Behind the Scenes: 6 Longest-Running Soap Opera Actors and Actresses

One of the characteristics that distinguishes a television show as a soap opera, according to Albert Moran, is “that form of television that works with a continuous, open narrative.”

Every episode ends with a promise to pick up the plot in the next installment. Robert Lloyd, a journalist for the Los Angeles Times, wrote about everyday tragedies in 2012.

Soap operas, despite their dramatic events, seem more realistic due to their ample space. The economics of the genre necessitate lengthy scenes, and exchanges that a weekly series with 22 episodes per season may condense into six lines of dialogue that can span multiple pages in a soap opera like this one.

When you spend more time with supporting characters, the villains who are initially clear-cut become less so.

Daytime television has always featured a lot of soap operas, and even if the quantity of programs has dropped, certain classic series have endured throughout the years.

Many actors have been with the program from its start, with “General Hospital” nearing its 60th season and “The Young and the Restless” just commemorating its 50th. These adored soap opera performers plan to stay for as long as possible after spending decades with their program.

1. John Aniston – 40 Years (‘Days Of Our Lives)

John Aniston
John Aniston

Among the most adored actors who portrayed one of the most despised characters on Days of Our Lives was the late John Aniston.

The well-known father of Friends alum Jennifer Aniston started his Days career in 1970 as a little part named Eric Richards, after trying out for the part of Doug Williams.

Only fifteen years later did Aniston return to Salem, this time in the guise of the infamous patriarch Victor Kiriakis, a role he would play for forty years until he died in 2022.

On December 26, 2022, the soap opera’s Christmas episode finished with a memorial to the actor, marking Aniston’s final posthumous airdate.

2. Jackie Zeman – 42 Years (‘General Hospital’)

Jackie Zeman

After brief appearances on the discontinued soap operas One Life To Live and The Edge of Night, Jackie Zeman, who has acted opposite rock musician Rick Springfield, Genie Francis, and Anthony Geary, has had Bobbie Spencer’s on-and-off role on General Hospital for 42 years.

Bobbie, the notorious Luke Spencer’s sister, has a history of physical altercations with veteran Lesley Webber over her forty years on the soap opera, which will culminate in sixty years on daytime in 2023.

Her little, adopted daughter B.J. died in a bus accident in 1994, and her heart was transplanted into her young, ailing niece Maxie Jones. This incident, however, remains her most unforgettable narrative.

3. Doug Davidson – 42 years

Doug Davidson
Doug Davidson

One of the cast members of “The Young and the Restless” with the longest run has been Doug Davidson, who began the show in 1978.

Subsequently, he starred in hundreds of episodes as Paul Williams and was awarded the Daytime Emmy for Best Lead Actor in a Dramatic Series.

2018 saw Doug’s contract expire, and he will now only make sporadic appearances. Doug was still regarded as a cast member, but there was turmoil in the background, and he hadn’t been on the program in a while.

He told viewers precisely what occurred immediately, but he declined to participate in the show’s 50th anniversary episode.

4. Melody Thomas Scott – 43 Years

 Melody Thomas Scott
Melody Thomas Scott

Harmony Though Thomas Scott has had a lengthy and successful career in both cinema and television, fans of soap operas will always associate her with her role as Young and the Restless’s daytime sweetheart, Nikki Newman, which she has maintained for more than 40 years.

After actress Erica Hope departed the soap opera in 1979, Scott was fresh to daytime, and she hadn’t left Genoa City in 43 years.

In 2023, Scott will commemorate 44 years of working on the soap opera, while Y&R will celebrate 50 years of daytime television.

5. Kate Linder – 41 years

Kate Linder
Kate Linder

For almost forty years, Kate Linder has been a part of “The Young and the Restless” as housekeeper Esther Valentine. She was only meant to play a supporting part in one episode when she made her debut on the program in 1982, and her character didn’t have a name.

As her part expanded, co-star Jeanne Cooper started referring to her as Esther, a nickname that stayed. Then, a national competition was organized to aid with surname selection. Since then, Kate has been a regular cast member and is still performing her part.

“I find it incredible. Being a member of ‘The Young and the Restless’ for such a long time and having begun this program is great. It’s fun to say, “Forty years and counting.”

I love my job, and the show, and I feel privileged to be able to bring Esther to life. I am overjoyed and feel privileged that it has provided me with so many chances to give back,” Kate said in an interview.

6. Deidre Hall – 41 years

Deidre Hall
Deidre Hall

Deidre Hall has portrayed Marlena Evans in several “Days of Our Lives” episodes for the last 41 years. In retrospect, Deidre believed she had little chance of landing the job because she had tried out alongside so many other well-known actresses—and she declined the part when she did!

“I was so sure that I wouldn’t have been selected because of all these familiar faces I had seen during the audition.

But I reasoned with myself, thinking that if ten performers had already rejected it, there had to be a problem. I declined it as well, and two weeks later, she contacted me again and said, “What’s wrong with this part?” I said, “I adore this.”

I just thought I wasn’t somebody they especially thought of first.’ She said, ‘You were their first choice.’ So I took it and it’s been over 40 years,” she told Closer Weekly.

Who is the longest-running soap opera actor and actress of all time?

Having played Ken Barlow on Coronation Street since 1960, William Roache now holds the Guinness World Record for the longest-serving actor in a television soap opera as of 2024.

In the same vein, after 49 years of portraying Maggie Horton, Suzanne Rogers continues to hold the record for her longest tenure as an actor on Days of Our Lives and any soap opera currently in production.

William Roache
William Roache

Rogers’s daytime job will always be her most well-known accomplishment, as seen by the just three other credits on her record.

Over time, the number of American soap operas has decreased. From many daytime dramas on every major network to only one or none at all, this trend has been seen.

However, several soap operas are still popular, with Young and the Restless and General Hospital commemorating important anniversaries in 2023 and Days of Our Lives continuing to be a must-watch despite moving to Peacock.

Fans stick around because of the adored, illustrious soap performers who have been on their soaps for decades, in addition to the exciting plots that span generations.

Even while veteran actors like Peter Bergman, Genie Francis, and Alison Sweeney are among the greatest names in daytime, some of their most well-known co-stars have lasted far longer than them.

Read Also – 7 Unforgettable Love Triangles That Kept Soap Opera Fans on the Edge of Their Seats

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