GH monaco livvie port charles
Credit: Image: Bob D'Amico/ABC

It’s hard to imagine Port Charles without Jason’s once-and-presumably-future missus! 

Believe it or not, it’s been 17 years since General Hospital spitfire Sam McCall — and portrayer Kelly Monaco — first appeared on the ABC soapl. Right from that first scene — in which a young woman whose name we didn’t yet know faked her own suicide in order to break out of jail — we knew that she was something special.

Sure, many viewers were already familiar with the actress, thanks to Port Charles, the supernatural sudser on which she and Michael Easton (Finn, General Hospital) garnered a cult-like following as vampiric lovers Livvie and Caleb. While we mourned when even their gorgeously gothic romance couldn’t keep that show alive, its demise ultimately led Monaco to the role she was perhaps born to play. Ironically, because Port Charles taped so far in advance, her final appearances as Livvie — featuring what might well have been daytime’s creepiest wedding of all time — would actually air two days after her October 1, 2003, debut as Sam!

And oh, what a debut it was, as you can see for yourself by watching the video below! “What I’m about to do,” the mysterious, jailed beauty told the puppy in whom she was confiding, “it ain’t gonna be boring!” Before that first scene’s end, Sam had knocked out a sheriff, bonded with the aforementioned pooch and stolen our hearts. Since then, it’s been a heck of a wild ride, and one during which Monaco and her alter ego have kept that initial promise!

Along the way, there have been epic highs (Jason and Sam’s simple, uber-romantic Noodle Buddha wedding) and devastating lows (her beloved husband’s “death” and their resulting five-year separation). And to be fair, there have been times when Sam’s been a tough woman to love. Who can forget that terrifying moment in which Jason — furious at his then-ex for having put Elizabeth and her children in danger — actually threatened to kill Sam? Through it all, however, Monaco has delivered one knockout performance after another, earning herself a devoted legion of fans who have the same ride-or-die attitude toward their favorite actress that Sam does toward Jason.

So identified with Sam (and before her, Livvie) is Monaco that it’s easy to forget that soaps weren’t her first gig. Before lathering up in daytime, she hit the beach, appearing on the international megahit Baywatch for three years. (She even occasionally played body double to co-star Carmen Electra during rescue scenes after it was revealed that the former Mrs. Dennis Rodman couldn’t actually swim!)

And of course, Monaco was the very first celebrity to walk away with a treasured Dancing With the Stars mirror ball! Reflecting on that experience 10 years after her 2005 victory, she admitted that it gave her a whole new perspective. “It taught me that you could speak without saying anything,” she explained to the Sioux City Journal. “You can tell a whole story through the movements in your body.” Seven years later, she would return for an all-star edition of the reality show and come in third place.

But for her biggest fans, Monaco will remain No. 1. So swing by the comments to show her a little love, then relive highlights of her epic run as Sam via the below gallery that tells her life story.