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From Soap to Silver Screen: Which soaps offer the best chance for success?

Soaps are a British staple. Did you know that the most watched TV episode EVER in the UK is the EastEnders Christmas episode in ‘86? This is the infamous episode where Dirty Den served Angie with divorce papers. This special pulled in more than 30 million viewers (or 53% of the population), nearly six million more than the Live Aid concert in ‘85. So, it’s clear Brits love their soaps.

What’s more, over 80% of Brits watch these traditional shows – including beloved soaps – for more than three hours per day.

With that in mind, tombola has analysed* the UK - and Australia’s - most famous soaps and the most recognisable faces to star in each to reveal which soap could be more likely to help stars win a BAFTA, Oscar and even help them make it in Hollywood.

EastEnders stars are most likely to star in Hollywood films  

the best soaps to make it in hollywood image 2

While Home & Away offers the best chance of success for stars, here in the UK, EastEnders takes the crown. Stars from EastEnders are more likely to feature in Hollywood films - based on an analysis of 306 UK and international soap actors. Since the London-based soap hit our screens in February 1985, 10 of the soap’s most famous 51 faces have gone on to break Hollywood.

Robert Kazinsky, better known as Stacey Slater’s brother, Sean Slater, is the most successful of the bunch, featuring in a whopping six Hollywood films. These films include Pacific Rim, Hot Pursuit and, most recently, Captain Marvel.

Ben Hardy - formerly known as Peter Beale - has also experienced Blockbuster success, starring in five Hollywood films. Those include Bohemian Rhapsody and X Men: Apocalypse.

Other actors that have gone from soap to silver screen include Sam Strike (Johnny Carter), Martine McCutcheon (Tiffany Mitchell) and even June Brown (Dot Cotton).

the uk's most successful soap actors image 3

Coronation Street produces the least Hollywood stars

Unfortunately for EastEnders rival, Coronation Street, their actors are least likely to make it onto the silver screen. Of the 51 most famous actors to have walked the cobbles since the first episode in 1960, only one regular character has made it in a Hollywood film.

But, actors from Coronation Street are most likely to win a BAFTA

It’s certainly not all bad news for the successful Manchester-based soap, however. While Corrie actors could be least likely to head to Hollywood, they do have a better chance of winning a BAFTA than actors starring in any other UK soap. After analysing the BAFTA nominations and award wins of the most famous soap actors, Coronation Street came top.

Three former Corrie actors have been nominated for BAFTAs, including Suranne Jones (Karen McDonald), Jean Alexander (Hilda Ogden) and Sarah Lancashire (Raquel Watts). Each one of the three then went on to win the respective BAFTA they were nominated for.

The only other soap where individual actors have received BAFTA nominations is EastEnders.

Actors are more likely to win an Oscar if they start their career in Hollyoaks

Hollyoaks has seen eight of their most famous stars make it to the silver screen – coming a close second to EastEnders. Those include Nathalie Emmanuel (Sasha Valentine), who has featured in five Blockbuster films - including two films from the Fast and Furious franchise, and two movies of the Maze Runner trilogy.

But, it’s Rachel Shenton - you might know her as her character, Mitzeee Minniver - that is the only UK soap actor to receive an Oscar nomination, and go on to win the award. In 2018, she won an Academy Award (Oscar) for her film, The Silent Child.

The only other famous soap actors analysed to receive Oscar nominations include former Neighbours regular, Margot Robbie, and Home & Away alumni, Chris Hemsworth.

Battle of the Aussies: Home & Away produces the most Hollywood stars

For actors looking to break into Hollywood, Home & Away takes the top spot.

tombola studied the most recognisable 102 actors from both soaps. 13 former Home & Away actors have featured in a staggering 93 Blockbuster films. Those actors include Chris Hemsworth (Kim Hyde), starring in 23 Hollywood movies - such as the Thor franchise. Isla Fisher - or Shannon Reed - also made her name in Home & Away, before going on to star in 20 Blockbuster films.

Similarly, 13 of the biggest Neighbours actors have gone on to ‘break’ Hollywood, totalling up an impressive 72 films. 

neighbours' and home and away's most successful actors

Neighbours stars are more likely to receive BAFTA and Oscar nominations

Margot Robbie is the only former Neighbours turned Hollywood actor analysed to receive a BAFTA nomination. In fact, she’s been nominated five times and has also received two Academy Award nominations.

Chris Hemsworth, her Home & Away rival, is the only other actor of the 102 studied to receive a BAFTA nomination.

Neighbours alumni are also more likely to take the starring role of their own TV show. Guy Pearce (the character Mike Young) played Jack Irish in the ABC1 television show of the same name. Craig McLachlan - or Henry Ramsay in Neighbours - also starred as Dr Blake in the Doctor Blake Mysteries. Interestingly, Craig also had a recurring role on Home & Away.

Actors that regularly feature in EastEnders are more likely to lead in their own TV show

Actors who start their career in Walford can go onto great things - including their own TV show. tombola analysed which actors – of the 306 studied in total - have gone on to take the lead role of a TV show.

Four actors from EastEnders most famous faces have been offered the starring role in their own TV show, including Lacey Turner, Michelle Ryan, Ross Kemp and Danny Dyer. Ross Kemp has even been nominated for a BAFTA for his own TV show.

Coming a close second, however, are Coronation Street actors, with three going on to take the lead role in their own TV show. Those include Suranne Jones, Sarah Lancashire and Michelle Keegan.

Female soap stars are more likely to lead in their own TV show or feature in a Hollywood film

tombola’s investigation of 306 soap actors found that more soap actresses have gone on to star on the silver screen and land a leading role in their own TV show than their male counterparts.

Of the nine actors to have left UK soaps to star on their own show, six of them were actresses. Similarly, 26 women have left their soap characters behind to boast roles in Hollywood films, compared to just 23 men.

But there is, unfortunately, still a gender pay gap in Hollywood. Male actors earn a reported $1.1 million  more than women, suggesting more still needs to be done for actresses appearing in Hollywood.

So, there you have it. The UK’s most successful soap for actors looking to break Hollywood is EastEnders. But, if they are looking for an Oscar, actors need to pursue a role in Hollyoaks.


tombola studied 51 famous actors (306 in total) from each of the individual soaps below that were in the show for more than three months:

  • EastEnders
  • Coronation Street
  • Emmerdale
  • Hollyoaks
  • Neighbours
  • Home & Away

They analysed the number of Hollywood films (boasting more than $1 million at the Box Office and shown in the US) each actor had starred in, the number of BAFTA and Academy Award nominations for each individual actor, and the actors that had starred as the lead role in their own TV show (the TV role was only considered if it was the main character and based on the main character’s story).


*Actors were only considered if they had a regular role on the soap for more than three months.

Data correct as of April 2020.