Jen Lilley Chats About Her Holiday Movie Royally Wrapped For Christmas - Exclusive Interview

The holidays are fast approaching, and with them come new festive films. Soap fans may know Jen Lilley from her role in "General Hospital" as Maxie Jones or "Days of Our Lives" as Theresa Donovan. But, if you're a holiday movie lover, then you may know her better from one of the Christmas movies in which she's starred. Over the past few years, Lilley has been bringing holiday spirit to the small screen in movies like "Mingle All the Way," "Winter Love Story," "Snowkissed," and "USS Christmas." This year, she's kicking off the holiday season with "Royally Wrapped for Christmas," a new GAC Family holiday romance coming out November 27.

In this Christmas movie, Lilley plays the lead, Lindsay, a charity director for a children's foundation who finds herself in a royal romance. And we have to say: it seems like perfect casting. Not only is Lilley a massive fan of Christmas, just like her character, but she's also committed to working with children in need. During her exclusive interview with The List, Lilley shared her favorite behind-the-scenes moments, family holiday traditions, and her nonprofit Christmas Is Not Cancelled.

Jen Lilley's favorite parts of her new Christmas movie

Is there any scene that you're looking forward to seeing in "Royally Wrapped for Christmas"?

I'm really looking forward to the scene where we're in the royal kitchen, and we're making the gingerbread cookies. I'm talking about the importance of giving a child the opportunity and the dignity to be able to give a gift to another child. I love that scene.

That's so fun. What can you tell us about your character in the movie?

I love Lindsay Peterson. She, as you know, is the director of an international charity for the New York office called the Festive Heart Foundation, whose mission is to give a Christmas present to every child in need around the world. I resonate with that on a personal level so much because I also run an organization called Christmas is Not Cancelled with the same mission, at least for the United States. So, I just love her heart for others, and I love that she's creative. She comes up with really wonderful marketing concepts, and I love that I get to attend a ball. This is my first royal movie.

You've done a few Christmas movies. What do you feel sets this one apart from the other ones?

Sure. For me, personally, I mean, the first thing that obviously sets it apart is the fact that I get to visit a royal kingdom. I haven't done that in the other ones, but also, tying in the charity aspect is something I haven't had the honor of playing yet.

Behind the scenes on Royally Wrapped for Christmas

What were the best and worst parts of filming this movie?

Goodness gracious, I'm trying to think of something bad, but we had so much fun.

Well, that's a good sign.

Yeah, I think the best thing for me, I actually loved working with the background on this movie. So, the background are the people that are in the background of a movie, and you're not really paying attention to them most of the time. They're kind of just filling in space. They did a phenomenal job and worked really long hours, and they worked really hard. We would have dance parties and stuff like that on set to kind of keep us going. They were such troopers because we're all kind of sardined into certain rooms, and we've all been COVID-tested. We were wearing the masks and all of the gear in our ball gowns and all of these things. So, I think, honestly, my favorite part of the movie experience itself was actually hanging out with the background and dancing with them. That was just special. You don't normally get to interact with them so much, and they did a phenomenal job. Then, gosh, I can't think of a negative. We had so much fun on this project. It was just, we had a blast.

When you're watching it, you don't think of that there were all these precautions going on behind the scenes.

Good. Yeah, that's good. We want to give people escape from 2020, continuing into 2021, for sure.

The actress' favorite holiday traditions

Are you a big fan of the holidays in your real life?

Yes, my Christmas tree actually goes up October 1st. So my tree's been up for a while, and yes, I'm very excited about this one. I'm really honored that I get to be the marquee Thanksgiving weekend premiere. That's an exciting position for an actor to be in.

It's kind of like you're starting the season off for people.


What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Yes, favorite traditions for me, I mean, I could go down a long list. But if I really had to pick a top three, it would be going to see lights. I love driving around and seeing people's Christmas lights. I think that's such a simple pastime that brings so much joy to my heart. I also love making cookies with my kids. I think that's so fun, and decorating them. Then I would say my third favorite Christmas tradition is just Christmas Eve. Everyone has a Christmas Eve tradition. In my family, we read the Bible out of Luke, story out of Luke. Then we all get to open one Christmas gift, no matter how big or small, whatever it is that we want to open. Because I have kids, I love the magic of Christmas Eve, getting ready for Santa Clause and all the things, the excitement that goes into that.

Are there any traditions that your kids really love that you've started with them?

My kids are 5, 3, and 2, so I don't think they have a whole lot of concept of it, but we watched "Home Alone" last night, and my 5-year-old remembered it. So, I was excited about that. He's starting to get to the age where he's ... We made gingerbread kits the other night, and he was like, "We did this last year," and I'm like, "Okay." So, he's kind of starting to get the traditions, and that's exciting to watch.

That's so fun. Do you have any favorite Christmas movies that you like to watch each year?

"Home Alone" for sure is my absolute favorite. I also love "The Santa Clause," and then I just love watching all of the Christmas movies that air on television like everybody does.

GAC, I really love their lineup so far. I've been extremely impressed with their Christmas lineup and also the musical score. Music is such an important part of movies, but a lot of people don't think about that, and you shouldn't be thinking about that. It's the same thing as you don't want to think about the fact that it was shot during a pandemic. You want to just experience the joy, but music is such a huge character in any movie. So, I really appreciate when a musical score has been done well, and I think GAC's really just been nailing the musical scores.

Have you gotten a chance to hear the music for this one coming out, or not yet?

I have not. No, I have not.

It'll be exciting that you'll get to see it all come together.


How Jen Lilley is watching her new movie with fans

Are you going to be watching "Royally Wrapped for Christmas" with everyone else over the Thanksgiving weekend?

Yes, and I'm actually doing a whole live-streaming party on Instagram, and my company Christmas is Not Cancelled (it benefited charity) but we sold "Royally Wrapped for Christmas" game bundles. Because as you know, in the movie, at the gala, at the ball, at the 100th year anniversary of the Festive Heart Foundation, the attendees get to open six royal gifts. So, I created a box that's six royal gifts, and each commercial break, we will open one gift, and the last gift is extremely special. It includes an autographed, handwritten note from me. It's in a sealed envelope with a royal wax seal, and then I printed out bingo cards that go with the movie. One of the cards is winning, so people can play with their families, and [do] a "Which character are you?" quiz. We created the "Royally Wrapped for Christmas" gingerbread cookie recipe, and so I included that in the kits too. So, people have already gotten those, and they're sold out. But I'm going to be doing a live watching party with the audience, and they're actually going to be playing along with the game. So, it's really fun.

How she's giving back with Christmas is Not Cancelled

How did you get involved with Christmas is Not Cancelled?

So, last year everything was canceled in 2020 — all the holidays, every culture, everything was canceled in 2020 — and it was so disheartening. I think it was disheartening for the whole world, and I think that what started as two weeks to stop the spread, it just kept going. Then it felt like there were improvements, and then all of a sudden, come around August, it was like there was a memo that went out in the news that Thanksgiving was canceled. No gatherings over this many people, and I just started watching people's response to that. My business partner and I, we were talking, and we were like, "Well, they better not cancel Christmas." We were like, "Wait, we have to do something about that."

So, that's kind of where the name was born, Christmas is Not Cancelled. But we set out [with] a goal to give 10,000 toys to Toys for Tots, and the way we work, it's really fun. So, if you go to and you buy a toy for a child in need, right now it's $15. Well, $15 will give you 15 entries to win every single drawing. Plus the Ultimate Christmas, which is the Christmas tree, dinner, the ornaments, the tree topper, the tree skirt, [and] a trip to Disney World, and it's part of the prize. So, every week they can win. They can win on the last 12 days; every single day they could win. They could win the ultimate Christmas, and then they also give a toy to a child in need through Toys for Tots, which is incredible.

So, $15 buys a toy that's worth $23. Then we also give them the opportunity to type a message into a card that they can send to a loved one, saying, "I made this gift to Toys for Tots in your honor, as part of your Christmas gift." So, send their recipient a Christmas card. They also get my single, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," the COVID edition, which is a very funny parody. So, we just like to make giving back fun, and so the idea was really born out of the idea of just not canceling Christmas. Giving people an opportunity to connect and be able to give back in a fun and uplifting way when things around us aren't feeling the same way.

Absolutely. You mentioned you have a single. Do you do other music also?

I do, yeah. Then also, 100% of the profits from all of my music goes to the Tulsa Girls' Home to build a neighborhood for children in foster care. So yeah, all of my music gives back to charity.

Jen Lilley's journey from being a foster parent to adopting

You and your husband fostered before you adopted your two sons?


What first drew you to fostering?

Man, well, when I was growing up, my parents were kind of unofficial foster parents. So, they weren't officially licensed to the county or anything, but we often had people who had maybe fallen on hard times, who were friends of the family or friends of friends, and we would open up our home and let them live with us. So, the idea of having someone outside of our family unit living in our house was not a foreign concept to me, and it was not scary or intimidating to me. So, that's really where the seeds of empathy for foster care were birthed in my heart. Then for my husband, he was like 51% of surveyed Americans that just have the myth and misconception that children in foster care are bad kids.

But the truth is they're not. They've just fallen into a very broken system through no fault of their own, but because they've experienced really unimaginable abuse and neglect. So, we mentored through an amazing charity called Childhelp, and one of our mentees was going back into foster care. And we wanted to continue our support of her and hopefully adopt her. We were not able to do that, but it's okay because she had a wonderful ending to her story, and we still stay in touch. But that was enough of a catalyst for my husband to want to get licensed, and then we got my son, Kayden, who was our very first placement. He was four months old, and so that's how our journey began.

That's amazing. What was it like going all the way from fostering to adoption?

Hard, it's really hard. Foster parenting is not for everyone. It's extremely hard. There's no way to sugarcoat it; it's emotional. It will challenge you mentally, and physically, and spiritually, and emotionally, beyond the capacity you think your heart can handle. But at the same time, it's amazing because it opens up your heart for so much empathy, and you learn so much. But I've never really met a foster parent that's would say they would never do it again or they regretted it. It's extremely rewarding, but it was really hard. So, I say not everyone's meant to be a foster parent, not everyone's called to adoption, but everyone is called to do something for these children. These are America's children, and they live in your own neighborhood.

So, everyone can give back in some way. For example, these children often don't have photographs of themselves. When they move, they lose all of their belongings. So, I always tell people that are photographers. You know what you could do that would be amazing and would really make a lifelong impact for this child would be to set up a portrait session with them. So that they have a happy moment that's captured in their life that they can carry with them. Or, I even know mechanics who do free oil changes for teens in foster care or foster parents or people at risk of entering the system. So, there are all sorts of creative ways that people can get involved, and I really encourage that.

Jen Lilley's advice to prospective foster parents

What would you say are the most rewarding and the most challenging parts of being a foster parent?

I think the most rewarding thing is knowing that you're changing someone's life and family life for the better for forever, and you're having a ripple effect. I think the most challenging thing is what psychologists ... If you're a woman or a mom, they would call it "playing middle mom." I guess, for dads, it would be "playing middle dad," but that's when you have a child in your care and you love them so deeply. At the same time, you still have to monitor visits with the biological mother or father. You're trying to remain neutral, and you're trying to root for that family to get back together, and you want them to reunify. But at the same time, you'll observe things that are causing the child pain or are very poor parenting skills. Having to navigate that with grace and love is really hard. Having to love that birth parent well but ultimately protect their own child from their poor decisions, that is very difficult.

If you could give advice to anyone who's thinking about going into fostering, what would it be?

I would say no one's ever going to force you to be a foster parent. So, if you have a curiosity about it, you might as well take an introductory class; they're free. You could get more information. I always tell people, this is what I told my husband, "You're not allowed to say no to something that you don't know what you're saying no to." You can say no, but you need to know what you're actually saying no to. That was really disarming for him, was knowing that these are just children. They really break through the myths and misconceptions that so many of us have in our heads by learning more about the system. Knowledge is power. So, I always tell people, take an introductory class and you might find out that, hey, you know what? I don't want [to] foster right now, but I would love to be a court-appointed special advocate or a mentor, or if I'm a photographer, I would love to do this, or if I'm a baker, I would love to bake birthday cakes for these children. Just get information, and it will help you decide how you want to proceed.

Yeah, it seems like you really emphasize people using what they already like to do to help.

Yeah, I think every single person on the face of the earth is born on purpose, and with a purpose and with unique talents and gifts. So, you should use those. Those are your God-given strengths, and you can use them in so many ways that bring joy to other people.

The star's favorite celebrities to follow

Do you have a favorite reality TV show that you've been watching this year?

Gosh, no. I haven't watched any TV at all. I mean, the last show I watched was a rerun of "Malcolm in the Middle." No, but when I would watch reality TV, I don't know if it's even on anymore, but I love "Hell's Kitchen." I love Gordon Ramsay so much.

Do you like cooking?

I like hosting. I like cooking if other people are going to come over. If it's just my toddlers who don't appreciate gourmet food, then I'm like, "Here's your peanut butter and jelly." It depends on the occasion.

Right, you're not going to put all that time in.

No, they don't care if it's fresh rosemary or truffle oil.

Do you have a favorite celebrity couple of the year?

No, I'm so sorry. You know what? Maybe ... I'll say, Candace Cameron Bure and her husband. I love their relationship, and I love their marriage.

They're really cute.


What is your favorite celebrity look of the year?

Lord, I love transparency. I love any celebrity that is on Instagram, like Kristen Bell or Brie Larson, who's just kind of showing you their real life. They don't always have makeup on. They're just relatable. So, I think my favorite trend is just celebrities being relatable.

I think there's been more and more of that throughout 2020, as people were just ...

Over it. Instagram versus reality. Give us some reality.

Do you try to share your real self like that with your followers and with your fans?

Definitely. I love making people laugh. I'm like, "Just look at what's going on with me right now." I do lives of me trying to do makeup and horrible things that I don't know what I'm doing. Just to laugh, sure.

What's your favorite way to connect with your fans lately?

Instagram, I'm really active on Instagram. It's one of the only platforms I understand, so I'm on Instagram all of the time. I run it myself. So, I try to heart people's comments and respond. That's the easiest way for people to contact me, but I'm really active on there.

And you said you're doing the live stream. When is that happening?

So, this Saturday, November 27 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, I'm going to go with the Eastern streaming of "Royally Wrapped for Christmas." I'll be using my Frndly TV app in order to stream it. Frndly is Hulu for GAC and family-friendly content. Yeah, and then I'll just have my phone on a ring light, just live-streaming as I'm watching at the same time.

"Royally Wrapped for Christmas," starring Jen Lilley and Brendan Fehr, premieres Saturday, November 27 at 8 p.m. ET on GAC Family.