Soap stars who cracked Hollywood as Michelle Keegan calls out 'snobbery'

Former Coronation Street star Michelle Keegan says people can be snobby about soaps - but these actors made the transition to Hollywood.

Michelle Keegan attends a photo call for the new Netflix series, Fool Me Once, at the Soho Hotel in central London. Picture date: Tuesday December 12, 2023. (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
Michelle Keegan says soap stars moving on to other jobs often experience snobbery. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Soap is a good gig for many an actor - regular work in an often unstable industry, and legions of fans make it a tempting option.

However, many a former soap star has found that trying to transition to a Hollywood career can be tricky once you're pigeon holed, and ex Coronation Street actor Michelle Keegan has called out the "snobbery" many experience.

Keegan has had high-profile roles in Our Girl, Brassic and most recently Netflix's Fool Me Once, told Fearne Cotton's Happy Place podcast: "I’m naturally disciplined but I think that’s come from being in a soap. I think there’s a lot of snobbery surrounding soaps.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Michelle Keegan attends The Fashion Awards 2023 Presented by Pandora at the Royal Albert Hall on December 04, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
Michelle Keegan has had a successful career since leaving Corrie. (WireImage)

"For me, it’s the best learning platform you can ever do as an actor. I remember we were filming three different story lines at one time, with three different directors, not in chronological order, going back and forward. Being in a soap, it’s so fast-paced you have to be on your game. You have to be."

She added: "I feel like that discipline I learnt from soaps at such a young age I sort of carried that through my career."

Although there are doubtless plenty who would agree with her, these former soap actors managed to hit the big time in Hollywood.

Margot Robbie

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 8: Margot Robbie arrives on the red carpet at the 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards, airing live from the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California on Sunday, January 7, 2024, at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT, on CBS and streaming on Paramount+. (Photo by Trae Patton//CBS via Getty Images)
Margot Robbie started out at Neighbours. (CBS via Getty Images)

One of the most successful ex soap stars is Australian actor Margot Robbie, who moved on to the big screen after starting her career at Neighbours. Current big name of the 2024 awards season Robbie is expected to start the year with a slew of trophies for Barbie and has previously been recognised for her roles in I, Tonya and Bombshell.

Robbie's other acclaimed roles have included playing Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey, and appearing alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. Her production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, is behind Barbie, I, Tonya, Promising Young Woman and Saltburn.

She isn't the only Aussie star to have found soap a great launchpad into Hollywood, as other big names making the leap have included Isla Fisher, Chris and Luke Hemsworth, and Guy Pearce.

Ben Hardy

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: Ben Hardy attends a screening of
Ben Hardy traded EastEnders for films. (WireImage)

EastEnders has had a number of Peter Beales over the years, but the most successful has been Ben Hardy who is now a bona fide Hollywood film star.

Hardy has starred in a number of big name films, with his best known roles as Angel in X-Men: Apocalypse and playing Roger Taylor in Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.

Sam Strike

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 13: Sam Strike attends
Sam Strike started out as Johnny Carter. (Getty Images)

Hardy isn't the only actor to have swapped Albert Square for Sunset Boulevard - one of the original Carter clan, Sam Strike, left his UK role as Johnny Carter to move to the US.

Strike's credits include Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel Leatherface, and Netflix series Mindhunter.

Rob Kazinsky

HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 06:  Actor Rob Kazinsky arrives at the premiere of Universal Pictures' 'Warcraft' at TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on June 6, 2016 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Rob Kazinsky has a big-screen career. (FilmMagic)

Rob Kazinsky was something of a soap villain as EastEnders' Sean Slater, but his sinister storylines hit new heights when he joined the cast of US vampire series True Blood.

He's also appeared in films including Captain Marvel and Pacific Rim, proving there's definitely life outside of Walford.

Nathalie Emmanuel

British actress and model Nathalie Emmanuel on the red carpet at the world premiere of the film Fast X at the Colosseum. Rome (Italy), May 12nd, 2023 (Photo by Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Nathalie Emmanuel survived Game Of Thrones. (Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Hollyoaks might not seem like the most obvious route to Hollywood, but Nathalie Emmanuel has made a huge success of her start as Sasha Valentine.

She was Missandei in Game Of Thrones from 2013 until the series end in 2019 - no small achievement in the series that was fond of wielding the axe at characters - and has also appeared in the Fast And Furious films seven, eight and nine.

Himesh Patel

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 19: Himesh Patel attends the Los Angeles Premiere of Netflix's
Himesh Patel was an EastEnders favourite. (FilmMagic)

Another ex-EastEnder who hit the big time is Himesh Patel, known to soap fans as Tamwar Masood, who found that a six-year run on Albert Square did nothing to hold back his film career.

Patel has had roles in Christopher Nolan film Tenet, The Aeronauts and Beatles-inspired Yesterday, as well as Netflix movies Don't Look Up and Enola Holmes 2.

Rachel Shenton

Rachel Shenton was one of just six female winners (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Rachel Shenton won an Oscar. (Invision/AP)

Hollyoaks alumnus Rachel Shenton found fame as the soap's Mitzeee Minniver, but her career took a much more serious turn when she won an actual Academy Award in 2018.

Shenton picked up her Oscar for short film The Silent Child, about a deaf girl learning sign language, which she wrote, produced and starred in.

Michelle Ryan

Michelle Ryan landed a starring role on US TV. (NBCU Photo Bank)

Back in the Noughties, Michelle Ryan was hugely famous in the UK for her part as Zoe Slater in EastEnders, which included the infamous "You ain't my mother" line to Kat (who in fact was).

In 2007, she set her sights on the US and landed the lead role in a TV remake of The Bionic Woman with short-lived success. She has also said she auditioned for the Casino Royale role that eventually went to Eva Green.

Anna Friel

Anna Friel's career has long outlasted Brookside. (PA Images)
Anna Friel's career has long outlasted Brookside. (PA Images)

It's been 30 years since Anna Friel first found fame in Brookside, but while the soap has long since been cancelled, Friel's career has continued from strength to strength.

As well as her long list of UK TV roles, the former Beth Jordache actor has appeared in films The Land Girls, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Goal!, as well as earning a Golden Globe nomination for US series Pushing Daisies.