ICYMI: Catching Up With Jillian Clare (ex-Abigail, DAYS)

Jillian Clare’s memories of DAYS OF OUR LIVES aren’t all of the warm and fuzzy variety. The actress, who played a preteen Abigail Deveraux from 2003 to 2004, was on the scene for a macabre plot that meant doom and gloom on a regular basis. “I went to so many funerals, because it was during the Salem [Satler] serial killer storyline,” recalls Clare. “It was definitely bizarre. As a kid, you know it’s not really a funeral. So it’s not one of those things where, ‘Oh, this is sad, because it’s all just pretend and play.’ But looking back on it, I’m like, ‘Wow, that was a lot for a kid to be doing.’ ”

After exiting the soap in 2004 — the victim of a recast to age the character and being replaced by future PRETTY LITTLE LIARS star Ashley Benson — Clare continued to work. She immediately landed a position as host of children’s news magazine show ALL ACCESS PASS. “It was for NBC. I only did like three episodes, but it was really cool,” she recounts. “I got to cover the opening of The Mummy ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. I was one of the first people to actually ride it. They put this camera on it, and I had to ride it like 20 times. I got to interview the person who built the ride and who designed it. And I got to meet Brendan Fraser and all the other actors in the film.”

Over the years, Clare’s acting career has continued to keep her linked to the daytime community. As star of the 2010 web series MISS BEHAVE, she worked with a cast that included Patrika Darbo (ex-Nancy, DAYS et al) and Eric Martsolf (Brady, DAYS). And in 2014’s ACTING DEAD, Clare once again crossed with Darbo and Martsolf, as well as GH’s Carolyn Hennesy (Diane) and Sean Kanan (ex-A.J.) Meanwhile, via LADIES OF THE LAKE (2016) and LADIES OF THE LAKE: RETURN TO AVALON (2018), Clare shared the screen with Martha Madison (Belle, DAYS), Arianne Zucker (Nicole, DAYS), Marie Wilson (ex-Summer, DAYS) and more.

So when Clare eventually delved into writing and directing — via the 2018 teen movie TO THE BEAT! and sequel TO THE BEAT! BACK 2 SCHOOL, released March 10, both of which she co-wrote with her mother, Susan Bernhardt — she opted to tap into the daytime pool to flesh out the cast. “These actors are so incredibly trained, and I love their acting,” raves Clare. “They’re more focused than a lot of actors I’ve worked with on big TV shows and films, and they have a work ethic that you really can’t compare with.”

The original film came out when a couple of friends approached Clare and her mother about creating a project for their daughter. “Since we had already done MISS BEHAVE, we knew how to create content,” explains Clare of the web series she starred in and her mother created. “They told us their kids were dancers. So we came up with the idea of a pop star doing a dance competition to do a music video. For the second movie, we figured out a way to introduce more kids, singing and acting into the mix. We decided to do a FAME kind of thing where all these kids go to a performing arts school and, at the end of the year, do a showcase that gets them a scholarship to Juilliard.”

Clare’s soap pals enter the mix as relatives of the teen cast. “Eric plays Michael, the dad of our lead, Avery, and Martha plays Claire, his wife,” she notes. “Marie plays Camilla, the mom of our other leads, Mackie and Mia, and Lilly [Melgar, ex-Lily, GH], plays their Aunt Sofia. One of Eric’s twins, Mason, is in [TO THE BEAT! BACK 2 SCHOOL], too. He plays Drew, a new teen heartthrob at the school that one of our girls has a crush on. It’s adorable. I used to babysit Eric’s kids when they were babies. Now they’re all grown up, and that’s terrifying to me.”

Clare also appears in the new movie, as well as directs it. “When we were writing the sequel, I decided that I wanted to have a small role in it,” says Clare, who plays Ruby, “this kind of flighty assistant who’s always around the principal and always helping her, but doesn’t quite know what’s going on. Usually I’m cast in the really smart girl role or the bitchy role. I liked playing something that I don’t normally go out for.”

Wearing so many hats has been an incredible experience for Clare. “I love that I get to make what I want and do what I want with it,” she asserts. “I don’t have to wait for an opportunity to make something. I can make it myself, obviously with a large team of people. Directing has really taught me a lot, personally. When I was a kid I would always ask directors questions behind the scenes. I always was so interested in it. I knew that at some point, I would take the plunge. When the opportunity came about, I was like, ‘This is calling me to do it.’ ”

Meanwhile, Clare currently has a film, Pretty Broken, on Amazon Prime, which she starred in with Tyler Christopher (ex-Nikolas, GH; ex-Stefan DAYS). Plus, she’s await- ing the release of a short film, Vinyl Child, that she shot in 2019 with Darbo and Creed Bratton from THE OFFICE. “It’s currently making its way through festivals and should be coming out sometime this year,” she says.

A self-professed “let’s do it all” person, Clare is happily single. “I couldn’t do all this stuff if I was married,” she delivers with a chuckle. “But I am learning, as I get older, to have a better work-life balance.”