Powered by i.TV
December 21, 2014

The 15 Most Memorable Female Soap Opera Characters Ever

by Michael Maloney, posted Mar 24th 2011 1:00PM

Susan LucciWondering where Erica Kane, Marlena Evans and Katherine Chancellor were on TV Squad's recent list of the 100 Most Memorable Female TV Characters?

Frankly, there just wasn't enough room for all of them. The unforgettable divas, leading ladies, matriarchs and ingénues that have graced the soaps for more than 50 years are so plentiful that they deserve their own list!

We could easily have compiled a list of 100 women from soap operas, but this one has been limited to 15. Those selected represent characters from ABC, CBS and NBC daytime dramas, including current serials and canceled favorites.

Are your favorites on this list? Who else should have been included? Let us know!



India von Halkein15. India von Halkein, 'Guiding Light' (1984-87; '90; '98-'99; 2002; 2005)
Played By: Mary Kay Adams

Regal, beautiful and sophisticated, India stepped on her enemies as if they were ants. She deeply resented icy stepmother Alexandra and set out to get even. India blackmailed and seduced her way into the lives of men important to Alex. As a result, the two women shared memorable showdowns in the country club powder room. Far from heartless, India deeply cared for her BFF Maeve, her father and her daughter Dorie.

Rachel Cory14. Rachel Cory Hutchins, 'Another World' (1973-1999)
Played By: Victoria Wyndham

Wyndham took over the role of Rachel from the wildly popular Robin Strasser in 1972 and made it her own. Viewers loved watching Rachel transform from scheming have-not to wealthy Mac Cory's wife and mother to Amanda. 'A.W.' lost many fan faves over the years (Alice, Steve, Pat, Iris), but Wyndham's Rachel provided a much needed through-line for 'AW' until its demise in 1999.

Alice Horton13. Alice Horton, 'Days of our Lives' (1965-2007)
Played By: Frances Reid

Reid's role as Horton matriarch Alice is synonymous with 'Days.' For parts of five decades, Alice doled out love, advice and homemade donuts to family members and loved ones. The best thing about Alice was that she wasn't afraid to get into mischief. She and Howie Hoffstedder conspired to trick Larry Welch into thinking that Hope had joined him at the altar so that Bo and Hope could get some private time.

Dorian Lord12. Dorian Lord
'One Life to Live' (1979-87; 1993-2000; 2003-present)
Played By: Robin Strasser

Llanview just isn't the same without Strasser's Dorian scheming and interfering in everyone's lives. It'd be so easy to hate Dorian because she won't hesitate to do something outlandish and seemingly selfish, but no matter how duplicitous Dorian gets, Strasser manages to justify her character's actions. Grand divas from the '80s like Alexis and Abby are gone, but Strasser's Dorian is a timeless classic.

Sharon Gabet11. Raven Alexander Whitney, 'Edge of Night' (1977-1984)
Played By: Sharon Gabet

Wildly selfish, Raven made no apologies for going after what she wanted. Raven thought she'd inherited millions after husband was killed, but she lost it all after the real Sky Whitney showed up alive and kicking. Raven lamented to trusted confidante Geraldine it wasn't the mansion, jewels or furs that she would miss, but rather "the money." Few could have sold that line, but Gabet did with a perfect blend of comedy and truth.

Lucinda Walsh10. Lucinda Walsh, 'As the World Turns' (1984-2010)
Played By: Elizabeth Hubbard

We could always count on an entertaining scene when Lucinda was on screen. A savvy businesswoman, Lucinda was cutthroat when she had to be, but she had great love for daughters Sierra and Lily. Lucinda passionately went after what and who she wanted (Craig), flirted with danger (James) and reconnected in the show's final weeks with her favorite ex-husband (John). We miss Lucinda -- and her portrayer's ad-libs.

Reva Shayne Lewis9. Reva Shayne Lewis, 'Guiding Light' (1983-1990; 1995-2009)
Played By: Kim Zimmer

We loved Reva because everything she did, she did for love. The character burst onto the scene on Alan Spaulding's payroll in late 1983, ready to break up Billy and Vanessa's engagement. But Reva soon had us rooting for her. We watched her heartaches over the years and rejoiced when she finally wed true love Joshua. The couple got a happy ending in the show's finale as they drove off together. Always.

Deidre Hall8. Marlena Evans Black, 'Days of our Lives' (1976-1987; 1991-2009)
Played By: Deidre Hall

Hall's Marlena is iconic. Let's face it: Salem, USA hasn't been the same without her. Marlena was a role model to many women as she did her best to juggle work and family life. Alas, things like being Stefano's passion, demonic possession and thinking that she was a serial killer (donut, Alice?) often got in the way. Marlena got a happy ending when she and John left town, but we won't be happy until they return.

Beverlee McKinsey7. Alexandra Spaulding, 'Guiding Light' (1984-1992)
Played By: Beverlee McKinsey

McKinsey, who played the deliciously devious Iris on 'A.W.,' created an equally memorable role as Baroness Alexandra Spaulding von Halkein on 'G.L.' Alex deeply loved her family, but her voice dripped venom when she addressed her enemies. She'd knew how to slam foes with finesse. When Alex caught her fiance being unfaithful she threw his clothes at him and snarked: "Get dressed. You're going to need all the protection you can get!"

Helen Wagner6. Nancy Hughes, 'As the World Turns' (1956-2010)
Played By: Helen Wagner

Despite a brief break in the early '80s, Wagner's lengthy run on 'ATWT' as the beloved Hughes matriarch was unbroken. Nancy came into viewers' lives when most women were stay-at-home moms. She loved her husband, raised their children and, after her kids had grown up and her beloved Chris died, Nancy continued to be a presence on the Oakdale scene, lending a loving ear to those in need.

Victoria Lord5. Victoria Lord Banks, 'One Life to Live' (1971-present)
Played By: Erika Slezak

What travail haven't we seen Viki through over the years? She's been widowed, divorced, developed alternate personalities, time-traveled, gone to heaven (twice!) and also been given a new heart. No matter how outlandish a storyline, Slezak has brought realism and warmth to Viki. Slezak's winning portrayal of Viki since 1971 is the number one reason why people watch 'OLTL.'

Katherine Chancellor4. Katherine Chancellor, 'The Young and the Restless' (1974-present)
Played By: Jeanne Cooper

We've watched Katherine Chancellor lose her husband to a younger woman, undergo a face-lift, battle alcoholism and return to her family after her doppelganger died in a car wreck. Cooper's Kay lends sympathetic support to loved ones like her best pal Nikki and her granddaughter Mac, but what we love to see Kay do more than anything is outwit her rival Jill, a feat she often excels at.

Erica Kane3. Erica Kane, 'All My Children' (1970-present)
Played By: Susan Lucci

For more than 40 years Erica has delighted viewers with her impulsive and outlandish antics. She's owned a disco, a magazine, been a talk show host and stared down a grizzly bear. Erica's hardly a poster child for successful marriage (she's been wed 10 times!), but we love her because she never gives up on romance. The only thing missing in her life is a rival; Erica and Brooke's showdowns were an 'AMC' staple.

Susan Flannery2. Stephanie Forrester, 'The Bold and the Beautiful' (1987-present)
Played By: Susan Flannery

Strong-willed Stephanie won't hesitate to lie if it means protecting her family. She falsely confessed to accidentally shooting her son to keep another child from taking the rap, had a letter forged to break up the union between her ex-husband and his new wife, and faked a heart attack in order to compel Ridge to reunite with Taylor. It's hard to hate Steph for these actions, but she truly believes the ends justify the means.

Denise Alexander1. Lesley Webber, 'General Hospital' (1973-1984; 1996-present)
Played By: Denise Alexander

Remember racing home from high school or skipping class in college to watch 'GH?' One reason we did so was to witness the trials and tribulations of Dr. Lesley Webber. A loving wife and mother, Lesley fought rival Monica for Rick's affections, giving her a well-deserved slap after Monica stated that Lesley couldn't keep Rick sexually satisfied. We were devastated when 'G.H.' killed her off in '84, but were thrilled when the soap wisely resurrected her in '96.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

285 Comments

Filter by:
lildrcre

Deidre Hall number 8???? 8??? Are you serious? Do you not remember the protests and mini riots over her character being killed off? 8?? Do you not remember NBC having to shut down the phone system because of the outcry over the loss of this character? 8?? Deidre Hall, herself had to answer the calls to calm down the masses!!! And you put her 8? Get outta here!! Thats not even top 5 or top 3, you're nuts!

August 07 2013 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ewisdom

Emma J. Wisdom, M.A.Ed. Biography
Author/Writer/Publisher/Book Consultant

Education and Work - Post Oak Publications, Est. 1988
Independently Published 14 books

Grad School - Tennessee State University

Under Grad - Tennessee State University. B. S.

Work - Award winning author, national competition judge, and three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize
Book reviewer 1997-2004 works have appeared in print and online, author of 14 books on Amazon.com

Honors - Phi Kappa Phi, Marquis Who's Who, Cambridge Who's Who

July 14 2011 at 12:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ewisdom

A recent survey conducted by Abbott Laboratories found that 28 percent of men do not visit a doctor regularly. Once they begin to feel symptoms, the body's condition may have advanced beyond recovery e.g. colon cancer, which could have been detected during an annual visit to his doctor. Perhaps, someone who knows the person well, and I hope there is such a person in a man's life to persuade before things get out of hand.. It's just that important to schedule that annual physical. A preventive examination could attack the source of one's symptoms before a possible disease reaches the critical stage. Just knowing that you will be available to support him could make all the difference in the world. Call the doctor today, It maybe too late tomorrow.

July 14 2011 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sugarbehr1967

HOW DARE YOU put Lesley Webber first on the list??? Think really hard..what character's storyline not only has been shown in acting classes for it's stunning and heartbreaking portrayal, been listed as the GREATEST storyline EVER on Daytime TV, and earned it's lead actress not ONE but TWO daytime Emmys??? I am talking about Karen Wolek, played by the brilliant Judith Light...no one..and I mean NO ONE has come close to topping her storyline as a prostitute, her shame and guilt, and the electrifying trial in the spring of 1979 that was must see TV..and still is....

April 16 2011 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ron

I agree with the list. After they killed Leslie Webber off that was it. I swore off soaps for good. She made the character so real and believable.

March 31 2011 at 11:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Nancy

I couldn't agree more with the #1 choice! Denise Alexander is the most memorable actress in my opinion and is very deserving of the #1 spot. Anyone who believes differently is either too young to remember or didn't watch GH. If you did watch GH back then and don't think that Denise was the best, there is something seriously wrong with you. They don't come any better than Denise. She is just so talented in her facial expressions, many tears and just her mannerism in general. She is just so believable and that is the bottom line.
I really think that this list should have been the top 20 instead though because there have been many others that have been left out. Another favorite of mine is Anna Stuart who has been on many soaps including General Hospital, Another World and All My Children.

March 29 2011 at 8:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
yocathyberger

Lists like these will ALWAYS cause strong opinions! Rather than saying why somebody should not be on the list, it is much classier to extend why you think your favorite should be on the list! Yes, Denise is by far my favorite, but that does not mean that I do not see the merits of almost all of the actresses that have been suggested. Judith Light's amazing performance as Karen Wolek earned her a stepping stone into primetime. Kate Mulgrew's portrayal of Mary Ryan was similarly spectacular.

Denise's testimony and conviction for the death of David Hamilton was incredible, but it was her 1980 and 1981 performances of Lesley Webber's pursuit of independence that affected me. In addition, on Another World, her ability to make us believe that she once loved Reginald Love...and the conflict she showed as she played out the Marissa LaSalle/Mary McKinnon storyline was incredible acting.

Lists like these are great to start conversations about why you liked your favorite actress. This is more profitable and entertaining than any bashing that could occur. For some of us it is a walk down memory lane.

March 29 2011 at 8:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jujumc

It's about time someone recognized the contribution Denise Alexander made to daytime TV and YES, GENIE WAS NOT THE REASON I RAN HOME FROM SCHOOL TO WATCH GH. DENISE WAS!

I'm all for Genie being included, but Denise never got the credit she deserved because she wasn't given the same considerations as the other main actors on GH and therefore, she left daytime for many years. You can make a case for lots of women that have endured on soaps for many years, but it doesn't take away from the fact that Denise carried two different shows for many years before the phenomenon of Luke and Laura. Had it not been for fan interest in the character of Lesley Webber, GH would have been canceled before Luke and Laura happened.

She was at the top or extremely near the top of every fan favorite poll for over 20 years! Just because it was 25 years ago doesn't mean it doesn't count!

March 28 2011 at 11:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jujumc

It's about time someone recognized the contribution Denise Alexander made to daytime TV and YES, GENIE WAS NOT THE REASON I RAN HOME FROM SCHOOL TO WATCH GH. DENISE WAS!

I'm all for Genie being included, but Denise never got the credit she deserved because she wasn't given the same considerations as the other main actors on GH and therefore, she left daytime for many years. You can make a case for lots of women that have endured on soaps for many years, but it doesn't take away from the fact that Denise carried two different shows for many years before the phenomenon of Luke and Laura. Had it not been for fan interest in the character of Lesley Webber, GH would have been canceled before Luke and Laura happened.

She was at the top or extremely near the top of every fan favorite poll for over 20 years! Just because it was 25 years ago doesn't mean it doesn't count!

March 28 2011 at 11:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jujumc's comment
Robin

Yeah, take that everyone! You are so right about everything you said. I couldn't have put it better myself....thanks!

March 29 2011 at 12:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chelseakitty18

To leave Genie Francis { you know Laura Vining Webber Baldwin Spencer} from this list is insanity.
30 million viewers tuned in to watch her & Lucas Lorenzo Spencer finally get married. She made daytime Tv cool, hip & fun to watch! SHe was asked to be on Oprah's final season & she's not even on GH { another stupid move} What a gip.

March 27 2011 at 3:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Follow Us

From Our Partners