Jen Lilley Previews Soap-Based Hallmark Film, A Little Daytime Drama, Gives Inspiring Foster Care Update

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Hallmark's A Little Daytime Drama brings three former soap stars together in which they play pivotal roles within the setting of a struggling daytime drama.

Jen Lilley, Ryan Paevey, and Linda Dano give this soap-based story real gravitas.

We had the chance to chat with former Days of Our Lives and General Hospital actress, Jen, to discuss the movie and check in with her about her substantial work with the foster care system in the U.S.

Jen Lilley for A Little Daytime Drama

It's so exciting that Hallmark is finally moving away from wineries and baked goods, isn't it?

[laughs] Stop it. That's so funny. But then I love a good winery or baked goods movie, but sure. I'm excited about this one. It's a bit different.

[laughs] Yeah. Tell me about it. Obviously, I haven't seen it, so I'm leaving it in your hands to give us the rundown of what to expect.

Well, I'm super excited because, as you know, I did General Hospital and Days of Our Lives for years. And so it's really, really fun to do a Hallmark movie that has a soap opera within the Hallmark movie.

And then, of course, working with Ryan Paevey again is a treat. And in this one, we worked with Linda Dano as well, who is soap royalty, and she was fabulous and really funny, and she's just a sassy broad. So, this one's really special to me because of my background. This is literally my entire resume in one fell swoop.

It's Not The Bachelor

And then, also, it's fun because it's just a romance movie, of course, but also it has a lot of comedy to it.

And I think that the Berg sisters, who wrote this movie, did an incredible job of paying homage to soap operas but in a really funny way. So, it's a little bit like Soapdish, like that it pokes fun of it a little bit, but in a really respectful way. And I don't know how they did that, but it was perfect.

So, I think I'm just excited to see fans' reactions because it's my two fan bases coming together, and they're just going to freak out over it. It's so fun. I can't wait to see it.

And Maggie is a writer, correct?

Yes. Yes, she is.

Maggie Steps on Set

So, that's put you on a different side of the soap story. What can you tell us about Maggie?

Yeah. She's very practical and down-to-earth, and she cares so much about the integrity of storylines, but she also really deeply cares about the cast and the crew. And I think that that is true of any movie, but it's particularly true in soap operas where you've had the crews working on the movies for 40 years.

That was my favorite thing about working on Days of Our Lives. When I left and then I came back for a 12-week arc, and it does feel like you're coming home.

And so it was really fun to play a character that was so familiar with just the legacy and the richness of how much is at stake for everybody who works together. I mean, it's just, if you've ever been on the set of a soap opera, it's pretty incredible because we shoot 150 to 220 pages a day. I mean, that's an entire Hallmark movie by lunch.

So, we really are well-oiled machines. And because of that, it is like family when you're working on those sets. So, I'm just really excited for people to see that side of storytelling.

Maggie Cares for her Crew

And how right do you think they got it? I mean, you had three of you who had been in soap operas. What did you all think of how realistic it was?

I thought they did an incredible job. I mean, I could not have done it better. I was so impressed. I was so impressed with the script.

Have you ever worked with Linda Dano before?

I had not, and she is so incredible, and we really hit it off. I mean, I think Linda's pretty incredible. She gets along with everybody.

But it was so amazing to work with her, and we were laughing the whole time because she kept saying, "I feel like I'm looking at my past self." And I would say, "I feel like I'm looking at my future self." So, we had a lot of fun together.

Linda Dano and Jen Lilley

And who does she play in the movie?

She played Alice, the executive producer of the soap opera, Forever is a Long, Long Time. I have to say too, oh my gosh. I don't know if you've seen the screener, but the Berg sisters also did an incredibly fun job of naming all of the soap operas within the movie.

We had Forever is a Long, Long Time. That was our show. We have Tomorrow Always Comes, and The Sun Always Sets, and I just died laughing at all the names.

Oh, that is so fun. So, I guess Maggie has her ex-boyfriend, who was a former star on this show, right?

Yes, that's correct.

Maggie and Alice Dressed to the Nines

And she's trying to get him back on board. So, what was his role on the show, and why is she so eager to get him back?

So, Ryan Paevey's character, he played a character named Darin who then played a character... Oh my gosh, I can't remember all the names. [laughs] I have no idea how he kept all of his characters straight.

So, he was a star of the soap, and when he left the show, the ratings started going down. And so, my character, Maggie, is tasked with getting him back on the show.

But even though they broke up, they still have a really deep respect for each other. And so she didn't want just to drag him back to the show against his wishes, and that was a fun dynamic to play, of like, "I'm annoyed with you, but I also really respect you, and I don't want to step on your toes, but I also really need to save this show."

That's kind of different. That's a different take on these former relationships themselves than are sometimes on Hallmark movies.


Maggie and Darin with Puppy

Have you seen the news about Day of Our Lives getting a Beyond Salem show on Peacock?

No, I have not. That is so fun. It makes me so happy because, as I mentioned earlier, I mean, to me, Days is my family. And the only reason I left that show is in order to have my own family and then be a mom of toddlers.

I don't know how people can balance that schedule and still do that. But I just love all of those actors so much, and I just could not speak highly enough for them. So, it makes me really happy that they're getting a little bit of a spinoff.

It's all former actors. So, I guess even Eileen Davidson, who isn't going to play any of her former characters even, is going to be on the show. So, I thought maybe you might be dipping your toes in the water, too.

I would love to come back for a short spin anytime, as long as I can go back to my kids. But yeah, I have so much fun working on soaps. Days of Our Lives is the best.

Maggie and Darin Field Questions

Speaking of kids, what can you tell me about your support for the foster community? What's new going on with that?

Carissa, thank you so much for asking that. That's so sweet.

Absolutely. I know that you're passionate about it.

I'm so passionate about it. I just wrapped a huge campaign called Camp Christmas in July, and we gave away $25,000 worth of amazing prizes that people could enter just by donating school supplies to children in foster care.

So, that campaign actually gave 3,296 children backpacks full of quality school supplies who are in foster care, who are at risk of entering foster care. And then, we also were able to give 1,657 brand new pajamas to children entering foster care. So, that was really awesome.

And I'm actually going to announce the grand prize winner today because we had all of our mail-in entries accounted for.

And then I'm going to be doing another campaign October 1st through December 10th, which is just our general Christmas Is Not Canceled event on, and that'll give several people the ultimate Christmas, and that will also support children in foster care, but that one's a little more of a broad stroke we do.

We benefit Toys For Tots and Child Help and Comfort Cases for that one. So, I run a marketing company called Christmas Is Not Canceled on a full-time basis, where we partner with incredible nonprofits and causes in order to give fans amazing prizes while giving back.

Maggie Pleads with Darin

So, it's been awesome and fun, and I'm really passionate about it.

Wow. I didn't even know about the nonprofit. That's really exciting. How do you have time for all of this?

Oh my goodness. I don't sleep a lot, and my hair is blonde because I'm starting to get white hair, so I don't always balance it well, but I do the best I can.

And since the world is getting back to normal, even though we're definitely on the cusp, what have you been doing with your kids? Have you been getting out and showing them the outdoors? What kind of fun stuff have you gotten up to this summer?

I have, and we've actually been spending the summer in Virginia, where I'm from, which has been so incredible. So, I mean, we're just here for a little while longer, but it's just been so wonderful to see my parents and jump on the trampoline with them or take them to barbecues and just get back to some more family-based normalcy.

So, I feel like I'm living on a Hallmark movie right now where I feel like I'm the girl going back to her hometown and just getting back into normalcy. So, it's been wonderful.

Maggie Discovers the Written Word

And about your work with the foster kids. You said that you'd give items to children who were on the verge of entering foster care. How do you find those people? I mean, I imagine that the things that you give them are close to their heart because they get so little.

They get so little. I think there's just a lot of myths and misconceptions about foster care. And what so many people don't understand is that these are children who enter an extremely broken system through no fault of their own.

And anytime a child enters foster care, it's traumatic. They are taken away from the only family that they know, whether it's a good situation or a bad situation. It's still traumatizing for them. And so, I really believe in wrapping around the family before they get to that point.

And so the way we find them is by contacting local child welfare and family agencies. Maybe they're already serving that family.

Jen Lilley as Dressed Up Maggie

Maybe that family, because of COVID and just things that people go through, find themselves on hard times, and they need even something so basic as school supplies to keep their child taken care of.

Because sometimes, children enter foster care because of neglect, and it's not because the family is abusive; it's because they really can't afford the basic necessities like school supplies.

So, we work with child welfare and family agencies. We also work with different churches all across the United States and then amazing nonprofits who are already serving those families.

So, that's how we find them.

Jen Lilley and Ryan Paevey

Did you find that there was a difference in the foster system during COVID? I would imagine that it was really difficult because there was no school, so I can't even imagine.

Absolutely. It's a multifaceted situation and complications that arose from COVID. You have, as you mentioned, all of the mandated reporters who are school teachers who would normally be seeing the signs of abuse, who would be calling the child abuse hotlines, they're no longer seeing the children.

So, you have a lot of children who are trapped at home with their abusers. And then any parent who's prone to anger or abuse is really buckling under the stress of COVID and all that it brought. So, there's going to be a lot to clean up after COVID in the child welfare system.

The other side that was complicated is because so many children had been exposed to COVID, especially at the beginning when none of us knew what COVID was or how it worked. So many foster families were unwilling to take in children because they were afraid that that would bring COVID into their homes.

So, it's definitely been crippling to an already broken system, but at the same time, I'm sure, like you or anyone, while there's so much hurting and so much brokenness going on, I think that you also see a lot of humanity rise up and want to take action when brokenness is happening. So, it's been sad and encouraging all at once.

Darin and Maggie Caught In the Act

And can you give a plug for A Little Daytime Drama? Why should people tune in?

This is the ultimate story within a story. It is a soap opera and a romantic movie coming together. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will feel so good after you've watched this movie. So, there's no reason not to tune in.


It's always such a pleasure chatting with someone as kindhearted as Jen, so I hope you enjoyed our chat and will tune into the movie when it airs.

A Little Daytime Drama premieres on Hallmark on Saturday, August 21 at 9/8c. Don't miss it!

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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