Nearly 23 years since making her daytime debut as Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald on “Passions,” Lindsay Hartley has emerged as a powerhouse actress with subsequent roles on “Days of our Lives,” “All My Children,” and most recently, “General Hospital,” among others. It’s her role as director, however, where she’s getting to shine.
With seven directing credits already under her belt in just two years, and many more in development, Hartley barely has a moment to breathe before she’s jet-setting from city to city, taking on the next thriller, whether it be about a dysfunctional family, romance gone awry, or teens being teens without adult supervision. Her most recent experience was the release of “Romeo and Juliet Killers” for streaming service Tubi where she showed how ambitious and daring she could take words from the page to the screen.
Inspired by real-life events, the movie stars Kelly Sullivan (“General Hospital,” “The Young and the Restless”) playing the role of Joanne, a mother trying to protect her underage daughter, Tylar (Leigha Sinnott), from the much older boyfriend, Boston (Zachary Roozen), who seems to have knowingly had no issue being intimate with a girl not of legal age. Deciding to get rid of the person stopping her from being with the man she loves, Tylar concocts a plan to kill her mother with Boston playing a key role. It’s forbidden love, twisted desire, and a dangerous obsession all rolled into one.
Tylar Witt and Steven Colver (aka “Boston”), dubbed “Romeo and Juliet” by the media in 2009 for their unsuccessful plan to commit suicide before eventually being captured by police, were eventually convicted for the killing of Joanne Witt and were later sentenced to 15 and 25 years, respectively. So, what part of the movie actually happened in real life versus the fictionalized version? You’d be surprised to learn that most of it actually took place with the exception of one little detail.
“One of the main things that were kind of fabricated was the neighbor. There was a neighbor in real life that talked to Tylar, and Tylar kind of alluded to the mom and their problems and stuff but there was no next-door neighbor that was best friends with the mom,” admits Hartley, who also noted, “The other change was that Tylar was really 14. We adjusted that more for filming purposes.”
Being that the movie does include bits of nudity, including full-frontal nudity shots of Sinnott, it’s quite understandable. In fact, Roozen also had shown some skin, albeit from the backend.
“We got that cute little butt showing in there,” Hartley comments with a laugh, referring to an intense scene in which Boston is forceful with another character as she tries to exit the house. “We needed it there to have that shock and awe factor,” Hartley points out. “Zach was so lovely. He really came prepared, he had done all the research so if you needed anything answered he knew it. He was such a team player, very open, and just comfortable with the fact that we had to show his butt. And so, it was kind of a big deal especially with Leigha as well. Asking them to trust me to expose themselves like that.”
Speaking of her young leads, Hartley sounds like a proud momma. “I think they crushed it and Kelly crushed it as well. Everybody was very committed to doing the best they could to make the story as believable and as insanely realistic as it was,” she says.
Talking more about Kelly Sullivan and her performance as a mother who can’t seem to control her daughter and is faced with allowing a stranger to live in their house as it seems to be the only thing making her daughter happy, Hartley says of Sullivan’s portrayal, “I’m blown away by her. I was talking to someone else about Kelly’s performance and I’ll say this again… that scene where she goes into the bedroom and rips everything down and then she puts the picture frame to console herself, to her chest, the microphone is on her chest and I have the headphones on because I’m listening and I just hear her heartbeat like beating super fast. I’ve never heard an actor’s heartbeat before like that, like really constant. I’m like, ‘Jesus!’ She was extraordinary and such a lovely person, on top of all of it. Just ready to go, a team player, and it just makes my life so much easier.”
The overall cast were team players, too, Hartley quickly points out. “That’s what’s so special about this gang too, is that everybody came asking questions even if they didn’t know the story, were fully knowledgeable or they knew how to get the information and they were ready to go to dive into a little something different than Lifetime,” she says.
As for the mindset the mother must have had, allowing her daughter to do the things she did, Hartley contemplates, saying, “There is some kind of bizarre truth to understanding where the mom was coming from. I mean, yes, Tylar was out of control, probably needed medication and some severe help like a therapist and stuff. We know she wasn’t a sane human – she killed her mother – and had severe anger issues, and she needed help. [With that said], there are people that are super afraid of losing what they love and are blinded by incidences. Their guilt and shame takes over and then they don’t see the real image in front of them because their filters are messed up.”
Referring to a flashback scene in which Joanne attempts to discipline Tylar that eventually leads to her temporarily losing custody of her daughter when CPS gets involved, Hartley thinks Joanne chose to “avoid or justify her daughter’s actions because of what happened at that young age that mom’s not thinking clearly. It just escalates into creating this monster that ultimately, the daughter decides to kill to make her own life easier.”
After Tylar and Boston commit the heinous act there’s a scene in which we see Tylar sleeping next to her mother’s corpse, which might be proof that we’re dealing with a psychopath.
“It’s like that same moment before when they were fighting,” Hartley recalls. “This girl, she’s so lost. In a weird way, I don’t know if you can say you can understand, but she was very, very deeply messed up. Clearly, very troubled. She was doing what everybody does in circumstances when you’re searching for options, trying to find the right path except her answers were insane, deadly, and she needed to be locked up. Her thought process was the same it’s just her choices were out of control and unrealistic and deadly.”
Unfortunately for Boston, he doesn’t realize he was being manipulated the whole time, that is until the police tell him that no, he would not have been facing a felony charge for his relationship with Tylar. He would have only faced misdemeanor charges. The whole time he was being told the opposite by Tylar which is how she justified them killing her mom. It seems like Google was not his friend.
“He was blinded by her, I guess,” says Hartley of what she thinks might have been going through the real Boston’s head at the time. “In the case, they investigated and people would speak up on Culver’s behalf and they said he wasn’t a bad kid. It was her, she had all the bad history. ‘Could you be so in love with somebody?’” Hartley ponders. “I mean, I guess, it does happen a lot.”
Also being manipulated was the mother who allowed Boston to live in her house just to please her underage daughter. “I think that also shows how desperate the mom was to make her daughter happy that she wasn’t thinking straight. It all kind of weirdly makes sense, her choices,” says Hartley.
Directing her first movie in 2020 with the release of “Mommy Is a Murderer,” Hartley has some people to thank for giving her first directing gig. “I have to a give a shoutout to Eric Woods and Stan Spry from Cartel who produced this with Tubi,” starts Hartley. “When I decided that I wanted to try directing I went to Eric, kind of meeting with him a couple of years ago, and he said ‘Yeah, you can direct ‘Forgotten Adduction’ which is also called ‘Mommy is a Murder.’ So he gave me my first chance. He believed in me first and he brought me back for this one. I always tell him ‘Thank you,’ because he helped get me in there and then I obviously had to work my ass off, and you do, you have to work really, really hard. It’s a new occupation. I’m now acting, I’m now writing, and now I’m directing. So it’s a new part in the entertainment field that I have to hope does well so that people trust me with their films, and I love it.”
Although she’s spending most of her time behind the camera, don’t expect Hartley to give up acting anytime soon. “I definitely have not forgotten about acting. I did a little stint in December as an actress. The producer then asked me to do another little thing for a thriller, and then I did another thing for this romance movie,” she says. “They’ll throw me in for a little bit part, so I have done the acting and the directing at the same time, but the parts are small. I did stuff on ‘General Hospital’ for a brief bit, so I will try to sprinkle in the acting as well but I’m very busy right now directing.”
While it’s been more than a decade since she last played Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald on “Passions” and had to say one of the most overused words over the show’s nine-year run, “fate,” and equally overused phrase “I’m going to marry Ethan,” which some fans like myself found quite annoying, no one was probably more annoyed than Hartley herself, albeit in a not very serious way. “You?! I literally had to say I’m going to marry Ethan Crane for nine and a half years straight. Like, almost daily. ‘I’m going to marry him, I’m going to marry him, I’m going to marry Ethan Crane…,’ and then thank God, I married him though. Jesus! [laughs]”
One thing that no one seemed to have ever asked Hartley in regards to Ethan and Theresa’s relationship, even dating back to before they even met on-screen, was why did she want him? Was there something Theresa knew that the rest of us didn’t? You know what we mean…
“What was the reason? Why? You know, What was the reason? That is such a good point!” a surprised Hartley says. “No one’s ever asked me, like, ‘Why do you think Theresa was all about Ethan?’ [laughs hysterically] Yeah, they had no relationship. Oh, my God! I never even thought once to ask because she didn’t [know him]. She never developed a relationship with him. She just fixated on him.”
As for “Passions” itself, Hartley has nothing but fond memories of the show and the fans that grew up watching it, and would even love to see it rebooted for a new generation of fans, especially with what is going on in the world right now. “James Reilly created a great show. It couldn’t have had a better tone,” says Hartley speaking fondly of the show’s late creator and head writer. “The world actually needs ‘Passions’ today, honestly, to laugh at. To have fun. Not be taken so seriously. To experience this extreme world which is hell and heaven and the actors wearing outfits for like 30 days in real life and saying the same stuff, and having the nights go on for like a month. It was fun. We even had a witch on our show.”
Speaking directly to the “Passions” fans still out there, Hartley wants you to know this: “Thank you for sticking with me and still caring about ‘Passions’ after all this time, and still supporting daytime because I’m a huge fan of daytime and also shout out to Tubi for them trusting me with this project as well.”
With more directing projects in the works, including a new steamy romance thriller, Hartley was in early preparation for a trip to Boston for yet another thriller. “It’s adrenaline. I think a lot of it, realistically, is when you are doing a soap you learn how to work really hard and you wrap your day and you go home, especially in the beginning. You have to memorize all that dialogue at night so it’s kind of like the same thing,” Hartley says of how she’s able to jump in and out of projects without missing a beat. “Your workday doesn’t end when you walk offset. I have to go home, I have to look at the next day, make sure I know what I’m filming, the shots, all that kind stuff. Right now I’m looking at auditions for the next movie, looking at re-writes, looking at locations, because I’m doubling up since I start quickly on the next one and then I might be having one as soon as I come back too. I’m just waiting for the final call.”
Here’s a fun fact you probably didn’t know about Hartley: “I always wanted to be a teacher. It was something I was thinking about doing [growing up]. I love kids and I love people learning, and I do love learning. I’m a big fan of ‘the more information the better.’”
“Romeo and Juliet Killers” is currently streaming on Tubi, which is available on all your favorite devices, including the web, most Smart TVs, mobile and tablet devices. The service features over 40,000 titles that are available completely for free, with no subscription required.
Watch the trailer below for “Romeo and Juliet Killers” below.