Hallmark Channel’s June Weddings-themed movies come to a close this weekend with a tale of a runaway bride, her super supportive fiancé, and a sudden rival that immediately makes her life even more complicated.
In Yes, I Do, Days of our Lives‘ Jen Lilley stars as Charlotte Bennett, owner of a local chocolate factory. She’s cute, quirky and talented. She’s great at her job, even if she doesn’t always know it.
And she’s a bit of a hot mess. Just ask James Cooper (Marcus Rosner), the man Charlotte loves with every fiber of her being. The chocolatier has serious issues with saying “I do” to James. Oh she’s tried. More than once. She just can’t manage to say the words.
Lilley feels James sticks with Charlotte after so many disappointments because their relationship is based on friendship, even though that fact may not be completely spelled out for viewers.
“You can tell by the way they communicate. You can tell they have real conversations. Not just fluffy conversations. They have in depth conversations. And so you can tell there’s a foundation of friendship and because of that, I think James has a capacity to forgive Charlotte more than one normally would.”
Then there’s the appearance of Nicole Sweeney (Jessica Lowndes), owner of Chocolate Monthly. She’s in town searching for the next great flavor of chocolate. Nicole thinks Charlotte might have what it takes to win her publication’s contest. The two women spark a little bit of a rivalry in the process. Don’t worry. it’s a civilized rivalry.
“You have these two girls vying for the same guy, but at the same time, it’s not malicious. It’s not an ‘I hate you’ kind of thing. They don’t really like each other that much because they’re vying for the same guy, but at the same time, it didn’t start out as horrible girl on girl drama which I appreciated.”
For purposes of this latest Hallmark romantic comedy, Lilley says her character is more Bridget Jones and less Maggie Carpenter, the character Julia Roberts portrayed in Runaway Bride, which is why the actress rewatched Bridget Jones before filming Yes, I Do.
“Charlotte is like the lovable loser who always sticks her foot in her mouth,” Lilley explains. I think it’s funny that she’s allergic to weddings and she’s allergic to chocolate, [even though] she’s a chocolate sommelier, which is funny.”
“She’s like Bridget Jones: The Chocolatier. For sure,” laughs Lilley.
There are many reasons why making Yes, I Do was a special experience for the actress. She says the script was written just for her (courtesy of Joel and Lisa Canfield) and it represented her first time as an executive producer.
“I am so over the moon. It’s inexpressible how grateful I am. That’s my goal actually. I’m a little like [her character] Charlotte in the sense that I like to plan everything,” she says. “I have a ten-year plan and it’s broken down month-by-month.”
This long-term plan involves becoming the next Betty White.
“One of my goals with my reps that I’m very open to saying is that I want to be like Betty White. She is my career model. In a real way. I want to be 90 years old…she brings baked goods to set. And she does supporting roles. And lead roles. And cameos. She’s America’s grandma.”
“So to have a script written for me. And then get my executive producer credit for the first time, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do,” she continues. “So I felt really fortunate. And I was just so happy.”
She was also part of a supportive environment. This marks the fourth time she’s worked with the movie’s director, Christie Will Wolf.
“We did A Dash of Love. Eat Play Love. Harvest Love and now Yes, I Do. All four Hallmark movies that I’ve done have been with Christie Will Wolf. We call ourselves The Dynamic Duo,” laughs Lilley.
“We just completely, instantly clicked,” she adds. “Christie and I both really care about orphans and foster care. There’s a lot to our relationship that is not involved or circulating around the entertainment business. It’s not just actor and director. We care about so many deep issues on the same level.”
“We have so much fun on set. We always do one very subtle take, very very subtle. Then we do one take that’s just kind of normal like how you think it should get played. And then we always do one take that’s over-the-top physical comedy. So that they can pepper in whatever they want to do in the edit. And if they’re like, ‘whoa you need to pull it back,’ she can pull it back massively or pull it back to normal levels.”
Believe it or not, some over-the-top takes do make it into the final cut. “One of the things that I’ve noticed, which has been really fun for me, is seeing that, in this movie unlike the other ones, there are a lot more wide shots,” Lilley says.
“The reason they did that is because I use a lot of physical comedy even if it’s subtle. There’s a scene where James comes to help Charlotte. He’s going to go bid on his grandfather’s car. She doesn’t know that. She thinks he’s going on a date. So she locks both keys in both cars. So when he’s checking under her hood, and she’s looking at what he’s doing, they were like, you did something with your legs and your hands that was so funny.”
“I noticed in the edit that they actually kept the wide shot on that moment because they thought it was funny. So, yeah, that I would say is over-the-top because it’s not specifically, ‘oh this is the rom-com cute girl that wins the boy.’ This is the quirky girl we kind of all relate to because she’s just a hot mess. She’s all of us when the cameras aren’t on and the Instagram filters are not there.”
Lilley’s loving the different challenges in her life right now. In addition to her recent executive producer/acting gig, she’s recorded an album she hopes to release in early fall.
“I’m literally working on my marketing plan now,” she says. “It’s very similar to a Duffy or an Amy Winehouse stylistically. I have Adele’s musicians, Adele’s 50-piece orchestra. Diane Warren wrote one of the songs. Lauren Christy wrote a bunch of the songs. She won writer of the year last year.”
“It’s been incredibly challenging,” she continues. “[Adrian Gurvitz] was the best producer. He made me hit notes. I’m like, I don’t think so. And he’s like, ‘I can hear it. You can hit these notes. It’s not even going to be difficult for you. It’s a mental block that you think you can’t.’ And so the journey was amazing because he brought me to new levels I had no idea was within me.”
She’s been learning another set of skills since becoming a foster parent. She and her husband are currently fostering two kids: a two year old they’re in the process of adopting. And the most recent addition, an eight month old, who came into their lives a couple of weeks ago.
“It was supposed to be a night, maybe a week. It’s been two weeks now with no end in sight. It’s been one of those things where I’m like, okay, I’m dying! But I just have to completely trust that I don’t have control over this. I am going to do the best I can. And trust that the big man upstairs has a plan.”
“It’s as challenging as I anticipated. It definitely has its ups and downs. It’s taught me to be extremely open-handed,” she says. “Which is why being a foster parent is good for me. It’s the one thing in life you have zero control over.”
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