During the credits for Peacock’s Monday, October 2, episode of the soap opera, the network announced that Emily O’Brien would be taking over Lilley’s role as Theresa Donovan for the remainder of the season.
Dedicated viewers already know O’Brien, 38, as she’s been portraying Days’ Gwen Rizczech (now von Leuschner) since 2020. Lilley, 39, meanwhile, has been starring as Theresa on and off since 2013.
“Top to bottom, it was just not handled the right way,” Lilley told Soaps.com in August, claiming she learned she’d been recast on set. “Everybody was mad because everybody was kind of lied to.”
Lilley, who was last featured on the soap in 2018, called the experience a “horrible situation,” explaining she reached out to former co-executive producer Albert Alarr about reprising her role this season. (Alarr has since been fired following a separate nine-week internal investigation into misconduct allegations.)
According to Lilley, she suggested she bring Theresa back to Days for Victor Kiriakis’ (played by the late John Aniston) funeral. Lilley negotiated coming back to shoot 12 weeks’ worth of scenes in four weeks’ time. However, during her shoot, she realized something was off.
Lilley claimed she spoke with Alarr, 67, and said, “Listen, you told me Theresa’s going to do X, Y and Z, and I haven’t gotten the scripts. I only have one more for Monday, and I have two weeks left [on set].”
Alarr allegedly responded, “Oh no, Theresa is still going to do all of that … We’re going to do it with a different Theresa.” Lilley was then reportedly told that O’Brien would be taking over the scenes. “Oh yeah, we’re just gonna put her in a wig,” Lilley recalled being told by Alarr as to how they would transform a brunette O’Brien into the iconic character.
Lilley confessed to Soaps.com that she is convinced that the network was “bluffing” when they told her they had written a 12-week arc. She noted that O’Brien being cast as Theresa just confirmed her suspicions, because she was ready to film all 12 weeks of scenes if the team could do it in her four weeks of availability.
Despite being upset by the switch, Lilley revealed that she has “no hard feelings” toward O’Brien.
“That poor girl has had to have conversations with me [on set, knowing she was going to replace me]. How horrible she must have felt!” Lilley told the outlet.
The Paris Christmas Waltz actress reflected on her time as Theresa the following month. “Last week of me exploring this girl’s shenanigans on screen. Playing Jeanne Theresa Donovan off and on for the last 10 years has taught me so much about empathy and grace,” Lilley wrote via Instagram on September 19. “I have enjoyed every moment of her hilarious sass and ferocity, layered with brokenness. To the cast and crew at @dayspeacock, I love you forever. You’re my family.”
She concluded: “And to the best fans a girl could ask or hope for: remember there is no pit so deep you could ever find yourself in where God’s love cannot find you still. You are never beyond redemption. You are called by grace and marked with love. Thank you for supporting me on this decade-long journey. #Days #RIPJohnAniston #ripvictorkiriakis #DOOL.”