Demi Moore, John Stamos, Kelly Ripa—some of the biggest names in Hollywood got their start on soap operas. Even future royal Meghan Markle (yes, the Duchess of Sussex!) briefly hobnobbed with daytime royalty on ABC’s “General Hospital.” Yet, while many might consider this genre a dying breed, the four mainstays—“Days of Our Lives,” “The Young and the Restless,” “The Bold and the Beautiful,” and “General Hospital”—continue to operate at the top of their game. But, do you have what it takes to work your favorite sudser into a satisfying lather?
If you want to get yourself some “love in the afternoon,” our guide features everything you need to know about auditioning for a soap opera.
- What is a soap opera?
- Daytime vs. primetime soap operas
- How much do soap opera stars make?
- Famous soap opera stars
- How the soap opera casting process works
- Which soap operas are currently casting or filming?
- Where to find soap opera casting calls and auditions
- The top soap opera casting directors + how to impress them
- Tips for soap opera auditions
Behind the scenes of “The Bold and the Beautiful” Credit: Brad Camembert/Shutterstock
Soaps are serial dramas that explore the interwoven lives of their main characters and how their actions trickle through the entire fictional community. Beyond this technical description of the doctors, nurses, mobsters, and lawyers who’ve come to populate the genre, there’s the reason they’re known as “soap operas” in the first place.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, the first soaps were 15-minute radio plays broadcast in the 1930s. These serials gradually migrated to television and gained traction with the stay-at-home set, as the dramatic tales offered the 1950s housewife an escape from the drudgery associated with the widely accepted gender roles of the time.
Why are they called soap operas?
As women dominated the target market, detergent companies frequently sponsored such programs—making way for the name we know today.
“Beverly Hills, 90210” Courtesy Fox Network
Beyond the time of day they air, you may wonder what separates daytime soaps from their primetime brethren. While the two are similar in structure—both feature multiple open-ended storylines that extend beyond a single episode—daytime serials air five days a week, 52 weeks a year (with exceptions for holidays, etc.). Primetime soaps adhere to the once-weekly norm. From “Beverly Hills, 90210” to “Dynasty” (and the subsequent reboots), primetime soaps also operate on a different production schedule. Daytime sudsers film year-round, breaking for a brief hiatus now and then. As for primetime serials, they function like any other night time drama, filming an average of 20-something episodes per season and breaking for months at a time.
But, these sister genres are ultimately intertwined thanks to how they each tap into emotional turmoil and examine the intricate nature of our most basic relationships.
According to SAG-AFTRA, here are the minimum rates for principal performers on network TV serials:
- Serials over 15 to 30 minutes: $834
- Serials over 30 to 45 minutes: $972
- Serials over 45 to 60 minutes: $1,112
- Serials over 60 to 90 minutes: $1,390
According to a 1991 article in the New York Times, soap legend Susan Lucci was the highest-paid soap actor of the day, earning $1 million annually after more than 20 years in her role as Erica Kane on ABC’s “All My Children,” which ended its run in 2011.
“General Hospital” Credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin
While actors come and go, some soap stars become legends—and each show has its own roster of royalty. Here are some of the most popular stars of yesterday and today.
“Days of Our Lives”
- Kristian Alfonso as Hope Brady (1983–2020)
- Drake Hogestyn as John Black (1986–present)
- Deidre Hall as Dr. Marlena Evans (1976–present)
- Peter Reckell as Bo Brady (1983–present)
- John Aniston as Victor Kiriakis (1970–present)
- Alison Sweeney as Sami Brady (1987–present)
- Bill Hayes as Doug Williams (1970–present)
- Susan Seaforth Hayes as Julie Williams (1968–present)
- Nadia Bjorlin as Chloe Lane (1999–present)
- Kassie Wesley DePaiva as Eve Donovan (2014–2020)
“The Young and the Restless”
- Michelle Stafford as Phyllis Summers (1994–present)
- Eric Braeden as Victor Newman (1980–present)
- Melody Thomas Scott as Nikki Reed Newman (1979–present)
- Jeanne Cooper as Katherine Chancellor (1976–present)
- Sharon Case as Sharon Collins (1994–present)
- Peter Bergman as Jack Abbott (1989–present)
- Christian Jules Le Blanc as Michael Baldwin (1991–present)
- Kristoff St. John as Neil Winters (1991–2021)
- Shemar Moore as Malcolm Winters (1994–2021)
- Bryton James as Devon Hamilton (1996–2022)
“The Bold and the Beautiful”
- Susan Flannery as Stephanie Forrester (1987–2018)
- Katherine Kelly Lang as Brooke Logan (1987–present)
- Hunter Tylo as Dr. Taylor Hayes (1990–2019)
- John McCook as Eric Forrester (1987–present)
- Jacob Young as Rick Forrester (1997–2018)
- Adrienne Frantz as Ambrosia Moore (1997–2015)
- Jacqueline MacInnes Wood as Steffy Forrester (2008–present)
- Eileen Davidson as Ashley Abbott (2007–2008)
- Lesli Kay as Felicia Forrester (2005–2016)
- Kimberlin Brown as Sheila Carter (1992–present)
- Anthony Geary as Luke Spencer (1978–2018)
- Genie Francis as Laura Spencer (1977–present)
- Laura Wright as Carly Corinthos (2005–present)
- Maurice Benard as Sonny Corinthos (1993–present)
- Steve Burton as Jason Morgan (1992–2021)
- Kelly Monaco as Sam McCall (2003–present)
- Elizabeth Taylor as Helena Cassadine (1981)
- John Ingle as Edward Quartermaine (1993–2012)
- Anna Lee as Lila Quartermaine (1979–2018)
- Maura West as Ava Jerome (2013–present)
Cast of “Days of Our Lives” Credit: Chris Haston/NBC
While there’s no industry-wide standard, soap opera casting directors are constantly looking for actors who have what it takes to bring the given character to life and sustain the stamina soap operas demand. “Days of Our Lives” CD Marnie Saitta once told The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, “I need an actor who trusts their instincts, whose script analysis skills are so strong, their craft is so strong, and they’re willing to jump on that first take, because we don’t have second and third and fourth takes. We basically do a play and a half a day with no rehearsal. And [being able to do] that is such a rare skill set that is rarely used in other mediums, because [in film and in other television], you get the luxury of having multiple takes, and you get the luxury of having direction.”
It’s this confidence that Sydney Mikayla, who originated the role of Trina Robinson on “General Hospital,” brought to the role. “I believe that authenticity can be a difficult word for an actor of color to process,” she told us. “Sometimes, we might wonder if our likeness is palatable and understood by white audiences. I used to believe that authenticity was straightening my hair to fit into certain roles, or to be more ‘sassy’ so as to be deemed the funniest Black girl. As I matured, I realized that authenticity was coming into myself.” So, Mikayla began to “reach into the depths of [her] likeness” and “explore the awkward, oddball, insecure parts of me that I thought no audience could relate to.”
“As I researched the series, I wasn’t sure if my acting style could fit the cadence of the show. Could I do the dramatic looks or cry on cue?” she added. “However, as I prepared for the audition and callback, I put all that aside. I tried to make Trina as genuine and raw as possible; instead of making her an over-the-top teenager, I made her a vulnerable 16-year-old who is loyal, independent, and fun… That’s when I realized the importance of bringing truth to every role, and why it is vital for artists to express themselves in the most vulnerable way possible,” Mikayla said. “Niche ideas and unique characters create representation of underrepresented groups that are ready to see versions of themselves onscreen.”
“The Young and the Restless” Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS
Although the major TV networks—CBS, NBC, and ABC—used to fill the afternoons with an array of soap operas, there are now only four daytime dramas: CBS’ “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” NBC’s “Days of Our Lives,” and ABC’s “General Hospital.” However, “Days of Our Lives” recently transitioned to NBC’s streaming platform, Peacock. So, while the sudser will no longer appear on television, it remains affiliated with the network it’s called home since November 1965.
“The Bold and the Beautiful” Credit: Adam Torgerson/CBS
Currently, there are no open auditions for the primary soap operas. However, it’s a good idea to bookmark our roundup of drama gigs for updates. Daytime dramas regularly introduce new characters into the mix—and it’s not unusual for CDs to recast major players, too.
Along with keeping a tab on our casting resources, having an agent is also helpful. Need representation? Here’s how you can find an agent who will help you achieve your dreams.
“General Hospital” Credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin
- Christy Dooley, "The Bold and the Beautiful"
- Gregory Salmon, "The Young and the Restless"
- Marnie Saitta, "Days of Our Lives"
- Mark Teschner, "General Hospital"
As with any audition, CDs look for different qualities based on the nature of the character. For Saitta, that means looking for the “unspoken” facets that make someone right for the role.
“People will often come in and when they read for me, they say, ‘Oh, you’re off-book? I can’t believe you’re off-book. You’re a casting director,’ and I say, ‘I can’t believe how a casting director can not be off-book,’ especially in daytime, because to really see if the actor is committed and present, [it’s] in their unspoken,” she noted. “So when I am speaking to them, if [my face is] down in the page, I don’t get to see them reacting and listening, where I believe all of the magic happens. You fall in love with the unspoken, you have conflict in the unspoken, you subvert in the unspoken, so that’s really where we’re able to connect and make that magic that happens.”
As for Teschner, he notes that actors need to understand that CDs aren’t the enemy. “Casting directors can be the greatest ally of an actor, we are your champions; when we believe in an actor, we work tirelessly and passionately to try to create that possibility,” he says.
“It is not us against them… I think more actors need to realize that, when you walk in the door, there is endless possibility—we are just as hopeful as you are that something magical will happen in the room,” he continues. “The greatest feeling as a casting director is when you feel on a gut level, that you have found what you are looking for: that combination of talent, presence, charisma—where you feel this is something special.”
“The Young and the Restless” Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS
- Remain open to the possibilities: While some may be quick to shun soaps, such daytime dramas have launched the careers of some of the greatest actors of our time—Judith Light included. Light learned how to change her perception and walk into an audition room with the right attitude. “I started to reframe the way I was going into a room,” she told us. “How about having some respect for the things that people have written and taken the time to do, instead of holding yourself disdainfully? And the first sitcom I got was ‘Who’s the Boss?’ I went into that audition room with a whole shift in perception. I don't mean that in some sort of New Agey way. ‘I have visions. I have dreams.’ I sit and listen to myself say things like that and I think, I’m not talking about The Secret... It’s not, If you do this, then this will happen. It’s, like, just stay open.”
- Don’t compare yourself to others: Having cast some of the biggest names on “General Hospital,” CD Mark Teschner knows what it takes to stand out in the business. “[T]here is no point in comparing yourself to other people in the room; there’s always going to be someone prettier, more talented, more established in the room, but you are in that room for that audition because you have the possibility of booking that job,” he says. “An actor must come into the room with a strong point of view on the material that they feel emotionally connected to, that they feel brings the character to life. There is no point trying to tailor your performance to what you think the casting director wants—often we’re not even sure and it’s the situation of ‘we know it when we see it.’ I think the most empowering choice an actor can make is one that is from their place of truth, not where they think the casting director’s place of truth.”
- Stop waiting for the phone to ring: Although there aren’t too many children wreaking havoc in the soap opera world, characters are always having babies (usually under shady circumstances), and eventually, those babies grow up to have storylines of their own. Jophielle Love, who plays Violet Finn on “General Hospital,” first auditioned for the role when she was only 5 years old. Now, with years of acting under her belt, the young star has some advice that applies to newcomers and old-timers alike. “You will do hundreds of taped auditions before you get a job sometimes, so you can’t worry about the result or the phone ringing, or you will spend too much time waiting by the phone rather than spending it learning new things,” she says. “Plus you will be endlessly disappointed and wondering why you didn’t get the job. When you are a kid, your job is to learn, learn, learn AND have fun!”