Entertainment

Soap stars who were successful in the USA – from Oscar winners to Queen roles

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Soaps are a staple of the entertainment industry in Britain and many actors are vying for coveted roles on EastEnders and Coronation Street to get their big break.

A number of former soap stars have made careers in the US, including Alex Ferns, who played villainous Trevor Morgan at EastEnders from 2000-2002.

The actor now looks unrecognizable in his latest role as Commissioner Pete Savage in The Batman (2022), which hits UK cinemas later this week.

While some soap actors are ridiculed for their ambitions beyond Walford or Weatherfield borders, there are success stories. We took a look at ten former soap stars who have made names for themselves in the US. Some were box office hits, others are TV favorites.

Rachel Shenton







Rachel Shenton (right) won an Oscar for her short film The Silent Child
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Image:

REUTERS)

Rachel Shenton, 34, is best known for playing fame-obsessed fellow Zeee Minniver on Hollyoaks. She appeared on the Channel 4 soap opera from 2010 to 2013.

After her departure, she starred in three seasons of US teen drama Switched at Birth. However, her biggest career success came in 2017 with the release of a short film.

She co-wrote and starred in The Silent Child, which tells the story of a young deaf girl who leads a quiet life until she is taught to communicate through sign language.

The short received critical acclaim upon its release and earned Shenton a number of awards. That included the Oscar for Best Live-Action Short Film in 2018.

Sean Maguire






Sean Maguire had a recurring role in Once Upon a Time (Image: Getty)

Sean Maguire, 45, played Aidan Brosnan on the BBC soap EastEnders in 1993. The character had a high-profile storyline involving homelessness and substance abuse.

Around 23 million people are said to have tuned in to an episode on Christmas Day that year in which Aidan tried to take his own life. He left Walford in the next episode.

The actor later pursued a career in the United States, starring in Meet the Spartans (2008). His other credits have included roles on shows such as The 100, Timeless, and CSI: NY.

However, his biggest role since the EastEnders came in Robin Hood in the hugely successful Once Upon a Time. He appeared on the ABC fantasy show from 2013 to 2018.

Nathalie Emmanuel







Nathalie Emmanuel (right) has appeared in Game of Thrones and the Fast & Furious franchise
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Image:

HBO)

Nathalie Emmanuel, 33, started her screen career as Sasha Valentine on Hollyoaks. She played the character from 2006 to 2010 before pursuing other TV roles.

She notably portrayed the maid Missandei in Games of Thrones between 2013 and 2019. The character was introduced in her third season and stayed until her last.

And the actor plays Megan Ramsey in the Fast & Furious franchise. She has appeared in three episodes since 2015, with two more films set to reprise her role.

Her other credits include two films in the Maze Runner franchise, the heist comedy Army of Thieves (2021) and the television adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral (2019).

Patsy Palmer







Patsy Palmer is now a California based DJ
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BBC)

Patsy Palmer, 49, has played one of EastEnders’ most iconic characters; Bianca Jackson. She was introduced in 1993 and is often quoted about screaming “Ricky”.

The actor first appeared on the BBC soap opera in the 1990s before reprising the role between 2008 and 2014. She later returned to Albert Square for a short time in 2019.

However, she now lives near Los Angeles, where she runs hair care business Good & Proper and is the wellness editor at lifestyle magazine Cali Mag.

And she has made a career as a DJ. She is said to have performed at various “high profile events” with reports reporting that she has performed alongside singer Macy Grey, 54.

Michelle Ryan







Michelle Ryan got her big break at EastEnders
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BBC)

Michelle Ryan, 37, contributed to a memorable soap opera moment when her character Zoe Slater found out Kat Slater (Jessie Wallace, 50) was her mother – not her sister.

The actor was with EastEnders from 2000 to 2005 before pursuing other projects. That included starring opposite Carmen Electra, 49, in the comedy I Want Candy.

She later embarked on a career in the US, landing the lead role in the short-lived series Bionic Woman – which was a reimagining of the 1970s series of the same name.

Eight episodes aired in 2007 but were later canceled. Michelle appeared in five episodes of the US action series Covert Affairs in 2013 and appeared in several films.

Ricky Whittle







Ricky Whittle led the cast of American Gods
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Image:

(Getty Images)

Ricky Whittle, 40, played Calvin Valentine on Hollyoaks between 2006 and 2011. The character was involved in a number of storylines before being killed off in 2010.

The actor later took on roles in several projects in the US, including the US adaptation of Mistresses. He was also a series regular on the post-apocalyptic series The 100.

However, his most prominent role in recent years has been as Shadow Moon in the fantasy series American Gods. He played the lead role from 2017 to 2021.

The former soap actor hasn’t appeared in many films, although his credits include roles in the romantic comedy Austenland (2013) and the Netflix original Nappily Ever After (2018).

Anna Friel







Anna Friel starred in Pushing Daisies
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Image:

Karwai Tang/Getty Images)

Anna Friel, 45, rose to fame for her portrayal of Beth Jordache on Brookside from 1993-95. Her character was involved in a historic same-sex kiss on the Channel 4 soap opera.

After her departure, she appeared in numerous projects, but it was not until she played Charlotte “Chuck” Charles in the comedy series Pushing Daisies that she gained international recognition.

From 2007 to 2009 she was part of the main cast, later appearing in US shows such as American Odyssey (2015) and Girlfriend Experience (2017).

Over the years her film credits have included the thriller Boundless (2011), the fantasy comedy The Cleanse (2016) and more recently a starring role in Charming the Hearts of Men (2021).

Lucien Laviscount







Lucien Laviscount joined the cast of Emily in Paris for the second season
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Image:

Getty)

Lucien Laviscount, 29, played teenager Ben Richardson in Coronation Street in 2009, just before the actor landed the role of Jonah Kirby in Waterloo Road.

More recently, he has made a name for himself with US audiences, having starred as Earl Gray in 2015’s Scream Queens and as Alexander Cabot in 2020’s Katy Keene.

However, one of his biggest roles to date was earlier this year in the second season of the Netflix comedy-drama series Emily in Paris. He played Alfie, the lead’s love interest.

His other credits included the horror film The Bye Bye Man (2017), the romantic drama Trust (2021) and a starring role in the TV adaptation of Snatch, which ran from 2017-2018.

Himesh Patel







Himesh Patel starred yesterday
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Image:

wire image)

Himesh Patel, 31, is best known for having played Tamwar Masood at EastEnders for almost a decade. The character was introduced in 2007 and left the soap in 2016.

The actor later directed the cast of the musical comedy Yesterday (2019), in which he played a man who convinces the world he wrote the Beatles’ songs.

More recently, he had roles in the sci-fi film Tenet (2020) and the apocalyptic comedy Don’t Look Up (2021), playing Jennifer Lawrence’s character’s boyfriend.

His other credits include roles in drama miniseries The Luminaries (2020), sci-fi comedy Avenue 5 (2020), and post-apocalyptic series Station Eleven (2021).

Ben Hardy







Ben Hardy was the sixth actor to play Peter Beale
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Image:

BBC/Jack Barnes)

Ben Hardy, 31, was the sixth actor to play Peter Beale on EastEnders. He took on the role in 2013 and stayed on the show for a few years until 2015.

After his departure, the actor took on the role of Archangel in the superhero film X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) and portrayed writer John William Polidori in Mary Shelley (2017).

However, his biggest hit was the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), in which he portrayed Queen drummer Roger Taylor. The film and its cast have won multiple awards.

The actor’s other work has included the action thriller 6 Underground (2019), the comedy film Pixie (2020) and more recently a role in the erotic thriller The Voyeurs (2021).

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