An actor with a penchant for getting hired in as a series regular on one-hour TV shows, Jensen Ackles left his native Texas to pursue an acting career after graduating from high school. His big break came in 1997, when he was cast in the role of Eric Brady on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. He made regular appearances on the show over the next three years, winning a Best Male Newcomer award from Soap Opera Digest and getting nominated for a Daytime Emmy no less than three times.
Ackles left Days of Our Lives in 2000 and shortly thereafter appeared in an episode of the James Cameron adventure series Dark Angel, playing a psychotic, murderous X5 (a genetically engineered superhuman) named Ben. Ackles was brought back as a regular the next season, playing the less sinister twin/clone of Ben, Alec, who reluctantly aided Jessica Alba's Max from time to time despite his cocky, selfish nature. In 2002, Ackles moved on to join the cast of the WB series Dawson's Creek for its sixth and final season, and when that show wrapped he took a role on another WB series, Smallville. He'd auditioned for the leading role of Clark Kent when the series first went into production in 2001, and lost the part to Tom Welling, but this time Ackles was cast as Jason Teague, love interest of Lana Lang.