|Jen Lilley stars as Theresa Donovan in DAYS OF OUR LIVES|
WE LOVE SOAPS: I re-watched all of Theresa's scenes this morning and my favorites were probably the ones with Jennifer in her office. Soap actors have to work so hard to memorize lines and get things done quickly. It dawned on me that you probably have to work very hard to play such a convincing slacker?
JEN LILLEY: [Laughs] You know, it's not the slacker part that's tricky to me, it's just the evil, the nasty. Who is this person? I know people like her exist but figuring out what makes her tick, and being as promiscuous as she is, is tricky for me to be honest. But I couldn't ask for a better character.
WE LOVE SOAPS: This is the first time we've spoken, but my perception in following you online and reading and watching interviews is you seem like such a sweet, genuine person. So where do you get your inspiration for playing a character like Theresa?
JEN LILLEY: I watch a lot of movies. I'm a sweet dork from Virginia. I bake bread a lot. [Laughs]
I'm not Theresa at all, so I watch documentaries about drugs, and a lot of European documentaries, because they don't have as many regulations as we do here in the States. I have a Theresa memo on my phone because I'm nerdy with all these movies - and a lot of Scorsese. I watched Casino and studied Sharon Stone's performance in that. So I'm watching a lot of movies and literally taking notes like a nerd.
WE LOVE SOAPS: What was your audition like?
JEN LILLEY: Oh my gosh, my audition was so flipping fun.
In a nutshell, I talked to Marnie [Saitta], who is the casting director here. She's awesome and I've known her for five and a half years, basically from when I moved to L.A., and we kept in touch. She knows me a little bit on a personal level and said, "Jen, you've got to get this character. I'm rooting for you. She's really not at all you and I think it would really stretch you as an actor."
And she's right. Once I made it to the screen test level, which is the very last step of a contract audition where you will go on the set with whoever the screen test is with, which I probably can't tell you, and film it like an episode. Then the network and studios will watch it and basically decide who fits best with the show, chemistry wise. Five auditions down the road, I filmed my first screen test.
You're only supposed to have one, but I did it twice, and I had worn my hair kind of curly and the producers came over and said, "Can we see her with her hair straight? With her hair curly she looks too young and kind of sweet. Do you mind if we change it?"
I was like, "Of course not." I just wanted a job. They took me back to the makeup room and straightened my hair.
At this point I had two major offers in the pipeline for other shows. One was a Bonnie and Clyde mini-series - and I had an offer - so I thought, at this point, I had nothing to lose. If I didn't book DAYS, I would book one of those, and I would love to work on DAYS and I love this character - but it was time to throw my balls to wall. Because there was nothing to lose.
Right before we started filming I said to Marnie, "Should I do it the exact same way? Or should I mix it up a little bit?" She said, "Sometimes we want you to do the exact same way to make sure it wasn't a fluke, but it's not going to get better than that so whatever you want to do, just go for it."
I threw all my choices out the window and ended up taking the guy's shirt off in the scene. I walked over to the guy I was testing with and said, "Listen, I want to touch you and get really personal, is that cool?" And he said, "Yeah." I said, "Okay, I just wanted to give you fair warning."
I didn't know what I was going to do, but I ended up taking off his shirt. At the end, I picked up a prop at this person's apartment and added lines at the end saying, "That's cute." Then I threw it at him and made him catch it. On the way out I patted his butt. They called cut and were like, "What was that?" [Laughs]
I just said, "That's Theresa."
The audition was super-fun and something I had never done, so out-of-the-box for me. It was not safe at all, and that's what made me book it. I was very glad I got a second take.
WE LOVE SOAPS: Fun! Having worked in daytime before [at GH], was the routine similar or were there big differences coming to DAYS?
JEN LILLEY: The routine is different. No offense to GENERAL HOSPITAL but DAYS OF OUR LIVES has it a lot more together. On GH I became close with Kelly Sullivan. She texted me this morning and said she was the first one up and the last out. She was going to be there until 9 p.m. on a Friday.
WE LOVE SOAPS: And it's her last day [taping at GENERAL HOSPITAL].
JEN LILLEY: Yes, her last day. At DAYS OF OUR LIVES everything is very organized. We get out by 5:45 p.m. pretty much every night. The latest we go is 6. That's really amazing and I appreciate that especially for the crew. I love the camera people and everybody that works behind the scenes. I feel like their job is so much harder than mine.
So I appreciate how organized it is here, but other than that, it's going home and memorizing. There's more of a routine over here.
WE LOVE SOAPS: But they put you out in rush hour L.A. traffic so it's not all good. [Laughs]
JEN LILLEY: They do, but I live close to the studio, so no complaints there. [Laughs]
WE LOVE SOAPS: It has been announced that Patsy Pease will be returning for scenes as Kim, Theresa's mother. Pease is one of the most underrated actors in soap history in my opinion. Have you worked with her yet or met her?
JEN LILLEY: I'm not sure if I can say if I've worked with her yet. But I can say that I agree with you.
She is so massively underrated. If you've ever heard me talk about Bradford Anderson, who plays Spinelli on GENERAL HOSPITAL, I feel the same way about Patsy Pease. She is just so good. I think she can melt you with her eyes, and has the best non-verbal communication.
I've watched so many of her old clips. It's really humbling to watch her clips because 1) I get to play her daughter and 2) I have so much to live up to and that's a great challenge. She's super-sweet. I've read a lot of interviews and I admire her on such a deep, personal level as well.
WE LOVE SOAPS: In what way is Theresa most like you?
JEN LILLEY: I would have to think long and hard. Other than Theresa's pretty funny, and I'm told that I'm funny, I don't know if there is a single similarity between the two of us!
WE LOVE SOAPS: DAYS is on in the background and Theresa and Jennifer just popped on the screen. I think the two of you should get spun off into a NBC sitcom.
JEN LILLEY: I would watch that sitcom! Can we throw Anne (Meredith Scott Lynn) in there? It would be perfect.
WE LOVE SOAPS: These have been my favorite Melissa Reeves scenes in a long time.
JEN LILLEY: It's been really nice seeing Missy get to play a lot more colors. I'm sure it's fun for her.
WE LOVE SOAPS: Is there anything you can preview for us? Theresa is certainly looking Daniel up and down on today's episode.
JEN LILLEY: I sure hope it's going somewhere. I can't say how far it's going to go but I can say that Theresa is about to.....she hasn't even opened the toolbox. She hasn't even thrown a wrench into anybody's plans yet.
It's about to get crazy. And I love it.
WE LOVE SOAPS: You have a couple of fan events coming up with four DAYS hunks. It's a really hard job.
JEN LILLEY: It's so difficult. I hate hot guys. [Laughs]
I'm going to Atlanta and Chicago with Blake [Berris], Casey, Chandler and Nathan and it's going to be super fun. They are a really great group of guys and funny as well. They're great with their fans, which I appreciate. It's a no-drama-zone group. It's the weekend of Blake Berris' birthday so double goodness.
Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas, SCRIPTS & SCRUPLES and ROCKLAND COUNTY. He has also made acting appearances in indie web series IMAGINARY BITCHES and EMPIRE. He has consulted on numerous indie soaps, worked as a producer on the first two seasons of Emmy-nominated THE BAY, and is executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie, which is currently making the rounds at film festivals. He appeared in FRANCOPRHENIA in 2012 and the documentary SOAP LIFE, out on DVD in 2013.