Former Hallmark star Jen Lilley says there’s good reason she’ll soon return to long-running soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” reprising her role as Theresa Donovan. In response to fans who think the career move is sacrilegious, she has explained that her decision to be on the show has always been divinely inspired.
According to Soap Opera Digest, Lilley will appear during the week of August 28, 2023, as her character returns for a memorial service honoring Victor Kiriakis, played by longtime “Days” star John Aniston, who died in November 2022 at age 89, per the New York Times. Lilley nor NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, have revealed whether this will begin an extended return to the soap opera for her.
On August 14, 2023, Lilley, who has not filmed any new Hallmark projects since signing a non-exclusive contract with Great American Family in early 2022, excitedly announced her “Days” return on Instagram.
She posted the image of an article about her return and wrote, “Cats out of the bag, and there’s so much behind the scenes y’all don’t know 🤫 #Days”
When a few fans questioned Lilley’s decision, claiming that “Days of Our Lives” doesn’t reflect her Christian values, the actress defended the career move as one that she made after listening to God.
“The Holy Spirit told me to do it,” Lilley told one fan about her original decision to join the soap in 2013 and indicated that a decade later, she feels she’s being spiritually led back into the role.
Jen Lilley Explains Why Returning to ‘Days of Our Lives’ Matters to Her
Lilley, 39, played Theresa Donovan on 419 episodes of “Days of Our Lives” between 2013 and 2018, per IMDb, but she left to focus on raising her family. When Lilley announced her impending return to the show on Instagram, many people were thrilled she’ll be back on “Days,” but not everyone was supportive.
One fan wrote, “I stopped watching when they went to the dark side, although they had many times before. Yet, the Lord, I felt would not approve! The story lines are so dark and woke! I can’t understand how one can comprise.”
Lilley replied, “I only do what God tells me. You’ll see ❤️”
Another person commented, “Don’t do it Jen. It is not a worthy platform for you as mom, Christian. Days is the worst of all soaps with their storylines.”
Lilley responded, “you should read my interview about why I took the role originally. I wasn’t going to do it and the Holy Spirit told me to do it. The details behind His reasons when I asked the same exact question you just asked still make me sob in awe of His love and mercy when I think about it ❤️”
Though it’s not clear which interview Lilley was referring to, she did speak on Christian talk show 100 Huntley Street in 2015 about how her faith led to taking the role of Theresa Donovan.
“Theresa is something else,” she told the hosts. “She’s extremely destructive, and she’s manipulative. And she’s been addictive, and she’s very promiscuous, but I really felt like the Lord was like, ‘This is your role.'”
Referring to the Bible, Lilley continued, “You know, John 10 talks about knowing the Lord’s voice. You know, ‘My sheep will know my voice.’ So I knew it was the Lord, I didn’t want to question that. But I did question, ‘How is this you? Why is this you?'”
Lilley went on to explain, “So I was like, ‘Okay Lord, you know, if this is you, why is this you? Why should I play a role like this,’ you know? That’s been something I’ve been asked over and over again, by Christians — like, ‘How can you be a Christian and play this role?’ And the truth of the matter is that from a human perspective, Theresa’s kind of a horrible person, but from a God perspective, she’s exactly who Christ came and died for.”
“I chose to play (Theresa) with a vulnerability because she’s having sex and she’s doing a lot of drugs, but she’s not fulfilled.”
When one of the hosts asked Lilley whether she thinks she’s glamourizing evil, she replied, “I don’t think I am. I think my message for viewers is, you know, I’m not somebody that wants to preach to the choir. The choir doesn’t need to be preached to all the time. It gives me an opportunity to speak to the Theresa’s of the world and to say, ‘You are so loved and you’re not unredeemable.”
Many Fans Stood Up for Jen Lilley After Announcement
When some fans began criticizing Lilley’s announcement on social media, others jumped to her defense.
“Take your crappy comments somewhere else,” one person wrote. “If (‘Days of Our Lives’) is the worst, as you say, how amazing that they have been on the air for over 60 years! They have great story lines, the best looking & most talented cast. So don’t watch if that’s how you feel🙄”
Another wrote, “I’m sure God wouldn’t want you to be so judgy 😅”
Lilley will be one of multiple actors returning to “Days of Our Lives” in late August, appearing in funeral episodes, according to Soap Opera Network. Her character, Theresa, will support Brady, played by Eric Martsolf, as he mourns his grandfather.
Meanwhile, Lilley will also appear on Great American Family this holiday season alongside former “Glee” star Matthew Morrison in a follow-up to Hallmark’s hit 2020 movie “A Christmas Waltz,” which starred Lacey Chabert and Will Kemp.
When Lilley announced her move to Great American Family in January 2022, she pushed back on those who suggested they would not make the switch to watch her there.
She replied to one comment, “GAC family is completely loving, diverse, and does so much behind the scenes for the kingdom of God that I get compelled as a Christian to support them whole heartedly. I hope you’re not believing the rumors you hear that have an agenda, but I can tell you personally, I know this channel is full of genuine love, rooted in truth, and will do so much for so many.”