Credit: Kevin Bacon

Over the years, Guiding Light has served as a place where both established and new actors practiced their craft. Forced to work year round, memorizing streams of dialog and mastering shifting emotions that change like the wind, they have to be able to pull off believable performances without the benefit of lengthy rehearsal times and often in only one or two takes. The rigors of daytime production test every performer to the fullest of their abilities. The host of Inside the Actor’s Studio, James Lipton, a GL alumni who played Dr. Dick Grant (1952-1962), has never forgotten this hard work. It’s paid off. As we reported earlier, he’s receiving a lifetime achievement award for it this year at the Emmy Awards. He’s always made a point of asking the fellow soap alumni that go on his show about their time on daytime. It has proven a powerful training ground for many performers who have gone on to primetime and Hollywood. Here’s a survey of some of the performers who have crossed Guiding Light‘s stages.

* Before he became one of cinema’s most prolific villains, a young and far gentler Christopher Walken, Oscar winning star of the Deer Hunter, The Prophecy and The Wedding Crashers among more than a hundred other films, portrayed Michael ‘Mike’ Bauer (1954-1956) along with his brother Glenn.

* Renowned character actor Ed Begley appeared as Rev. Dr. Paul Keeler (1952).

* Waifish sixties icon Sandy Dennis, best known for her parts in Splendour in the Grass and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, played Alice Holden (1956).

* Poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist, and civil rights activist, Ruby Dee played Martha Frazier (1967) before starring in Raisin in the Sun and Edge of the City. She took over the role from Cicely Tyson (1966), star of Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and Roots. Fellow Roots star James Earl Jones, most famous as the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars films, played Dr. Jim Frazier (1966) after fellow Star Wars actor and star of Lady Sings the Blues Billy Dee Williams (1966) left the role.

* Before moving on to roles in classic eighties films, The Big Chill and Poltegeist, JoBeth Williams was Brandy Schlooe (1977-1981).

* A featured performer in The Thin Man and Tarzan movies, Maureen O’Sullivan came to the cast Miss Emma Witherspoon (1984).

* Before he became a star of the nighttime soap Beverly Hills 90210, Ian Ziering portrayed Cameron Stewart (1986-1988). Also familiar to nighttime soap audiences should be the OC‘s star Peter Gallagher. He played Chuck Haskell (1979) before going on to roles in American Beauty and The Player.

* Keir Dullea, the star of landmark film 2001: A Space Odyssey played Dr. Mark Jarrett (1986).