ByStephen Patterson, writer at Creators.co
Verified writer at Movie Pilot. Follow me on twitter: @mr_sjpatterson
Stephen Patterson

When it comes to episodic television series, there are too many formats to mention. One format that has often faces criticism is the soap opera genre. Often mocked for its tendency to use big cliffhangers and character deaths, some people just don't give it the light of day.

However, what many fail to realize is that the genre gets the opportunity to have an unlimited run which can span decades, watch characters grow from toddler to teenager and beyond, as well as reflecting the morals and values of each generation and how they change over time. Unless you're or , what other shows get the opportunity to do that?

[Via BBC]
[Via BBC]

Another thing that is unappreciated about the genre is, due to the unlimited run of a soap opera, these series' tend to have multiple cast changes over the years which can lead to prime opportunities for new up and coming actors. Hollywood may be the place to be for actors, but they all have to start somewhere. Did you know that many of Hollywood's biggest names — including some of the worlds biggest — got their first breaks on a soap opera? "I don't believe it" I hear you say, well then, let's take a look and see if you were aware of these great actors not so humble beginnings.

1. Margot Robbie

Robbie in "Neighbours" and "Suicide Squad" [Via Ten, WB]
Robbie in "Neighbours" and "Suicide Squad" [Via Ten, WB]

If you haven't heard of Margot Robbie then you must've been living like Kimmy Schmidt under a rock because she's arguably the biggest actress on the planet right now. However, before she was taking Hollywood by storm, Robbie starred as Donna Freedman on the long-running Australian soap opera Neighbours.

The Australian soap has an annoying habit of introducing too many new characters at once, but when Donna was introduced back in 2008 she was a breath of fresh air, never afraid of causing trouble and saying it as it is. Quite frankly, we wish more people were like her. Donna was a pivotal Neighbours character and stuck around on the show until 2011, when Robbie left to pursue a career in Hollywood. According to Robbie she begged the Neighbours producers to kill her character, but they refused to do so on the basis that if things didn't work out for her in Hollywood she could always come back.

Robbie has enjoyed immense success in Hollywood since, starring in multiple blockbusters including The Wolf of Wall Street, Focus and The Legend of Tarzan. Her biggest role to date is that of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, a role that she will no doubt reprise in later DCEU projects. No need to worry Neighbours producers, we think she's doing just fine.

2. Ben Hardy

Ben Hardy in "EastEnders" and "X-Men: Apocalypse [Via BBC, 20th Century Fox]
Ben Hardy in "EastEnders" and "X-Men: Apocalypse [Via BBC, 20th Century Fox]

British heartthrob Ben Hardy has one of the quickest success stories of any soap actor. Hardy starred as Peter Beale on the BBC soap opera EastEnders from 2012 to 2015, taking over for Thomas Lawson who had previously played the role. Hardy quickly became a success with the viewers at home as he not only took his shirt off on multiple occasions but he was prominently featured in some of the soaps biggest storylines — particularly the Who Killed Lucky Beale storyline.

As part of EastEnders' 30th anniversary, Hardy featured in a week of live episodes where Lucy's killer was revealed to the public. Hardy departed EastEnders in 2015 and found success in the US almost immediately, starring in X-Men Apocalypse as Arcangel.

3. Chris Hemsworth

Chris Hemsworth in "Home and Away" and "Thor" [Via Seven, Marvel]
Chris Hemsworth in "Home and Away" and "Thor" [Via Seven, Marvel]

I'd be really worried about you if you haven't heard of Chris Hemsworth, who's mostly known for his role as Thor in Marvel's Cinematic Universe. However, before he was wielding the hammer, Hemsworth had a pretty significant role on Australian soap opera Home and Away. Playing the character of Kim Hyde, Hemsworth appeared the soap from 2004 to 2007.

As well as his role in Home and Away, Hemsworth appeared in one episode of Neighbours too. A little known fact is that Hemsworth also competed on reality show Dancing With The Stars — the Australian version of Strictly Come Dancing. Hemsworth has had huge success in Hollywood, primarily as Thor — one of the biggest superheroes in the MCU. With a face like that and the acting chops to match, Hemsworth won't be going back to daytime Australian television any time soon.

4. Liam Hemsworth

Liam Hemsworth in "Neighbours" and "The Hunger Games" [Via Ten, Lionsgate]
Liam Hemsworth in "Neighbours" and "The Hunger Games" [Via Ten, Lionsgate]

Chris wasn't the only Hemsworth brother to make it big, his brother Liam was very successful too — he is primarily known for his role in The Hunger Games franchise and his on off relationship with Miley Cyrus. Well, many of you might not know that the Australian actor got one of his first big breaks in Neighbours too, playing the role of Josh Taylor. I actually remember watching his appearance on the show — unlike the other Neighbours alumni on this list, Hemsworth only appeared in a mere 25 episodes of the soap opera back in 2007, but clearly it was enough to make an impression.

Since Neighbours, Hemsworth has done many things but most people will recognise him as his Gale Hawthorne from The Hunger Games franchise. The Hemsworth brothers have practically taken over the acting world.

5. Sarah Lancashire

Lancashire in "Coronation Street" and "Happy Valley" [Via ITV, BBC]
Lancashire in "Coronation Street" and "Happy Valley" [Via ITV, BBC]

Britain has been responsible for exporting many of the world's best actors and none are bigger than the incomparable Sarah Lancashire. Best known for her portrayal of hardened cop Catherine Cawood in the BBC/Netflix series Happy Valley, she actually got one of her big breaks playing Raquel Watts in British soap opera Coronation Street.

Raquel was everything that Coronation Street was about in those days, fitting the stereotype of the ditzy blond with a huge heart and an even bigger mouth. Lancashire enjoyed a 5 year stint on the soap between 1991 and 1996, as well as making a one-off appearance in 2000.

Lancashire has become a household name, specifically due to her role in Last Tango In Halifax. However, most people know her as the tough no-nonsense copper Catherine Cawood in BBC's Happy Valley. The role has led to worldwide recognition for Lancashire, with Happy Valley being hailed as a Netflix original series in the US. Happy Valley has led to Lancashire wining multiple awards and many regard her as one of the greatest actresses on global television. With a third series of Happy Valley confirmed and a Last Tango In Halifax Christmas special on the way, Lancashire will be on our screens quite regular and truth be told we wouldn't have it any other way.

6. Eliza Taylor

Taylor in "Neighbours" and "The 100" [Via Ten, The CW]
Taylor in "Neighbours" and "The 100" [Via Ten, The CW]

Actress Eliza Taylor is globally known for her leading role as Clarke Griffin on The CW hit TV series The 100 but that wasn't necessarily her breakthrough role. Taylor also starred on Australian soap Neighbours, portraying the role of Janae Timmins from 2005 to 2008. Janae was one of Neighbours biggest characters at the time and the entire Timmins family were considered mainstays of the soap. However, when one of the producers axed many characters — including the majority of the Timmins' family — Taylor quit the show.

Taylor's big US breakthrough is no doubt with her role on The 100 and through this role many have got the opportunity to see just how talented she is. The 100 has opened The CW up to a whole new audience and I'm pretty sure the hit series isn't going anywhere any time soon.

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7. Sam Strike

Sam Strike In "EastEnders" and "Timeless" [Via BBC, NBC]
Sam Strike In "EastEnders" and "Timeless" [Via BBC, NBC]

Up and coming British actor Sam Strike was introduced to EastEnders in 2013 as part of a massive re-launch of the soap at the hands of then executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins. Alongside British legend Danny Dyer and actress Kellie Bright, Strike was introduced as part of the new family on the square — the Carters.

Strike's Johnny Carter was a sweetheart who had many struggles and made a lasting impression on viewers, mainly because of the storyline involving his sexuality — Johnny's coming out scene was praised by the tabloids and is widely regarded as one of the greatest LGBT scenes on television in recent years. Although the Carter family still feature prominently on the show, Strike left the soap in December 2014 after one year in the role. After a year and a half of absence, Johnny was re-introduced to EastEnders earlier this year with actor Ted Reilly taking over the role.

Since his departure from EastEnders, Strike had a guest role on several episodes of the critically acclaimed BBC drama series Silent Witness. After moving to America, he landed the lead role in the highly anticipated upcoming prequel horror film Leatherface. More recently, he guest starred in the popular NBC series Timeless, playing a fictionalized version of Clyde Barrow.

8. Dean Geyer

Geyer in "Neighbours" and "Glee". [Via Ten, FOX]
Geyer in "Neighbours" and "Glee". [Via Ten, FOX]

Australian heartthrob Dean Geyer is widely known for his portrayal of Brody Weston on Glee — Rachel Berry's prostitute NYADA boyfriend. However, before Brody, Geyer was known for playing the down to earth and incredibly attractive Ty Harper on Neighbours from 2008 to 2009, back when the soap was in its prime.

Not only did the soap opera allow Geyer to show off his acting chops, he got the opportunity to debut his amazing singing skills pre-Glee, when his character duetted with Rachel —no not Glee's Rachel, that came later, do try to keep up — singing an original song called Unforgettable. I had this song on repeat for months back in 2008.

Not long after Geyer left Neighbours he had a recurring role on the one season FOX hit Terra Nova before landing Glee. Since Glee, Geyer participated in the Australian version of I'm A Celebrity Get Me out of Here and is currently recurring in NBC drama Shades Of Blue. Whilst Geyer sang on Glee, when I think of him I always immediately go to his unforgettable duet with Neighbours' Rachel aka Caitlin Stasey. Speaking of which....

9. Caitlin Stasey

Stasey in "Neighbours" and "Reign". [Via Ten, The CW]
Stasey in "Neighbours" and "Reign". [Via Ten, The CW]

It wasn't only Dean Geyer who went on to find success, fellow co-star and on screen singing partner Caitlin Stasey — who played Rachel Kinski on Neighbours — went on to be rather successful too. Rachel was a huge character on Neighbours and her friendship with Donna Freedman — Margot Robbie's character — was a crucial storyline in the show. Stacey stayed with Neighbours for four years before departing, also in the hopes of finding success in America.

Stasey is most recognizable for her role in The CW's Reign last year. It was recently announced that she will star in the upcoming FOX drama A.P.B as one of the lead characters.

10. Jay Ryan

Jay Ryan in "Neighbours" and "Beauty and the Beast" [Via Ten, The CW]
Jay Ryan in "Neighbours" and "Beauty and the Beast" [Via Ten, The CW]

Everybody knows actor Jay Ryan for his iconic role on The CW's veteran drama Beauty and The Beast where he stars as Vincent Keller opposite Smallville's Kristin Kreuk. However, long before he was patrolling the streets of New York as a threatening yet unusually attractive beast, Ryan was a kid on Ramsay Street in Australian soap opera Neighbours.

Ryan played Jack Scully on the Australian soap from 2002 to 2005 and is mainly remembered for his on again off again relationship with Nina Tucker — played by Delta Goodrem who would go on to have a successful music career.

11. Luke Hemsworth

Luke Hemsworth in "Neighbours" and "Westworld" [Via Ten, HBO]
Luke Hemsworth in "Neighbours" and "Westworld" [Via Ten, HBO]

The third Hemsworth may not be as instantly recognizable in Hollywood as his two brothers, but he easily had the most substantial role on Neighbours. Playing Nathan Tyson in 2002, the young character is remembered for the storyline that saw him taking steroids to enhance his performance on the football field.

Hemsworth rose to public attention this year with his leading role on HBO's critically acclaimed universal hit Westworld which just concluded its first season. will return for a second season next year.

Neighbours paved the way for some of Hollywood's biggest stars:

Margot Robbie, Caitlin Stasey and Dean Geyer all appeared on "Neighbours" simultaneously. [Via Ten]
Margot Robbie, Caitlin Stasey and Dean Geyer all appeared on "Neighbours" simultaneously. [Via Ten]

Whether the above actors played characters that were involved in car crashes, relationship struggles, helicopter crashes or simply the classic EastEnders "Duff Duff" cliffhangers, they all owe their success to the soap opera genre. Next time you hear somebody mocking the soaps be sure to keep in mind that if it weren't for these long running serial dramas, then the talented group of actors above may have gone unnoticed and never have had the opportunity to grace us with their ability.

The soap opera has allowed so many young actors to get the break they need to make it in the business and let's be honest — you can't beat a good soap opera wedding, funeral, pub fight and catchphrases like "Get outta my pub"— especially when they help us find Harley Quinn, Thor and Catherine Cawood.

Can you think of any other soap actors who went on to bigger success? Tell us in the comment section below.

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