Jen Lilley (FayesVision/WENN.com)

“They’re life partners whether they like it or not.”

Jen Lilley stepped into the role of Maxie Jones on “General Hospital” last fall when Kirsten Storms took a medical leave of absence. The actress spoke with Soaps.com last week about her experience on the ABC soap, her newfound fans and appearing in the much buzzed about movie “The Artist.”

Soaps.com: You were in a tough spot temporarily taking over the role of a popular character from a popular actress. What did you think when you landed the job?

Jen: The first thing they asked me was if I got overwhelmed easily because I didn’t know I was going in for Maxie originally. I started the next morning and I remember sitting in my dressing room – the dressing room at least they put me in that day – and thinking, “Okay. There were two other girls at the callback. Maybe they would want to do it. I don’t know if I can do this.” [laughs] So I Googled it and it was already out on Google and I was like, “Okay. Here we go.” I was pretty nervous. The “GH” cast always says, “You came on and you weren’t nervous at all.” I’m like, “Yeah, I was super nervous.” Because Kirsten Storms is amazing and she’s such a beloved character. I grew up watching her on “Zenon,” so, I felt a lot of pressure. Also, Jill Farren Phelps [former executive producer], the day I booked it, which was the day before I started, she sat me down in the office and the last thing she said to me, she goes, “All actors are nervous. Everybody gets nervous before doing a soap because it’s a lot of work and I don’t want to add any more pressure on you, but just so you know, it’s the most critical time in history for our show and the most critical time in this character’s life. So, I really need you to pull this off.”

Soaps.com: No pressure at all.

Jen: Yeah. [laughs] So I was very nervous, but the cast was super gracious and really nice and just really welcoming considering it was an awkward situation. They were really great.

Soaps.com: Did anyone in particular show you around or take you under their wing?

Jen: Yeah. Bradford Anderson [Spinelli] was such a little champion of my heart. I mean, I love him and once I met Kelly Sullivan [Kate], she also took me under her wing and kind of sat me down, she and Bradford actually both sat me down and were like, “Okay. We just want to prepare you for how it’s going to be with the fans at first.” And Bradford said, you know, he’s been working on this show for however many years, and he’s so good. People that are not a Bradford fan, I can’t understand that. At least from an acting perspective. I think he is crazy talented. He said he’s been on the show for however many years and people still send him hate comments. He’s like, “So, you’re not alone. We all get it and it’s going to be really bad for like a month.” I was like, “Okay.” So when the comments would come in I’d go to set and be like, “Here’s the comment that I got.” So, we would trade awful comments that we got that day. They both really took me under their wing and I appreciated it immensely.

Soaps.com: The fans seem to have really come around and accepted you as Maxie.

Jen: Yeah. They’ve been wonderful. I don’t ever fault them for being a little mean at the beginning because soap fans are so loyal and I respect that a lot. They’ve been so nice to me, especially with the news that Kirsten is coming back. They’re like, “I’ll follow you wherever you go.” A couple people are literally sending hundreds of letters to Frank [Valentini, executive producer] and Ron [Carlivati, head writer] and It’s just really endearing and I’m super grateful for it because it’s been going well on set. I know [Kirsten] is coming back in a couple of weeks. I’m really glad about it actually because, you know, she is Maxie and I think wherever the show goes, she should be Maxie for the final run of it. But Frank has taken to me. Yesterday he said, “I really wish with all my might there was a way I could keep you.” I said, “I could go brunette, Frank.” He was like, “Okay.” [chuckles] It’s kind of up in the air. I think he’s mulling it around in his brain, but right now they don’t have any room for me to stay. The soap fans have been super loyal about telling me they’ll follow me wherever I go.

Soaps.com: Well, once you have soap fans, they’re pretty much fans for life.

Jen: Yeah. That’s what I hear.

Soaps.com: Did you watch Kristen Storms in the role beforehand?

Jen: No, because I started the next day. I remember I YouTubed maybe three episodes. I probably watched 15 minutes of her stuff. I remembered her from “Zenon” and Jill had told me, “I want you to do kind of Kirsten’s take on Maxie for the first couple of weeks so the audience has time to transition into it. After that you can do whatever your take is once they get over the initial shock that it’s not Kirsten.” I watched a little bit of her stuff, but not really. I didn’t study her too, too much. One of the reasons I got called into the audition is I had a character kind of similar to that, that I played on MTV’s “Disaster Date” and it was on my comedy reel, which was ironic because it was for a soap. They were like, “Do this comedy character.” So I kind of already knew what vein of energy it was in.

Soaps.com: So after a while did you go about tackling the role in a different way once you became more comfortable playing Maxie?