The 1980s are often referred to as the Golden Age of soap operas, but it turns out they were also the Golden Age of Burger King commercials featuring some of the hottest stars before they were stars -- a couple of whom went on to land roles in soap operas.
In the early part of the decade, Burger King ran a series of television advertisements that featured unknown (at the time) actors like Elisabeth Shue, Andrew McCarthy, and Lea Thompson. Two other stars to appear in ads for the fast food chain in the early 80s should be super familiar to soap fans: Sarah Michelle Gellar, who went on to play Kendall Hart on All My Children, and Meg Ryan, who went on to play Betsy Stewart on As the World Turns.
Gellar appeared in a handful of Burger King ads, including a 1981 solo slot that compares the chain to McDonald's; a 1982 Christmas jingle that features the very young actress with Lea Thompson, Elisabeth Shue, and others; and a solo ad that has her exclaiming that the low price of the chain's hamburgers is "unbelievable."
After her Burger King ads aired, Gellar went on to appear in series like A Woman Named Jackie and Swans Crossing before landing the role of AMC's Kendall in 1993. She immediately found success in the soap opera genre, winning the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress in 1995 -- the same year she left the soap opera. After departing Pine Valley, Gellar became a household name as the star of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series and for her roles in Cruel Intentions and the Scooby-Doo films. Some of her other credits include Ringer, The Crazy Ones, and Star Wars Rebels.
Meg Ryan's Burger King ad ran in 1982, when the actress was just 21 years old. In the commercial, she hypes up the "Aren't you hungry for a Whopper" game before noting the most important part of the burger chain: the food! But honestly, who can pay attention to lettuce and tomatoes when Ryan is flashing her million-dollar smile?!
Ryan booked her ATWT role the same year her Burger King commercial aired (1982) and played the character of Betsy until 1984. She followed up her soap gig with film roles in Top Gun, Armed and Dangerous, Innerspace, and When Harry Met Sally, the latter of which made her a major Hollywood movie star and led to roles in films like Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, and City of Angels.
We know you're probably hungry now, but before you run out and grab yourself a Whopper, consider this: Burger King's slogan since 1974 has been "Have it your way." So, in addition to burgers and fries, let's all order up more commercials featuring soap stars, because that's our way, thank you very much!
Did you know that Sarah Michelle Gellar and Meg Ryan got their start in Burger King commercials? What do you think of their 1980s advertisements? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.