Before Winning An Oscar, This Actress Appeared On ‘All My Children’

Soap operas are often the breeding ground of future stars, many of which go on to win major awards. Because of this, nobody should rib the sometimes overwrought performances seen on soaps still going today. A decade from now, those actors showing so much passion during soapy fights or love scenes may be up at an Oscar podium.

It happened to Kathy Bates, one of the great actors of the last 30 years. There hasn’t been a project she doesn’t improve when taking part, something she continues to prove on shows like American Horror Story and movies like Richard Jewell.

An early acting start occurred on one iconic soap opera many miss: All My Children. Let’s take a minute to look back on that and other early roles, including how they shaped where Bates went later as a major character actress.

Bates’ early days on TV and movies

'All My Children' cast
‘All My Children’ cast | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Go back to the early ’80s and fans will find Kathy Bates cutting her teeth in typical fare most actors go into to gain acting experience. During this time, Bates appeared not only on All My Children, but also One Life to Live.

However, this wasn’t her first year working as an actress. Her earliest roles go back to 1971, including a small singing part in a comedy film called Taking Off, directed by MiloŇ° Forman.

She was mostly working on the stage during the first half of the 1970s, though. Steady TV work started in gusto by 1977, which meant working on other soap operas. Her first major role on TV was in the forgotten daytime soap The Doctors.

Eventually, she did a prerequisite Love Boat episode in 1978 before taking time out to nurture more acting in movies.

Who did Bates play on ‘All My Children‘?

According to online credits, Bates played a prison inmate named Belle Bodelle on AMC, almost sounding like a parody from ’80s-era soaps. This was in 1983-84, and the episode in question has been played on various talk shows…sometimes to Bates’ chagrin.

Bates played a villain here (what else?) while setting her up for playing some of the darker characters she’d play down the road. One could argue her Belle character on AMC was a bit of a setup for playing Annie Wilkes in her breakthrough performance for Misery nearly seven years later.

While Bates played a similar character the same year in One Life to Live (this time as Evelyn Maddox), her film career was starting to heat up. In 1982, she’d already won a small role in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, plus varying roles throughout the rest of the decade.

Bates wouldn’t be turning back to soap operas once she starred in Misery. She’s one of the few who didn’t have to join All My Children permanently to make an acting career for herself.

Bates has still kept a strong presence on TV

Following Misery, Bates took off in making theatrical movies, albeit staying around on television with TV movies and guest shots. She eventually landed in a TV series by 2003 (Six Feet Under) for a couple of years, not including playing Jo Bennett for eight episodes on The Office.

Those brief soaps she appeared on clearly helped her shape her creepy performances in American Horror Story. So far, fans have had a chance to enjoy Bates play different weird characters in four variations of the series.

At least recent audiences had a chance to see her do a more sympathetic role playing Richard Jewell’s mother (Bobi Jewell) in the self-titled Clint Eastwood film. Now at 71 years old, let’s hope everyone will see more of Bates, whether playing bad or good.