Why Did Jen Lilley Really Ditch Hallmark Channel?

Jen Lilley's acting career keeps evolving. She began with soap opera roles including Maxie Jones on "General Hospital" and Theresa Donovan on "Days of Our Lives." She then broke away from the sudsers to join the Hallmark Channel. Lilley has been with "The Heart of TV" since 2017, starring in 14 movies as the lead actor. Lilley told Showbiz Cheatsheet she preferred making television movies to working on soap opera sets because the latter could be very stressful. In the 2020 interview, the singer also sang the channel's praises, saying, "I have a wonderful contractual relationship with them." So when word got out that she would be making movies for the Great American Family channel (GAC), it came as a bit of a surprise.

The president of GAC, Bill Abbott, told Deadline that Lilley had signed a contract with the channel. He said, "Aside from being an immensely talented and hardworking actor, Jen is a generous and kindhearted person who is a perfect fit for GAC." Abbott, who stepped down from his CEO position at Hallmark's parent company Crown Media Family Networks to launch GAC, reflected on their relationship with Lilley. "Many of us on the GAC team have known Jen for years, and we are excited to welcome her to the family as we work together to bring even more entertaining movies to our fans," he said. Lilley later explained at least part of her decision to leave Hallmark.

Jen Lilley supports Great American Family's values

Jen Lilley jumped ship and inked a deal with another channel. The activist took to social media to confirm she was joining Great American Family like other actors, including Danica McKellar, who also left Hallmark. In January 2022, she shared an article on her Instagram account touting the news that she had signed with GAC. Lilley stated, "I'm so thankful for every opportunity I've had so far as an actress. I truly believe I have the kindest fans, many of you have become my friends, and I'm so excited to share this next chapter and what [GAC] is building with you." 

Lilley may have been motivated by her religious beliefs when she transitioned to GAC. The channel, which recently merged with faith-based subscription video-on-demand service Pure Flix, features content that "celebrate[s] faith, family and country." As she explained in her comment section (via Cinema Blend), "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." And just because Lilley has committed herself to doing four movies in two years for GAC, it doesn't mean she cannot make any other flicks. Lilley's contract is non-exclusive and she may pursue other projects.  

Jen Lilley makes time for her family

Jen Lilley mapped out an eight-year path for herself before setting her sights on Hollywood. "I always wanted to have a career that influenced others in some positive way," she told Forbes in 2019. "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." 

Lilley is particularly passionate about the rights of children and the foster care system. She also explained why she stepped away from soap operas and chose to work on TV movies instead. "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," she said.

As a mother of four, it's little wonder that she's so dedicated to advocating for children's rights on her "Fostering Hope" podcast. Lilley and her husband Jason Wayne are the parents of Julie and Jackie and half-brothers Kayden and Jeffrey, who the couple fostered before adopting them. Lilley told People that her husband's words were her favorite part of the day Jeffrey was adopted. "Biologically they're half brothers, but he said, 'Well today, they're full brothers,'" she reminisced. Mission accomplished? Check.