When Jen Lilley joined Days of our Lives as troublemaking Theresa Donovan back in 2013, viewers were thrilled. The actress brought a breath of fresh air to the NBC soap opera and delighted fans with her entertaining portrayal of Shane and Kimberly's love-to-hate daughter. Of course, the fact that she became so popular meant that it was doubly hard for the soap's audience when Lilley announced in 2016 that she had made the decision to walk away from portraying the character she describes as "a mess of gorgeous chaos."
At the time, Lilley stated that her decision came down to "time and the sacrifices required to keep Theresa on the front burner. Given the demanding production schedule a soap requires, that just wasn't possible with the other commitments and opportunities I wanted to pursue." She also explained that she wanted to spend more time with her family. And the latter, as it turns out, was the most compelling reason for Lilley, who now explains to Forbes that she left daytime so she could be more free to advocate for children's rights and focus on being a foster mom.
"The main driving factor [to transition from soap operas] at that exact moment for me was that I really wanted to become a foster parent," Lilley tells the business publication. "I think that if you want to take care of children in a really dedicated manner, especially children who are in foster care who really need a lot of love and attention, and they need a lot of consistency, then I would not have been able to successfully do the show at the same time... Something had to give. It was either I was going to do a good job on the soap and maybe not give these children the love that they deserve or I was going to be a fantastic foster mom, and just flounder in my acting."
Fans of Lilley know that she is still performing. Since leaving DAYS, she has become a Hallmark Channel staple with starring roles in films like Mingle All the Way, Winter Love Story, and Love Unleashed, to name a few. But those jobs allow her much more flexibility than daytime and have given her the ability to take in two foster children (one of which she has officially adopted), give birth to a daughter, and become a celebrity ambassador for the child abuse and treatment organizations Childhelp and ECPAT, and the adoption organization The Dave Thomas Foundation.
"I always wanted to have a career that influenced others in some positive way," Lilley reveals of her professional choices. "So, when I chose acting, I decided that I would be one of those actresses that if and when I was successful, or on the way up, I would shine the light on issues that I cared about."
For more from Lilley on her crusade to help children and the smart, business-focused formula that led to her acting success, check out her full interview with Forbes here.
What do you think about Lilley's decision to leave DAYS so she could focus on being a foster mom and advocate for children's rights? Have you ever walked away from something you loved so you could focus on other interests? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.