Jen Lilley Speaks
Soap opera fans who know actress Jen Lilley as the deliciously wicked Theresa Donovan on NBC’s long running daytime drama, Days of Our Lives, might not recognize their evil ingénue if they met her on on the street. Unlike her on-screen persona, Jen a genuinely nice person with a heart for the poor and downtrodden. BuddyHollywood.com’s Mike Parker recently had the opportunity to chat with the multi-talented performer about her life in the big city (she lives in L.A.), her charitable work with children at risk, and her new Christmas CD.
Mike Parker – Obviously the big news right now is your new holiday themed CD, Tinsel Time. Tell me about the evolution of this project?
Jen Lilley – When I was little, someone told me I could be anything I wanted to be, so I said, ‘Okay, I’ll be a song bird!’ I’ve always loved Christmas music. It has always made me happy. It’s always given me a sense of joy, no matter what’s going on.
Of course I had no idea of what was involved with recording a Christmas album, but I knew there had to be a way to do it because, after all, everyone does it. Last year we recorded “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Eric Martsolf, my co-star on Days. We thought the fans would love it. Or if nobody liked it at least I wouldn’t have spent a lot of money producing an entire album. This year we recorded the full length album. Our producer, Grammy-winner Rob Christie, called and said he had musicians lined up who had played with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, like drummer Gregg Field, and legendary bassist, Chuck Berghofer, Barbara Streisands go-to pianist, Tom Ranier, Scotty Barnhart on trumpet and Kyle Wolverton on saxaphone. Oh, and I got to play a little ukulele, too. I was surrounded by these ridiculously talented musicians. It was amazing. It was the best thing in my life.
Parker – You’ve made something of a trademark out of playing characters that are, shall we say, a bit evil, which appears to be diametrically opposed to your personality in real life. Do you ever have problems being type cast as the bad girl? Do your fans kind of expect that now?
Jen – It is awesome that you think that, but before I got cast as Theresa, I’ve always played the quirky, nerdy nice girl. When I got the opportunity to play the sexy bad girl, I admit I was a bit scared, but I jumped at the chance. I love this character. You’d never want to be like her in real life, but she is so much fun to play on TV.
Parker – Working with creative people, such as actors and filmmakers, can be challenging in the best of circumstances, particularly when you are one. How do you keep yourself centered in such a highly pressurized environment as a long running network soap opera?
Jen – Days has a very unique dynamic. The show is very much like a family, and just like family they keep you honest, and keep you from thinking too highly of yourself. I think you need people in your life who will tell you the truth about who you are. I am a Christian, and my faith helps to keep me centered. I think everyone is equally important to God, and since we are all equal I try not to put them, or myself, on a pedestal.
Parker – In addition to your work as a dramatic actress on Days of Our Lives, you are also a comedian and singer. If given the choice, which genre would you prefer to concentrate on?
Jen – I don’t know. I used to only do comedy and I got type cast as the nerdy girl, and back then all I wanted to do was drama. Then I was on General Hospital, and I was totally doing drama constantly and I craved the opportunity to do comedy. I love both genres. A massive goal of mine is to star in a TV sitcom.
Parker – What’s next on your agenda?
Jen – The Christmas CD, Tinsel Time. Then I’m starring in a Lifetime movie called The Spirit of Christmas, which airs December 19 at 8 pm. I get to play a sassy lawyer. It’s a classic Christmas love story with a ghost story and some fantasy elements. Then I’m still on Days of Our Lives, and I’ve written a children’s book. It’s just, keep acting, keep singing, keep writing.
Parker – Last words?
Jen – I’d love to encourage your readers to join me in fighting against child abuse, human trafficking, child pornography, the world water crisis, homlessness, and in helping our neighbors. I’m designing a clothing line for charity with called BYOU – Be Your Own You. I’ve partnered with a number of organizations such as Childhelp and the Innocent Justice Foundation which leverages high technology solutions to help rescue American children who are being sexually abused and prevent future abuse. I only endorse charites with pristine track records, who make sure over 87% of every dollar donated goes directly toward the cause. With so many charities being exposed for fraudulent activity, I urge people to do your research before donating.
Visit Jen online at jenlilley.com
- What’s your favorite sound?
Jen – Laughter.
- What makes you happy?
Jen – God. Jesus.
- What makes you angry?
Jen – Bullies.
- What is the secret of success?
Jen – Work Hard.
- Who would be on your dinner party guest list, if time and space were not a consideration?
Jen – Elijah, Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa
- What is the epitaph that is written on your tombstone?
Jen – “Loved God. Loved people relentlessly.”
- When you get to heaven, what is the first thing you want to hear God say to you?
Jen – “Come and meet all the people who are here because of you.”