Why Hallmark Star Jen Lilley Thinks 'Mingle All the Way' Isn't Your Typical Holiday Rom-Com (Exclusive)

By
Jen Lilley
Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Jen Lilley is brightening up the holiday season!

ET spoke with the actress over the phone ahead of the release of her latest Hallmark flick, Mingle All the Way. No stranger to the Hallmark family, Lilley's most recent TV movie marks her third executive producer credit, which she earned after discovering the script and passing it along to the network.

"I was like, 'Holy mackerel, this has Hallmark written all over it,'" she tells ET of reading Samantha Herman's script for the first time. "...One thing I loved about the script is that it’s a little outside the normal formula, and that’s OK. It’s still got that Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks charm that I look for in all rom-coms."

Mingle All the Way -- which Lilley assures is "very modern" and not "unbelievably predictable" like some formulaic movies of the ilk -- follows Molly, an entrepreneur who creates the titular app, which pairs professionals with dates to escort them to holiday parties, without romance getting in the way. While using the app, Molly gets matched with Jeff -- Pretty Little Liars star Brant Daugherty -- who she has had two disastrous run-ins with in the past.

"Molly is such a boss. I hate to say the word ‘boss lady,’ so we’ll say boss. I hate that as a girl. You can just be a boss! Ugh, so offensive," Lilley quips of her character. "...I thought that was a pretty modern spin on a rom-com. I think it’s something that every generation that’s currently alive right now can relate to because everyone is using dating apps; from your little sister, to us... to your nana. Everybody’s on dating apps!"

For Lilley, starring in Hallmark films is a dream come true -- and a responsibility she doesn't take lightly.

"It’s such a form of escape," she says of the romance-filled channel. "No matter what political side you’re on... you know when you turn on Hallmark Channel it’s just going to be feel good and so many of us need that. There’s just so much tension going on politically, emotionally, racially... It’s so nice to sit down and be able to turn on a movie that’s going to entertain you, but is also not that unpredictable... It’s like a big bowl of macaroni and cheese. It’s delicious and warm and comforting and makes you feel good."

When she's not bringing the holiday cheer on Hallmark, Lilley is busy working on her upcoming album, which is due out in February. After releasing a holiday album three years ago, Lilley decided that it was time to work on her music and become more confident in her singing abilities. 

"I was not at all confident as a singer. At all. I can relate to Lady Gaga on that. Where it’s like I don’t want people to look at me, I just like to sing," she reveals of Tinsel Time, which she calls "a bucket list item." 

Following two years of hard work, Lilley couldn't be more thrilled with the outcome of the album, and even plans to donate 100 percent of her share of the profits to help children in foster care. 

"I feel very confident about singing now," she says. "...The whole album is kinda a throwback to the 1960s, like classic Motown feels… There are so many parallels between modern day and the 1960s as far as war and racial tension and political tension and so I think that Motown -- and 60s music in general -- was also just a really feel-good escape. I want my music to make people feel good."

The first single, "King of Hearts," dropped in October, and its video -- her first music video -- was released on Monday. The sultry, mod style video was "really special" to her, thanks in large part to a special appearance from her husband, Jason Wayne.

"I have wanted to sing since I was nine years old, probably even before that. I always wanted to be a singer, but I wasn’t confident. I’m finally at a place where I kind of believe when people say I’m good," she says. "… My husband, Jason, is the drummer in the video, which was super-duper special to me because he’s really shy. He’s an outstanding drummer, but he’s so shy, so it meant a lot to me that he was in it."

"I'm excited to see where it goes," she adds.

Mingle All the Way premieres on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. ET on Hallmark Channel. Watch the video below for more of Hallmark's holiday lineup: 

RELATED CONTENT:

'A Christmas Prince' Writer Reveals How Princes William and Harry Inspired the Netflix Film (Exclusive)

Danielle Panabaker and Matt Long Flirt in Sweet Hallmark's 'Christmas Joy' Sneak Peek (Exclusive)

'Mean Girls' Alum Jonathan Bennett, 'Reign' Star Adelaide Kane to Lead Hallmark Holiday Movies (Exclusive)

Related Gallery