“Virgin River: Lynda Boyd Discusses Lilly’s Fate and Lessons Learned from Alex Trebek [Interview]”

Virgin River is a sleepy town in Northern California where Mel Monroe (Alexandra Breckenridge) went on Season 1 of Netflix’s Virgin River to escape her grief. Little did she know, grief finds residents there, too.

The town’s farmer, Lilly (Lynda Boyd) is a particularly tragic victim of her circumstances. In Virgin River Season 1, the widow suffers from a bout of postpartum depression so severe that Mel considers adopting her newborn daughter, Chloe.

Lilly seeks treatment for her condition and is able to raise Chloe with the help of her adult daughter Tara (Stacey Farber) only to be diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer on Virgin River Season 3.

I got to talk to Boyd about her experience playing someone with a fatal diagnosis, the lessons she learned from Alex

Virgin River creator Sue Tenney approached Boyd with the idea that Lilly would have stage 4 pancreatic cancer — a terminal diagnosis — in early 2020. The actor admitted she was reluctant to agree to the plan at first.

 

“As soon as she said the word ‘cancer’ I was kind of like frozen because I’ve lost two siblings to cancer,” Boyd admitted. “I just didn’t want to do it, really.”

She had to reframe her thinking to agree to the storyline. Although Boyd frequently refers to her character in the first person throughout our interview, Lilly is a fictional character.

Boyd reminded herself that she’s an actor who would be pretending to have cancer. She wouldn’t actually have it and wouldn’t necessarily have to recreate any part of her lived experience of losing family members to the disease. So, she agreed to Lilly’s diagnosis.

Lilly chooses not to treat her cancer at all. So, the Virgin River audience doesn’t watch her go through chemotherapy or the heartwrenching side effects that come with it like hair loss.

On one hand, it’s confusing for fans to watch. We are used to watching people suffer on-screen when they have cancer because that’s usually what happens in real life. But it’s also very on-brand for Virgin River to focus on the emotions of the circumstances rather than the harsh reality of a tragedy.

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