The death of Agnes Nixon on Wednesday prompted a look back on a career that spanned decades and gave dozens of actors who turned into Hollywood household names their start.
Through the creation of soap operas such as “One Life to Live,” “All My Children” and “Loving,” Nixon revolutionized daytime television and provided fertile ground for talented, up and coming actors to thrive.
Here are just a few of the stars that cut their teeth on Nixon’s shows through the years.
“All My Children”
Susan Lucci as Erica Kane (1970-2011)
The unrivaled queen of soap opera characters, Lucci joined “All My Children” in 1970 and appeared in the show for over 40 years.
Lucci’s character, Erica Kane, was an unrepentant villain with a taste for the finer things in life and willing to do whatever it took to get what she deserved.
Melissa Leo as Linda Warner (1984-88)
Melissa Leo, who won the supporting actress Oscar for “The Fighter” in 2011, got her start on “All My Children” playing a meddling sister who attempts to break up her brother’s relationship and winds up dead for her trouble. Though Leo’s stint on the show was relatively brief, she earned a Daytime Emmy nomination for outstanding younger actress in a drama series for her performance in 1985.
Kelly Ripa as Hayley Vaughan Santos (1990-2002, 2010)
Kelly Ripa may have started her television stint with appearances on dance shows, but it wasn’t until she was cast as troubled party girl Hayley Vaughan on “All My Children” in 1990 that her career began in earnest.
Michael B. Jordan as Reggie Porter Montgomery (2003-2006)
Television aficionados most likely became aware of “Creed” and “Friday Night Lights” star Michael B. Jordan during his arc on HBO’s “The Wire” in 2002. The rest of America met Jordan during his three-year stint on “All My Children” as Reggie Porter Montgomery, a reformed gang member who tries to start a new life in Pine Valley.
“One Life to Live”
Tommy Lee Jones as Mark Toland (1971-1975)
As unlikely as it may seem, Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones (“The Fugitive”) started out with an extensive run on “One Life to Live” playing Dr. Mark Toland, an eligible bachelor who soon finds himself unhappily married. Toland met an untimely end in 1975 in a case of mistaken identity, shortly after Jones informed producers he’d be leaving the show.
Laurence Fishburne as Joshua Hall (1973-1976)
The long road to being nominated for an Academy Award and winning a Tony and an Emmy began for Laurence Fishburne on “One Life to Live” in 1973. Then just 12 years old, Fishburne played Joshua Hall, a troubled youth who was adopted by a childless couple. The actor left the series in 1976 to take a role in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.”
Judith Light as Karen Wolek (1977-1983)
Judith Light may not have originated the role of Karen Wolek, but she certainly made the character her own when she joined “One Life to Live” in 1977. The role of a bored housewife turned alcoholic prostitute earned Light two Daytime Emmy awards and was a far cry from the roles on “Who’s the Boss?” and “Transparent” that would find her such acclaim in the future.
Bryan Cranston as Douglas Donovan (1983-1985)
A far cry from the the lovable doofus dad he’d play on “Malcolm in the Middle” and even less like the scheming suburban drug lord he’d embody on “Breaking Bad,” the Emmy winner got his start on television originating the role of Douglas Donovan on “Loving.” An academic, professor and playwright on the soap, Cranston would be replaced in 1985 by Victor Bevine.
Luke Perry as Ned Bates (1987-1988)
Luke Perry may have won his way into the hearts of teenage girls everywhere in the 1990s with his turn as Dylan McKay on “Beverly Hills 90210,” but keen-eyed viewers could have spotted Perry years earlier when he played Ned Bates, a poor mechanic from Tennessee on “Loving.”
Michael Weatherly as Cooper Alden (1992-1995)
Before Michael Weatherly made himself a seemingly permanent fixture on CBS, with roles on “NCIS” and now “Bull,” he spent several early years of his career on ABC’s “Loving.” Weatherly played Cooper Alden, a selfish rich kid who grew into a selfless romantic over the years.