Getting their start in the 1930s as radio dramas, soap operas are some of the longest running shows in television history. Many have been on the air for over 40 years, so let’s take a look back at what our favorite soap stars looked like then, as well as now.
Josie Bissett really made a name for herself on the small screen as Jane Andrews Mancini during the original 7 year run on Melrose Place from 1992 to 1999. She briefly reprised the role in 2009 revival of the TV show, though she had already moved on to bigger and better things. Beginning in 2008, she began appearing as Kathleen Bowman in ABC Family show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which starred Shailene Woodley as the main character and Molly Ringwald as her mother.
Zeman started on General Hospital as Bobbie Spencer back in 1977. She continues to act on the soap opera. In 2012, it was reported that Zeman was living in Malibu. Sadly, her house was under foreclosure.
Eileen Davidson is a true drama queen, having appeared on a number of long running shows, starting with Santa Barbara, and including Days of Our Lives and The Bold and The Beautiful. Though she’s appeared in several movies since her break as a soap star, she is continuing her soap opera streak currently as Ashley Abbott in The Young and the Restless, a role she’s been playing on and off since 1985, even appearing concurrently in other daytime dramas.
Terri Conn got her start in As The World Turns when she began appearing as Katie Peretti Snyder in 1998, after several bit parts in other TV shows. She continued with As The World Turns until it went off the air in 2010, before moving on to another soap opera, One Life To Live, where she played Aubrey Wentworth from 2010 to 2011. Conn appeared in one episode of 30 Rock, and is set to star in a TV movie later this year.
Tyler Christopher has been performing in General Hospital as Nikolas Cassdine since he started acting professionally in 1996. Though he’s ducked into other TV shows here and there, including Felicity, Angel, and Crossing Jordan, and completed a two year run as Dan Whitehorse in The Lying Game. Tyler hasn’t appeared on General Hospital since 2016, as he seems to be focusing more on a expanding his film career. Given the General Hospital is still running, he very well could make a return to the show.
Kristen Alderson started out on One Life To Live as a child star, playing the role of Starr Manning at only 7 years old. She continued to appear in the show until 2012, appearing in a total of 811 episodes. As an adult, she has continued her soap opera acting career, turning up in General Hospital as Kiki Jerome from 2012 to 2015. When she was signed as a contract actor in 2002, she became the youngest soap star ever to land a contract.
Doug Savant is a long time soap opera actor, having appeared first in Knot’s Landing, before completing a run in Melrose Place from 1992 to 1997 as Matt Fielding. Doug has appeared in numerous television shows since Melrose Place was cancelled, including a stint on 24 as Craig Phillips in 2004. He also starred in Desperate Housewives as Tom Scavo for the entirety of the primetime drama’s run from 2004-2012. He was mostly recently seen in the TV show Notorious in 2016 as Paul Weston
Pamela Sue Martin
Pamela Sue Martin starred in Dynasty for 3 years, 1981 to 1984, as Fallon Carrington Colby. She had previously starred as Nancy Drew in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries from 1978-1979. After Dyntasty, Pamela bounced around a number of different TV shows and movies, but decidedly did not return to soap operas. Her 2006 appearance as Linda Kennard in Lifetime’s The L Word, in fact went uncredited. He last film appearance to date was in 2014 in McTaggert’s Fortune as Sgt. Jeanine Bowman.
Renee Jones got her television break in 1980, but didn’t join the cast of Days of Our Lives until 1993. Before then, she appeared in over 40 different television shows, including the soap operas Santa Barbara, Knot’s Landing, and The Bold and the Beautiful. She also appeared in one episode of The Fresh Prince with Will Smith. She played Lexie Carver in Days of Our Lives for nearly 10 years, before finally bowing out of the show in 2012. She has not been in anything since.
Walt Willey was a long time fixture on All My Children as Jackson Montgomery, who he played from 1987 to 2011 when the show went off the air. Though he had had several small roles prior to his turn on All My Children, being cast as Jackson Montgomery served as his big break. Since the show ended, Willey has continued acting, including a 2 year run on Tainted Dreams as Gregory Ashford, which he concluded in 2016. He was most recently seen in Butcher the Bakers.
Robin Strasser began her run on One Life to Live in 1979, playing Dr. Dorian Lord Vickers on and off through 2013. In between her stints as the doctor in Llanview, PA, she also made appearances in Knot’s Landing, Passions, and Another World. In a comedic twist, Strasser also played a doctor during her run on All My Children, Dr. Christina Karras, a run which originally started in 1976. She came back to the role in the early 2000s for several episodes.
John Hensley made his television debut in a singular episode of One Life to Live in the 80s. He went on to a long running, recurring role as Holden Snyder in As The World Turns, which he finally completed with the series finale in 2010. Following the end of the show, Hensley began acting in The Bold and the Beautiful as Dr. Meade, a run he continued for two years, from 2012 to 2013. Since ending his run in 2013, he has not yet appeared in anything else.
Bryan Dattilo has some minor television success appearing in a number of small roles before landing the role of Lucas Roberts in Days of Our Lives. He has been playing Roberts, also sometimes known as Lucas Horton since 1993, and shows no sign of stopping, as he is still appearing in the show. Last year, he took a brief hiatus from Days of Our Lives to play Eric in Youthful Daze, about a teenager with multiple personalities who causes chaos in his small, California town.
Nancy Lee Grahn
Nancy Lee Grahn is yet another soap opera queen, having appeared in Santa Barbara as Julia Wainwright from 1985 to 1993, as well as playing Denise Fielding in Melrose Place in 1997. With a variety of TV roles under her belt, she also played Principal Russell in the classic WB drama, 7th Heaven from 1997 to 1999. She joined the cast of General Hospital in 1996 as Alex Davis Jerome and has been continuously involved in the show for over 10 years now.
David Selby has appeared in over 60 different films and TV shows since his start in the horror fantasy TV show, Dark Shadows, which he was in as Quentin Collins from 1968 to 1971. He was also in Flamingo Road as Michael Tyrone from 1981 to 1982, by which time, he made his debut in Falcon Crest as Richard Channing. Selby continued as Richard Channing up until 1990 when Falcon Crest went off the air. Since then, Selby has continued working, even appearing briefly in The Social Network.
Joan Collins’s prolific career stretches all the way back to the 1950s, with roles spanning both the big screen and the small. She starred in Dynasty as Alexis Carrington Colby, from 1981 to 1989. In 2002, she appeared in a number of episodes of Guiding Light, another daytime drama. She played Alexandra Spaulding Von Halkein Thorpe. Collins is known for her regal demeanor, and has taken turns playing royalty when she appeared as The Grand Duchess Alexandra of Oxford in the Royals.
Robert S. Woods
When Robert S. Woods hit the small screen, it was as Dr. David Spencer in The Waltons. Reprising the role for 3 years, he ultimately left The Waltons behind when he was cast in One Life to Live as Bufort Olgethorpe ‘Bo’ Buchanan. Woods played the role for over 30 years, but still made sure to make some pit stops in other shows. He played Bo Buchanan in All My Children for several episodes, and also completed a one year run on Days of Our Lives.
Eileen Fulton made her television debut in 1960 when she booked the role of Lisa McColl on As the World Turns. Fulton remained with the show for the entirety of its 50 year run, despite small roles in several films in 2005, 2008, and 2011. In addition to her unprecedented run on As The World Turns, she appeared in 4 episodes of the 1965 show, Private Lives, where she played Lisa Hughes. She’s written several books, including her first, released in 1988, called Eileen Fulton’s Take One For Murder.
Michael E. Knight
Michael E. Knight was a long time player on All My Children as Tad Martin. His run on the show spanned from 1983 to the show’s finale in 2011. During that time, he made some cameos on One Life to Live as Tad Martin, and appeared in small roles in numerous different television shows and movies. When All My Children ended it’s run in 2013, Michael E. Knight moved on to another soap opera, appearing in The Young and The Restless.
Andrew Shue’s first several film appearances are largely uncredited, though they still allow him to add some big 80s hits to his resume, including The Karate Kid and Adventures in Babysitting. In the early 90s, he moved on to a couple of credited film roles, before booking a spot on in 1992. He played Billy Campbell for the better part of the show’s run, before making his exit in 1998. Shue has otherwise not appeared in anything since 2009.
The fan favorite of Days of Our Lives, Deidre Hall has been playing Dr. Marlena Evans Black since 1976. Though she took several breaks to bulk up her resume by appearing in a number of other shows over the last 40 years, she has continued to return to Dr. Marlena. In 1976, prior to beginning her soap opera run, she played Lori/Electra Woman in Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. From 1986 to 1988, Deidre appeared in Our House as Jessie Witherspoon, her most significant break from Days of Our Lives.
Steve Burton first significant role came when he was cast in Out of This World in 1987, which he remained with until the show wrapped in 1991. He followed up the role of Chris Fuller by beginning is long run on General Hospital, where he played James Morgan until 2015. During his time with the show, he also appeared briefly in the spin off, General Hospital: Night Shift. Since 2013, Burton has been playing Dylan McAvoy in The Young and the Restless.
Lorenzo Lamas has had more television success than most soap stars. Though he began his run in Falcon Crest as Lance Cumson in 1981, remaining with the show until it folded in 1990, he has managed to make a name for himself by starring in a number of movies. He also completed a two year run in The Bold and the Beautiful from 2004 to 2006, and appeared in a show about his family in 2009. Additionally, he has had recent success in several children’s shows.
Gordon Thomson is another actor who seems to have appeared in almost every soap opera imaginable. Beginning with Dynasty in 1982, he played Adam Carrington until 1989. He followed this up with a run as Mason Capwell in Santa Barbara, who he played from 1990 until 1993. He has since appeared in the shows Sunset Beach from 1998 to 1999, as well as Passions in 2000. Thomson rounds off his daytime drama resume with a role as Walter in Days of Our Lives in 2009. He will next be seen in Afterburn/Aftershock later this year.
Kassia Wesley DePaiva
Kassia Wesley DePaiva got her television start when she booked the role of Chelsea Reardon in Guiding Light. She spent 5 years on the show from 1986 to 1991, before being cast in One Life to Live in 1992. Kassia played Blair Crammer Manning from 1992 until the show wrapped in 2013. From 2014, Kassia moved on to another daytime drama staple, Days of Our Lives, where she played Eve Donovan for 2 years. Her One Life to Live character also had a crossover appearance in 2012 when she appeared in General Hospital.
Don Hastings had a prolific television acting career before he began his run in As The World Turns. Making his debut in the very beginnings of television in 1949, he appeared in Captain Video and the Video Rangers until 1955. He appeared in singular episodes of a number of television shows following that, before a two year stint in The Edge of Night as Jack Lane. In 1960, he booked As The World Turns, which he appeared in as Bob Hughes for 50 years.
David Canary has one of the most recognizable faces in All My Children after Susan Lucci. Canary got his start in one of the original soap operas, Peyton Place, playing Dr. Russ Gehring from 1965 to 1966. In 1967, he was cast as Candy Canaday in the long running Western, Bonanza, which also starred Michael Landon. Canary remained in the role through 1973, when the series wrapped. He began his long run in All My Children in 1984, playing Adam Chandler, which was his last role.
Though Josh Taylor had appeared in several movies and TV shows throughout the 70s, he didn’t really get his big break until he was cast in Days of Our Lives in 1981 as Roman Brady. Taylor has been playing the role on and off since then, even appearing in several episodes this year. When he wasn’t starring in Days of Our Lives, he spent time in The Young and the Restless as Jed Sanders, as well as Beverly Hills 90210 as Jack McKay.
Starting with The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in 1960, where she played Linda, Shirley, Sally, and more, Linda Evans has been a fixture on television. She parlayed this early success into roles on Big Valley, which she appeared in as Audra Barkley from 1965 to 1969, Hunter, and The Love Boat, which she appeared on as several different characters in several different years. Evans began her 8 year run in Dynasty, which was on the air until 1989, playing both Krystle Carrington and Rita Lesley.
Rebecca Herbst made her television debut in 1986, when she appeared in an episode of LA Law. She subsequently appeared in episodes of hit shows like Beverly Hills 90210, Step by Step, Boy Meets World, and Sister, Sister. In 1996, she began a run on Space Cases as Suzee, before moving on to Brotherly Love in 1997, where she played Kristin. She began her run on General Hospital in 1997 when she was cast as Elizabeth Webber Spencer, a role she is still playing today.
Susan Sullivan has been working on television since the mid 1960s, despite having been trained for theatre. Her first notable television role was in Another World in 1971, when she booked Lenore Moore Delaney. She continued in the role until 1975. Her next significant TV role was Rich Man, Poor Man: Book II from 1976 to 1977. She was to continue on to multiple other shows before her 9 year run on Falcon Crest as Maggie Gioberti. Susan has remained quite busy, working consistently since then.
Thomas Calabro’s Hollywood debut came in 1984 with a small role in Exterminator 2, but he made his small screen debut in 1989 as Joey Coltrera in Dream Street. His role as Dr. Michael Mancini in Melrose Place, starting in 1992, was his next notable role. Thomas stayed with Melrose Place for the entirety of its 7 year run. Following that, he has been working consistently in TV and movies, including a reprise of Dr. Michael Mancini in the short lived, 2009 Melrose Place revival.
Alison Sweeney began acting when she was just 8 years old with a small role in the TV show Simon & Simon. She moved into daytime television in 1993 when she was cast as Sami Brady Hernandez in Days of Our Lives. Sweeney remained with the show through 2015, though she picked up other TV and movie projects here and there. Sweeney is also well known for being the host of The Biggest Loser, which started airing in 2004, with Sweeney hosting from 2006 to 2015.
California native, Doug Davidson made his film debut in 1977 as Collin, in the movie Fraternity Row. His second job? The Young and the Restless, where he has been playing Paul Williams, as well as himself since 1978. In the 90s, he appeared as Roger in the movie Mr. Write, which he followed up with some other small film roles. Mostly, he’s been dedicated to his role on The Young and the Restless, which he has performed on consistently for almost 40 years.
Katherine Kelly Lang
Katherine Kelly Lang started acting when she was 18 with an appearance in Skatetown, USA as Alison. She worked her way through a number of small television and movie roles, including an extending run on 1st and 10: The Championship in 1986 where she played Annie. In 1987, she began playing Brooke Logan on The Bold and the Beautiful, a role she has continued to play until today. From 1999 to 2007, she also made crossover appearances as Brooke in The Young and the Restless.
Matthew Ashford is another actor who got his start in the late 80s, appearing as Cagney McCleary in Search for Tomorrow from 1984 to 1986. He was cast in Days of Our Lives in 1989 as Jack Devereaux, a role he played until 2016. In 1996, he had a 3 episode arc on General Hospital as Tom Hardy. Currently, Matthew can be seen on the new daytime drama, The Bay, where he has been playing Steve Jensen since 2010, along with a number of long standing soap stars.
Ronn Moss began his acting career with the movie Hearts and Armour, in which he played Ruggero. Beginning his run in The Bold and the Beautiful in 1987, Moss played the role of Ridge Forrester until 2012 before exiting for roles, such as Ian in Familie. He began making sporadic appearances as John Blackwell in The Bay, which is more of a modern day soap opera, starting in 2010. He is also set to appear in two films, one later this year, and one next year.
Erika Slezak is as dedicated to her show as they come. She made her television debut in One Life to Live in 1971 and has stuck with it ever since, playing Victoria Lord Banks for over 45 years. In between that, her only other acting credits include Jean Robert in the 1996 made for TV movie FullCircle, and a singular episode of Special Unit 2 as Nick’s Mother in 2001. Slezak has won 6 Daytime Emmys for her work, tied with Justin Deas for the most wins for a single actor.
Colleen Zenk entered the world of television when she made her debut in As The World Turns as Barbara Ryan in 1978. During her run as Barbara, which lasted from 1978 to 2010, she appeared in a periodic movie, but mostly just stuck to her own soap. Following the series finale, she has moved on to a number of different acting projects, including both TV and movies, which included a 3 episode arc on Tainted Dreams as Sophie DiGiacomo. She will be seen in After Forever later this year.
Father of the famous Jennifer Aniston, John has been acting since long before Jen’s time, given that he made his debut in The 87th Precinct in 1962. Aniston worked continuously in television since then, starting in his long running role on Days of Our Lives in 1986. Despite a reported retirement, he can still be seen on the daytime circuit as Victor Kiriakis, even though he is now over 80 years old. In 2010, Aniston appeared in Mad Men as Wallace Harriman for one episode.
John James began his television career in 1977 with his role as John ‘Junior’ Bergman in Search for Tomorrow. He followed that up with his long running role in Dynasty as Jeff Colby, a role he played from 1981 to 1989. During that time, he also appeared on The Love Boat as several different characters, including Robert Di Nardi, Enzo Carducci, and Dr. van Damme. His other soap roles include Jeff Martin on All My Children, which he played from 2006 to 2007, and Rick Decker in As The World Turns.
While Maurice Bernard’s first soap opera may have been in All My Children, in which he played Nico Kelly from 1987 to 1990, he is best known for his long run as Sonny Corinthos on General Hospital. Maurice began his long run in General Hospital starting in 1993, and he is still with the show today. He has been honored with 6 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Daytime Drama nominations, and has won once in 2003. This year, he also played Joseph Hawthorn in The Ghost and the Whale.
Kate Linder joined the cast of The Young and the Restless as her first ever professional acting job in 1973, continuously playing the role of Esther Valentine until today. In addition to more than 40 years on The Young and the Restless, she has made numerous other TV appearances in the last two decades, including Katie Bender in A Couple of White Chicks at the Hairdresser, Sandrine Simpson in the TV movie Miracle at Gate 213, and most recently, La Vecchia in A Voice for the Living.
Susan Lucci as Erika Kane is possibly one of the most iconic soap opera characters to date. With a career spanning 5 decades, she has appeared in over 30 different television shows, and spent nearly 40 years leading the cast of All My Children. For her work in the long running daytime drama, she has received the most nominations for a performer in television, both daytime and primetime, but she has only been honored with a singular win, which garnered a 4 minute standing ovation.
Cameron Mathison bounced around from TV show to TV show before finally finding a home on All My Children from 1998 until the series run ended in 2011. Nowadays, he can often be found guest hosting talk shows.
Heather Locklear has had a prolific acting career beginning with CHiPs in 1980. She was cast as Officer Stacey Sheridan in 1982 for the TV show T.J. Hooker, which ran for 5 years. She is best known as a soap star for Melrose Place, which she starred in from 1993 to the series’s end in 1999. Prior to that, she played Sammy Jo Dean Carrington on Dynasty for the entirety of the series’s run of 1981 to 1989. Currently, she is First Lady Katelynn Christian in Too Close to Home.