Soap operas are known as breeding grounds of Hollywood talent, and many of entertainment’s most famous stars got started on soaps. Both Meg Ryan and Marisa Tomei began their television careers on CBS’ “As the World Turns” (via Entertainment Weekly), while Kelly Ripa spent years on ABC’s “All My Children” before making the move to co-host a long-running talk show with Regis Philbin and others since he retired (via IMDb).
Yes, some soap actors make their home in the genre, remaining in their roles for decades, like “Days of Our Lives'” Deidre Hall or “The Young and the Restless'” Eric Braeden. Others appear on soaps for a short time, make their mark in memorable and even not-so-memorable roles, and then move on to movie and music superstardom. The celebrities who got their start on “General Hospital” might surprise you, but it’s proof that the soap that made its debut in 1963 knows how to find some serious talent.
He went on to become one of the most famed science fiction actors of all time, bringing the character of Luke Skywalker to life in both “Star Wars” movies and animated series. But before Luke Skywalker was even a glint in Mark Hamill’s eye, he found himself on “General Hospital ” playing Kent Murray from 1972-1973 when the soap was still in its infancy.
Kent was the nephew of Nurse Jesse Brewer, the iconic “GH” character and nurses’ station stalwart from the day the soap premiered until actress Emily McLaughlin’s death in 1991 (via The New York Times).
When Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor appeared on “General Hospital,” it was for a brief few episodes and because she was a fan. In 1981 when she brought Helena Cassadine to life to curse Luke and Laura — soaps’ most famous pairing to this day — at their wedding, she shared just how much she loved the show. “I’m wild about General Hospital,” Taylor told People (via TV Guide). “Someone from [ABC] came to see me when I was doing ‘The Little Foxes’ in New York, and I agreed to do the soap when I got to L.A. I had a ball.”
The character of Helena went on to have a decades-long run on the show, later played by Constance Towers, who still makes brief appearances to this day.
Rick Springfield may have wished he had “Jesse’s Girl” in the 1980s, but as Dr. Noah Drake, the Australian-born singer and actor got to hang out at the nurses’ station with Jesse Brewer when he made hearts swoon on “General Hospital” from 1981-1983. Springfield went on to have a successful music career but never forgot his roots. He made a soap opera comeback from 2005-2008 and again in 2013 as Noah returned to Port Charles and worked at GH once again. This time, we even got to meet his adult son, Dr. Patrick Drake, who picked up the hot doc mantle from his dad.
In 1994, Menudo alum Ricky Martin created the character of Miguel Morez on “General Hospital” and launched his own solo music career both as himself off-screen and as Miguel on-screen. It turned out Miguel had as much success as Martin because he left on tour in 1995 and was never heard from again. “What I saw in Ricky was a focus and commitment to his work that is always authentic. I wish he’d stayed on the show forever, but he had bigger things to do. I’m so proud of him,” his “GH” executive producer, Wendy Riche, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Both Jonathan Jackson and Amber Tamblyn were child stars on “General Hospital,” with Jackson making his debut as Lucky Spencer — son of Luke and Laura Spencer — in 1993 and Tamblyn making her own debut as Emily Bowen Quartermaine on the soap in 1995. Both Jackson and Tamblyn even played buddies since Lucky and Emily bonded as best friends. Tamblyn left the soap in 1999 to pursue a primetime career while Jackson has come and gone, leaving first in 1999 and returning several times in subsequent decades, including a long run from 2009-2011. Jackson came to primetime fame on the hit series “Nashville.”
When Tamblyn’s TV dad from “GH,” Stuart Damon, passed away in 2021, Tamblyn paid tribute on Twitter: “He played my adopted dad on General Hospital for 7 years and he was the most kind, wonderful, loving, supportive person. He always made me laugh and made me feel safe on set,” she wrote (in part).
John Stamos has never forgotten his “GH” roots, either; he was Blackie Parrish, the singer who made a splash on the soap from 1982-1984. The character was the foster son of beloved couple Rick (Chris Robinson) and Lesley Webber (Denise Alexander). Blackie eventually was sent to jail for murder and was never heard from again.
Demi Moore went on to star in some of the most popular films of the 1990s, including “Indecent Proposal” and “Ghost,” but from 1982-1984, but she was just a young actress getting her start on a soap. Moore played “GH’s” Jackie Templeton, an investigative news reporter who was hopelessly in love with Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers). As the South Florida Sun-Sentinel noted, “Jackie Templeton ended up leaving town, and Demi Moore went on to a successful career on the silver screen.”
In 2020, nearly 40 years later, the character of Jackie reappeared in town — still looking for the best scoop — and was played this time by “NYPD Blue” alum Kim Delaney, who herself got started on soaps as tortured and tragic heroine Jenny Gardner on “All My Children” (via Deadline).
George Takei had already gone where no man had gone before on the classic series “Star Trek” when he made a brief appearance on “GH” in 1985 as Mr. Diem, the honorary mayor of the Port Charles Asian Quarter, which is still part of the show’s mafia stories today.