Why Jen Lilley Left Her Role As Theresa On Days Of Our Lives

For three years, Jen Lilley played the role of Theresa Donovan, the rebellious daughter of supercouple Shane and Kimberly Donovan (played by Patsy Pease and Charles Shaughnessy) on NBC's long-running soap opera "Days of Our Lives." During a 2013 chat with OutTakes, Lilley talked about playing Theresa, a character she considers quite challenging yet fun to portray. "I love it. It's such a challenge for me. I love that every script has its twists and turns that I just did not see coming," she said. "It's an adventure, and I love it." She also told We Love Soaps that she couldn't be more different than her character. "Other than Theresa's pretty funny, and I'm told that I'm funny, I don't know if there is a single similarity between the two of us!" she exclaimed.

In 2016, Lilley shocked fans by announcing her departure from "Days" in a lengthy statement on social media. "It is with bittersweet sentiment that I find myself making this statement 6 months too soon," she wrote on Instagram. "I have never enjoyed playing a character so much. I absolutely love Theresa, and the idea of not playing her pains me." Lilley thanked fans for respecting her decision and wishing her well on her new journey. In her statement, Lilley also explained her reasoning for leaving the iconic soap after only three years of portraying Theresa.

Jen Lilley wanted to pursue other career opportunities

Jen Lilley stressed that there was no drama surrounding her decision to leave "Days of Our Lives" in her statement back in 2016. "There's no one to point your finger at here," Lilley wrote, adding that she and "Days" were parting ways "on the best of terms." The actor explained that she was leaving the show so she could spend more time with her family and focus on her charity work, while also pursuing other endeavors. "It came down to time and the sacrifices required to keep Theresa on the front burner," she said. "Given the demanding production schedule a soap requires, that just wasn't possible with the other commitments and opportunities I wanted to pursue."

Speaking with Soap Central, Lilley shed further light on her exit by sharing some of the things she had been working on since leaving "Days." "I'm recording an album (but currently on vocal rest), working on publishing my children's book, and doing other films and TV shows. Plus, I'm visiting family I haven't seen in three years due to the demanding schedule and last-minute schedule changes soaps have," she said. She also revealed that she was traveling to South Africa to help build wells in Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) and was working on becoming certified as a foster parent. "In short: I'm a workaholic. I'll always have at least five to six coals in the fire!" Lilley said. 

Jen Lilley briefly returned to Days of Our Lives

Following her departure, Jen Lilley returned to "Days of Our Lives" to reprise her role as Theresa Donovan for a brief stint in 2018. In 2020, she spoke with Soap Opera Digest about her experience being back on-set with her cast mates. "Being on a soap is like being with family, and the atmosphere is so welcoming. I really miss the cast and acting opposite [my on-screen partner], Eric Martsolf," Lilley said. "It was so easy for me when I returned for 12 weeks [in 2018] to have a performance that I was proud of, because I had amazing co-stars. I mean, Kassie DePaiva and Eric Martsolf? Could you ask for anything more?"

In August 2023, People reported that Lilley was returning to "Days" for a special tribute episode to honor John Aniston, who played the villain Victor Kiriakis on the show from 1985 until his death in 2022. Lilley confirmed the news in an Instagram post along with a screenshot of an article announcing her return to Salem, writing, "Cat's out of the bag, and there' so much behind the scenes y'all don't know." Sadly, it seems that was the last time fans will see her play Theresa, as the star hinted in September that a new actor would be taking over her fan-favorite role. She told fans, "Be kind to her. She's a stellar performer and being a recast is super hard... We're all family and I got nothing but love for all my @dayspeacock people."