Phillipe got his start as a teen playing Billy Douglas on One Life to Live. He enjoyed success in a variety of smaller parts by gained attention and Screen Actors Guild Awards for his incredible ensemble work on Robert Altman’s Gosford Park then as a troubled cop in Crash. Most recently, he’s starred in Secrets and Lies and is now starring as sniper Bob Lee Swagger on new TV show Shooter on TNT.
#8 Marisa Tomei
As a 20 year old, Marisa Tomei got her start with a short stint on As The World Turns as Marcy Thompson. Within eight years, she would have a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in her hand for her work as Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinny. She’s done other nominated work in stunning roles in The Wrestler, In the Bedroom, and Rescue Me. You can see Marisa right now on hit show Empire as corporate raider Mimi Whiteman and has a plum role as Aunt May in the new Spider-Man reboot.
#7 Tom Selleck
Before you loved him in Hawaiian shirts as Magnum PI, Tom Selleck did a turn as Jed Andrews on The Young and the Restless without that famous mustache. Selleck has worked nonstop throughout his career and won both a Golden Globe and Emmy for playing Magnum PI. Selleck moved into movies then enjoyed more primetime success on Friends as Monica’s sexy older lover before settling in as NYPD police commissioner on Blue Bloods for the past five seasons.
#6 Calista Flockhart
Before her career-launching starring role as Ally McBeal got her first role on Guiding Light back in 1989. Right years later, Flockhart spent five years as the wacky lawyer everyone talked about at the water cooler. She landed a Golden Globe win for playing Ally McBeal and a Screen Actors Guild award for the ensemble of the hit show. She had another big hit on her hand with Brothers and Sisters and can now be seen on as the boss of Supergirl, Cat Grant, on the new CBS superhero dramedy.
#5 Leonardo DiCaprio
We may always think of Leonard DiCaprio shouting “I’m the king of the world” on the prow of the Titanic, but he was an awkward teen on Santa Barbara back in the early 90s playing young Mason Capwell. He’s since played Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover, and become the go-to actor for famed director Martin Scorsese. He’s got four Oscar nods under his belt and Golden Globe wins for Wolf of Wall Street and The Aviator and his career is still one of the strongest in Hollywood.
#4 Tommy Lee Jones
Before Tommy Lee Jones was blowing apart aliens as one of the Men in Black, he had a short-term gig as Dr. Mark Toland on One Life to Live. He’s played Two Face in Batman, chased a one-armed man in The Fugitive, was an old school astronaut in Space Cowboys, had a juicy bit in Captain America and is still going strong today. Tommy landed an Oscar and a Golden Globe back in 1993 for his Supporting Role in The Fugitive. He also won an Emmy for his work in 1982’s The Executioner’s Song as killer Gary Gilmore.
#3 Susan Sarandon
Many of us remember Susan Sarandon’s first role as Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but she had already been a working actress for 20 years before she landed in that cult classic. Her first part was playing Sarah Fairbanks on Search for Tomorrow and Patrice Kahlman in the short-lived soap A World Apart. Sarandon had us laughing and crying in Thelma and Louise, but it was her role as Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking that landed her an Oscar statue.
#2 Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore ran from dinosaurs in Lost World Jurassic Park and took on Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games, but she landed her first big break as Frannie Hughes on As the World Turns. Juliane has been a hit on the big screen since then shooting blockbuster after blockbuster and even survived the terrors of Hannibal Lecter. But her big awards season hit in 2014 when she won both a Golden Globe and Academy Award for her lead role in Still Alice. She also landed an Emmy in 2012 portraying Sarah Palin.
#1 Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt was just a hunky 24 year old when he landed his first acting job as Chris on Another World. This little gig would lead Pitt into a legacy career as one of Hollywood’s most successful actors. Bit before Pitt leaped onto the big screen, he also had a four episode stint on nighttime 80’s soap Dallas. His big screen break came with Thelma and Louise, then it’s been one blockbuster after another, most recently with 12 Year a Slave where he landed a best picture Oscar as the producer of the award-winning film.
This list just goes to show that the soaps are where great actors are born – and some even stick around to thrill us for decades to come. Do you have a favorite actor who got their start on the soaps then moved on to other TV and film work? Share your favorites in the comments below! And be sure to come back to Soap Opera Spy often for more soap spoilers, gossip and more.