Interview With Jen Lilley

A couple weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time chatting with the lovely Jen Lilley! I had such a fun time talking to her and I hope you guys enjoy reading this interview as much as I did conducting it.


She is a talented actress who I'm sure needs no introduction, so I'll quit rambling and we'll get right to the interview. :)



Mercy: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jen: "Well, as you know my name is Jen Lilley.  I am from Roanoke, Virginia, the second child of four.  I started singing when I was 9 years old and started acting midway through college. And I'm very happy to be a part of Hallmark's family. :)"

Mercy: What started your interest in acting?
Jen: "Oh my gosh, my dad is a retired judge and he is very animated. I just remember when I was little - and even now - I would LIVE for family dinner time because every once in a while, my dad would get an outlandish court case and while he couldn't disclose names or specific details, he could share the very funny things that people did in in courtroom. When he would do that, he would act it out. I mean, act out every single character. He'd stand up from the dinner table and just start acting it out with the accents, the movements, and the motions. So I really think that my dad just inspired me to love the art of storytelling.
You know, I always had an interest in acting. I've always had an interest in storytelling for sure, I think that's the root of any artistry.  Even reporting, right? You just love storytelling.
So how that translated is, when I was in college I dared myself, I guess, to audition for a film that was having open auditions.  It was called The Loss Of Life and I ended up booking the lead.  When I got on set (I had previously had a little stage fright) I realized I wasn't at all afraid of the camera; in stark contrast, I really enjoyed everyone behind the scenes. I just love people who work on films- the crew, the producers; everyone's really normal and everyone just wants to tell a good story. So that made me fall in love with acting."

Mercy: Can you share a little bit about Mingle All The Way?
Jen: "Yes!  Mingle All The Way has all of the makings of a classic romcom that you would expect out of a Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks story or one of the AMAZING Hallmark Channel films! :) But it's slightly different. It has a modern twist in that there's a dating app involved, which I think most people who are in the dating game these days have used (so I like that it has a modern element).  My character, Molly Hoffman, develops an app called Mingle All The Way for platonic plus ones. So the goal of the app is not even romance, the goal of the app is to have someone who's likeminded who you would get along with kind of play your plus one for the night when you get invited to all of those holiday parties and everyone says "bring a date" and you're just stuck there with egg on your face.  So she creates the app but she needs a key investment to come through. Her investor wants to make sure the app works for romance as well and so Molly's business partner Tyler signs Molly up for the app and then romance ensues."
Photography : Crown Media

Mercy: What was your favorite part of filming Mingle All The Way?
Jen: "I loved going to all of the holiday parties - Mingle All The Way goes to so many festive parties.  So the audience is going to get a chance to get a lot of decorating ideas and festive ideas for the holidays. But my very favorite scene, there's an ice skating scene and Molly is extremely clumsy but she's also very A-type so she decided (aka, I decided and Alan Hartman our loving director allowed me) to bring my purse on the ice because I didn't think Molly would leave it on the bench for anyone to steal. So I'm comedically, very clumsily, ice skating along while holding a giant purse and trying to have a conversation with Jeff (played by Brant Daugherty) and it was just really funny. . . and freezing! :)"

Mercy: What is one of your favorite Christmas memories or traditions?
Jen: "I have SO many Christmas traditions in the Lilley family but one of the things I'm most excited about doing with my own children this year is cookie making! My mom used to have cookie decorating parties. My 2 year old is really into play dough and and using cookie cutters to shape play dough, so I think he's ready to start making sugar cookies this year. I'm really excited about it!"

Mercy: What sparked your interest in becoming a foster mom
Jen: "Gosh, how would I even keep that concise? Well, I grew up having an interest in foster care because my parents were unofficial foster parents in Virginia.  They couldn't legally be foster parents because judges are supposed to be bi-partisan and my mom was a director of a women's and children's charity so there were too many reasons it would be morally inappropriate for them to have a foster care life because of maybe personal interest weighing into it. But we were always kind of a safe house so there was always someone living in our home who wasn't related to us by blood and so that opened empathy for me. It kind of normalized the idea of foster care to me. When I was older, I started doing a lot of research on America's dirtiest secrets and "what are the issues that need the most sunlight?" Meaning, these are issues that no one knows about but are very prevalent in our society and so they need light shined on them so people understand what's going on. Through a cycle of things starting with child pornography, evolving to child abuse and then landing on foster care,
I've learned that upwards of 98% of our human trafficking victims, 70% of our incarcerated victims, and 50% of our homeless population in the United States came from foster care.  When you look at those statistics, and those are all issues that I deeply care about, I decided to get involved.  So that's kind of what led me to become a foster parent."


Mercy: Can you share a little bit about what that's like?
Jen: "It's extremely rewarding, but it's rewarding because it is very difficult. I'm not going to lie.  It's very mentally and emotionally taxing as is any parenting but fostering is different because you are given the role of protecting these children and trying to therapeutically heal them from all of the abuse and neglect that they've sustained before they came in to your house. And yet, you have no rights over them so you don't get to weigh in at court or have a say over their future. So it's just really trying emotionally, mentally, and physically because you just care so deeply. The goal of foster care is to put the children back with their biological families so it's hard.  It's heartbreaking but I can also say it's extremely rewarding.  I think that if you're a very diligent foster parent who makes proper, unbiased reports regarding monitored visitation with the birth families and if you just take a lot of notes on what the child says after the visits or anything like that, then you can play a massive role in the child's future.
There's a film that just came out called Instant Family. It's a comedy with Mark Wahlberg, Octavia Spencer, and Rose Byrne. I had the honor of seeing it at a private screening with a lot of foster parents and social workers in Los Angeles before it premiered. It's incredibly accurate and heartwarming. I think the best way I could answer this question is to have people go see that movie and then they'll understand foster care. And it won't leave them heartbroken, it will leave laughing but also contemplating like 'maybe I should do this.'"

Mercy: Can you tell us a little but about your new music album?
Jen: "So my album is called Lilley, like my last name (my record studio named the album) and it is an ode to 1960s Motown.  It's modern music with a classic 60s twist. A lot of the inspiration is from the Supremes, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield etc.  It is produced by Adrian Gurvitz who has worked with everyone from Whitney Houston to Stevie Wonder. He's an incredibly renowned producer.  I had the incredible privilege and honor of working with him, he really shaped me as an artist. String arrangements by Rosie Danvers, which was recorded in London. Rosie's repeatedly worked with Kanye West, Eric Worthen on keys, Peter Randall on bass, Dean Parks on guitar.  Dean has worked with Michael Jackson & Diana Ross.  Our drummer, he worked with Ringo Starr.  The whole album is just about relationship issues, self worth, and fleeting love.


It's got a 1960s feel but it's all modern and it's very empowering.  Each song is a chapter of a story about love and loss and relationships.  I'm hoping it's something everyone can relate to, as we've all been in relationships, good or bad.  I'm hoping it will leave listeners uplifted.  I think 1960s music did that, it was kind of my inspiration. The 60s were such tumultuous times and I think there's a lot of parallels between the 60s and current day. Just as far as political, racial, and economic tension that's going on in the world. I think that Motown was such a great, uplifting escape.  Music in the 60s was such an escape for people, so that's what I'm hoping to bring out of the album.
My album also has a charitable aspect.  So far, we've been able to raise enough money to give a little boy named John, who is 11 years old, life-saving heart surgery. He's scheduled for surgery in January so  that was amazing (with proceeds from my debut single, King Of Hearts) and then we also were able to help cover Project Orphans which is an incredible charity in Uganda focusing on foster care and child abuse and just remediating and healing those people. It also rescues young women and men out of human trafficking, so it's a charity that is close to my heart. We were able to help cover their monthly operating costs through March with the debut single.  The rest of my album will still have a charitable aspect. 100% of my share of the profits goes to charities that focus on orphans and foster care."

Mercy: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you can share with us?
Jen: "Other than Mingle All The Way, I have a movie called Stuck Out Of Love that should premier in 2019.  It's a hilarious, hilarious, dry romcom. It likens to Groundhog Day, where I play the Bill Murray character, so that was really fun.  It stars Jonathan Bennett, myself, Andrew Lawrence and Kassandra Clementi.

And then I'm actually up in Canada, as you know, about to start production tomorrow on another Hallmark film that will premier during the WinterFest!  I'm not going to tell you the title of it because they always change, you know :).  Mingle All The Way was originally called Holidate, and you're  like, "Oh, very confusing." :)  Working on that, and then my album which comes out in February!"

 Jen, Thank you so very much for taking the time to do this.  I know how busy you are, and I can't express just how much I enjoyed talking to you!
Readers, if you weren't already a fan of Jen's, then I am absolutely positive you must be now.  Interviewing Jen was definitely a highlight of running this blog for me, and she impressed me no end. To each role I've seen her portray, she brings talent, dedication, humor and more.  She has that little extra spark. While talking to her, she came across a humble, kind, genuine person who brings her very best to everything she does. From singing, acting, to being a foster mom she does it all!

  If you don't already, please make sure to click through the links below and follow Jen's social media.

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Thanks for reading,
~Mercy

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