Hallmark Star Jen Lilley Says Soap Opera Work Was the Most Stress She’s Ever Experienced

Actor Jen Lilley said she’d much rather work on a Hallmark film any day over acting on a soap opera.

Lilley revealed that soap opera work is far more grueling than viewers may realize. “There are no teleprompters. You are doing anywhere from 150 to 200 pages a day on soap operas. Word perfect,” she told Showbiz Cheat Sheet. Lilley appeared on both General Hospital and Days of our Lives.

Jen Lilley attends the 28th Annual Movieguide Awards Gala at Avalon Theater
Jen Lilley attends the 28th Annual Movieguide Awards Gala at Avalon Theater| Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

“You don’t even get a camera rehearsal in the afternoon,” she recalled. “There’s no time, they have to wrap by 5:00 or 5:30. So if you are at 4:49, everything’s going straight to tape. And if you mess up, you will get recast.”

“I was a recast,” she said. “That’s how I got into soaps, taking over for Kirsten Storms. They don’t care on soaps. You will be replaced. And eventually, they know that the audience will get over it. Like [fans] will be upset for like half a minute. Okay. Then they’re fine.” 

Jen Lilly compares the environment to almost losing her child 

The concept of being replaceable is extremely true in soap work. “You are so replaceable on a soap opera that it is so stressful,” she says. “The only time I’ve been that stressed out in life was when I was facing my son’s custody battle with his adoption. Because I knew he was going to die if he went back to his birth father. And then we adopted him thank God. But he fully would be dead. Those were the only times I’ve been so stressed out. General Hospital and Kayden’s adoption.” 

“It’s literally so stressful,” she emphasized. “I was 96 pounds when I was on General Hospital. I couldn’t even eat. Like you are so stressed out that there isn’t an amount of food that you could eat.”

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She almost became completely dependent on scripts because she was so glued to memorizing her lines. “You kind of have the muscle memory in your mind,” she said. “The more you memorize the easier it gets. I used to put keywords in the right-hand margin.”

“I would memorize the story first,” she continued. “What is this scene about, what’s the goal of the scene, what are we trying to accomplish. What are the emotions and what is the story?” Lilley said the more you memorized the lines, the faster you became. Although, “I was terrible at interviews while I was on a soap opera because I was like, ‘I’m sorry unless it’s handed to me, I can’t have a conversation with you because I don’t remember how words work.” 

She’s got something in the works for Hallmark this holiday season

Lilley has since pivoted to the Hallmark world, which she loves. Hallmark recently unveiled a robust holiday film lineup for 2020. While Lilley can’t reveal specifics on her project, she can share that she will be part of a holiday movie. “I don’t have my official movie lined up yet,” she said. “I’m slated to do a Christmas movie. I have a wonderful contractual relationship with them. A Christmas movie is part of it. But I wasn’t sure where we were going to be with the coronavirus. But then they shared yesterday that they were still going to do 40 new movies this year!”

She’s also working on a very “Hallmark” type project too. Lilley, who is a champion of the foster movement and is a foster parent, is working to build an entire neighborhood in America designed for foster children and parents.

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She started to raise money through her national #VoicesThatGive contest, a once in a lifetime opportunity to give musicians and actors a chance to win the grand prize of $10,000, a walk-on roll on a Hallmark Channel movie and much more. The national #VoicesThatGive competition announced a winner on July 15, but Lilley is planning to launch another contest to coincide with the holidays. “The first contest was a good trial run because I want to hold more contests in the future,” she said. “So now I know what to do.”