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‘One Life to Live’ Cast: See the Surprising Soap Stars Then and Now

See which superstars got their start on the beloved soap!


In the realm of daytime television dramas, One Life to Live stands out as a classic. Running for over four decades, it captivated audiences with its intricate storylines, compelling characters, and talented cast.

One Life to Live was a beloved American soap opera that aired on the ABC network from 1968, to 2013. Created by Agnes Nixon, the show was known for its innovative storytelling and progressive themes, tackling issues such as racism, social class, and LGBTQ+ representation.

Set in the fictional town of Llanview, Pennsylvania, One Life to Live revolved around the lives, loves, and scandals of the diverse residents of the fictional town. From the wealthy Lords to the working-class Buchanans, the show depicted the intertwining lives of its characters with drama, romance, and suspense.

Several actors performed on the One Life to Live cast for 20 years or more including Erika SlezakMichael StormRobert S. WoodsPhilip Carey, and Robin Strasser.

Other famous actors got their start on One Life to Live before moving on to fame, including Tommy Lee Jones Laurence FishburneJudith Light, Phylicia Rashad, Blair UnderwoodMarcia Cross, Roma DowneyRyan Phillippe and Hayden Panettiere.

During it’s more than 40-year run, the show has had many, many cast members.

Here, we look back at some of our favorite One Life to Live cast members.

Marcia Cross as Kate Sanders One Life to Live Cast

Marcia Cross as Kate Sanders (One Life to Live Cast)
1985/2023 Aaron Rapoport / Contributor/Getty; Sylvain Lefevre / Contributor/Getty

We know and love Marcia Cross for her roles as Dr. Kimberly Shaw in Melrose Place and Bree Van de Kamp in Desperate Housewives, but did you know she also spent time as archaeologist Kate Sanders on One Life to Live between 1986 and 1988.

Do you remember Cross on the show? Let’s refresh your memory. Cross, as Kate Sanders, was marrying the man of her dreams, Cord Roberts, when his “dead” wife busted in on the ceremony to announce she was alive and pregnant with his baby. And yes, this is why we love soaps—it’s all about the plot twists. You never know what’s going to happen next.

Related: ‘Melrose Place’ Cast Then and Now: Catch Up With the Stars of the Hit ’90s Drama

Richard Grieco as Rick Gardner

Richard Grieco as Rick Gardner
1989/2022 Robin Platzer / Contributor/Getty; Gonzalo Marroquin / Stringer/Getty

Richard Grieco was one of the hottest actors in the ‘90s playing roles in 21 Jump Street and the spinoff Booker. But before he made it big on those shows he was playing the part of adorable Rick Gardner on the One Life to Live cast from 1986 to 1987.

Bryan Cranston as Dean Stella One Life to Live Cast

Bryan Cranston as Dean Stella (One Life to Live Cast)
2000/2024 Barry King / Contributor/Getty; Frazer Harrison / Staff/Getty

You may remember Bryan Cranston from his role mixing up trouble on Breaking Bad — a series he won several awards for. But before he became a household name he was on, you guessed it, the One Life to Live cast. He was on the soap opera in 1985 playing the role of Dean Stella.  This actor has a diverse range, in addition to soap operas and drug dramas, he has also appeared in Malcolm in the Middle, Baywatch, CHiPs and Touched by an Angel.

Related: Original ‘Baywatch’ Cast: See the Stars of the Iconic ’90s TV Show Then and Now

Laurence Fishburne as Josh Hall

Laurence Fishburne as Josh Hall (One Life to Live Cast)
1994/2023 Frank Trapper / Contributor/Getty; Steve Granitz / Contributor/Getty

We love Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix and Black-ish, but his acting chops were honed as a troubled teen on the One Life to Live cast. He aced the role as a young Josh Hall, a part he kept from 1973 to 1976.

Tommy Lee Jones Dr. Mark Toland One Life to Live Cast

Tommy Lee Jones Dr. Mark Toland (One Life to Live Cast)
1978/2023 Michael Ochs Archives / Handout/Getty; Leon Bennett / Stringer/Getty

Sure, you know Tommy Lee Jones from the Men in Black franchise and The Fugitive, but let’s go back in time to the 1970s where you’ll find him playing Dr. Mark Toland on One Life to Live cast. Before OLTL, he was cast in the movie Love Story, but he couldn’t find another role, so he took on the soap opera. He played Dr. Toland from 1971 to 1975. Of course, his star soon took off and he went on to be nominated for three Academy Awards.

Related: 12 Shocking Photos of Celebrities Who Look *Exactly* Like Historical Figures

Judith Light as Karen Wolek

Judith Light as Karen Wolek (One Life to Live Cast)
1986/2024 Donaldson Collection / Contributor/Getty; Matt Winkelmeyer / Staff/Getty

We know Judith Light as Angela Bower, one of our favorite tv moms from Who’s the Boss? We also know her as Claire Meade from Ugly Betty. Let’s not forget her roles in Transparent and as Judge Elizabeth Donnelly on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

MUST-READ: ‘Who’s The Boss?’ Cast Then and Now: See the Stars of the Beloved ’80s Sitcom

But before all of that, Light starred on OLTL as housewife Karen Wolek (who secretly works as a prostitute) from 1977 to 1983, ultimately leaving the show for her famous role in Who’s the Boss? Light earned two Daytime Emmy Awards for her role on OLTL.

Hayden Panettiere as Sarah One Life to Live Cast

Hayden Panettiere as Sarah (One Life to Live Cast)
2000/2023 Evan Agostini / Contributor/Getty; ANGELA WEISS / Contributor/Getty

We know and love Hayden Panettiere for her roles on Heroes and Nashville, but she got her acting start playing Sarah, daughter of Tina Lord and Cord Roberts, between 1994 and 1997. Do you remember her nickname on OLTL? Flash! Other tidbits you may recall?  She was the flower girl for Todd and Blair’s first wedding.

Ryan Phillippe as Billy Douglas

Ryan Phillippe as Billy Douglas (One Life to Live Cast)
1998/2023 Frank Trapper / Contributor/Getty; Steve Granitz / Contributor/Getty

Do you remember a young Ryan Phillippe playing the groundbreaking gay character Billy Douglas on the OLTL? He was on the show from 1992-1993 and was one of the first gay teenagers on a daytime show—his coming out episode was considered controversial at the time. Phillippe went on to star in hit movies such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cruel Intentions and Crash, as well as the series MacGruber.

Related: Best 90s Teen Movies, Ranked: Throwbacks Sure To Make You Laugh, Cry and Swoon!

Kelly McGillis as Glenda Livingston One Life to Live Cast

Kelly McGillis as Glenda Livingston (One Life to Live Cast)
1987/2013 Bob Riha Jr / Contributor/Getty; Larry Busacca / Staff/Getty

Most people know Kelly McGillis from her break-out role in Top Gun, but it was her part playing Glenda Livingston in One Life to Live in 1984 that honed her acting chops.

Related: ‘Top Gun’ 1986 Cast Then and Now: See Maverick, Goose, Iceman and More!

Rainn Wilson as Casey Keegan

Rainn Wilson as Casey Keegan (One Life to Live Cast)
2003/2024 Jeff Kravitz / Contributor/Getty; Gerardo Mora / Contributor/Getty

We love Rainn Wilson in Almost Famous and, his career-making role, playing Dwight Schrute in NBC’s The Office. But he, too, took a turn on OLTL. It was back in 1997 and he was playing an aspiring standup comedian named Casey Keegan.

Related: ‘The Office’ and ‘Monk’ Star Melora Hardin’s Must-See Movies and TV Shows

Blair Underwood as Bobby Blue One Life to Live Cast

Blair Underwood as Bobby Blue
1988/2022Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer/Getty; Dia Dipasupil / Staff/Getty

Blair Underwood is known for many great roles including his portrayal in L.A. Law, The New Adventures of Old Christine and, of course, playing Miranda’s doctor boyfriend Robert Leedson Sex and the City. But before all of that, from 1985 to 1986—just before he hit it big on L.A. Law—Underwood portrayed Bobby Blue on One Life to Live.

Related: Susan Dey: Find Out What ‘The Partridge Family’ And ‘L.A. Law’ Star Is Doing Today

Elisabeth Röhm as Dorothy Hayes

Elisabeth Rohm as Dorothy Hayes
2000/2023 Steve Granitz / Contributor/Getty; Frazer Harrison / Staff/Getty

Did you know that One Life to Live was Elisabeth Röhm first big acting break? She played the role of Dorothy Hayes on the show from 1997 to 1998. Ironically, she had an on-screen romance with Nathan Fillion’s character, Joey.  Rhmlater moved on to the role we all probably know her best for, ADA Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order.

Related: Christopher Meloni: The ‘Law & Order: OC’ Star’s Best Movies and TV Shows

Nathan Fillion as Joey Buchanan One Life to Live Cast

Nathan Fillion as Joey Buchanan
2022/2023 Jean-Paul Aussenard / Contributor/Getty; ROBYN BECK / Contributor/Getty

Before he was playing crime novelist Richard Castle on ABC’s dramedy Castle, Nathan Fillion stirred up trouble as Joey Buchanan, son of the popular main character Victoria Lord. One of his more memorable stories was when he romanced a much older woman—his mother’s nemesis.

His mom became so enraged that during a recurrence of her dissociative identity disorder, she kidnapped her son’s lover and held her hostage until she promised to end the May-December romance. Makes sense, right? Fillion played the character of Joey Buchanan from 1994 to 1997, and he developed a very loyal fanbase.

Related: ‘Castle’ Cast Then and Now: Where the Stars Are Now And What They Think of a Return

Phylicia Rashad as Courtney Wright

Phylicia Rashad as Courtney Wright
1999/2023 Diane Freed / Stringer/Getty; John Nacion / Contributor/Getty

Before her famous stint as Clair Hanks Huxtable on The Cosby Show, Phylicia Rashad played Courtney Wright from 1983 to 1984. Later, Rashad won a Tony for her performance in the acclaimed play A Raisin in the Sun. From soap opera to Broadway, now that’s something.

Roma Downey as Lady Johanna Leighton One Life to Live Cast

Roma Downey as Lady Johanna Leighton
1998/2024 Steve Granitz / Contributor/Getty; Alberto E. Rodriguez / Stringer/Getty

 In 1988, Irish actress Roma Downey played Lady Johanna Leighton on the OLTL show. She went on to get the lead role in the TV series Touched by an Angel, which ran from 1994 to 2003.

Yasmine Bleeth as LeeAnn Buchanan

Yasmine Bleeth as LeeAnn Buchanan
1997Aaron Rapoport / Contributor/Getty

 One of Yasmine Bleeth’s earliest roles was playing LeeAnn Buchanan from 1991 to 1993. Soon after, she was saving lives in a red swimsuit as Caroline Holden in Baywatch, a role that earned her a spot in People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1995.

Erika Slezak as Victoria Lord Buchanan One Life to Live Cast

Erika Slezak as Victoria Lord Buchanan
1996/2012 Evan Agostini / Contributor/Getty; Frederick M. Brown / Stringer/Getty

Born August 5, 1946, in Hollywood, California, Erika Slezak has appeared in the One Life to Live cast from 1971-2013. She’s been in over 2490 episodes. After One Life to Live Slezak made guest appearances on shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Blue Bloods.

Slezak holds the record for the most Daytime Emmy Awards won by a single performer, with six wins for Outstanding Lead Actress.

Robin Strasser as Dorian Lord

Robin Strasser as Dorian Lord
1996/2013 Evan Agostini / Contributor/Getty; Dave Kotinsky / Stringer/Getty

Born May 7, 1945, in New York City, Robin Strasser played the role of Dorian Lord and was on the show from 1979-2013. She appeared in over 690 episodes. She has also appeared in Days of Our Lives, MacGyver and Passions.

Strasser received critical acclaim for her portrayal of Dorian Lord, earning several Daytime Emmy nominations and one win for Outstanding Actress.

Robert S. Woods as Bo Buchanan One Life to Live Cast

Robert S. Woods as Bo Buchanan
2005/2013Fernando Leon / Stringer/Getty; Michael Stewart / Contributor/Getty

Born March 13, 1948, in Columbus, Ohio, Robert S. Woods played the role of Bo Buchanan from 1979-2013. He appeared in over 700 episodes. Ironically, he also appeared in other soap operas including All My Children and Days of our Lives. Prior to the OLTL he appeared in Kojak and the Waltons. He married, divorced and remarried Loyita Chapel.

Woods was nominated for several Daytime Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Bo Buchanan.

Kassie DePaiva as Blair Cramer

Kassie DePaiva as Blair Cramer
2002/2018 Jim Spellman / Contributor/Getty; Michael Tullberg / Contributor/Getty

Born March 21, 1961, in Morganfield, Kentucky, Kassie DePaiva portrayed Blair Cramer from 1993- 2013. She appeared in over 820 episodes. Prior to OLTL, DePaiva appeared in Evil Dead Twin II (1987), Baywatch (1994) and Melrose Place (1994). After One Life to Live cast, she appeared in General Hospital and Days of our Lives.

Kassie DePaiva is married to fellow actor James DePaiva, who also appeared on One Life to Live as Max Holden.

Related: ‘General Hospital’ Star Eden McCoy Talks Growing Up in Port Charles

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