Drew Barrymore Opens Up About How ‘Santa Clarita Diet’ Helped Her Come Out of “a Slump”
It’s hard to give a synopsis of Netflix’s new show Santa Clarita Diet without cracking up. The whacky, campy slice of horror-comedy stars Drew Barrymore as Sheila Hammond, a real estate agent who turns into a zombie after contracting a mysterious illness. But Sheila isn’t your average undead person: She looks, walks, and talks exactly like she did before kicking the bucket. The only difference is that she now has an insatiable craving for human flesh—ya know, as most zombies do. Sheila’s husband and fellow realtor, Joel (Timothy Olyphant), isn’t exactly thrilled about her new, erm, diet, but he doesn’t want her to starve, either. So he vows to help Sheila kill people in order to keep her satisfied (like any good partner). They just have to keep their new cooking methods a secret from their teenage daughter, Abby (Liv Hewson), and the two cops who live next door. Needless to say, that doesn’t happen.
Santa Clarita Diet sounds preposterous on paper yet it works. It’s rip-roaringly funny, but not in the traditional sense. Not since Pushing Daisies has a show blended deadpan humor and straight-up macabre so well. Sheila and Joel talk about murdering their next victim like most couples discuss what to have for dinner. They act so normal, even in these crazy, morbid circumstances. That’s why the show excels.
And it came at a perfect time for Drew Barrymore. The actress was in the process of getting divorced from art consultant Will Kopelman when Santa Clarita Diet landed on her doorstep. It was a difficult time for Barrymore, who shares two young daughters with Kopelman, but the show made her laugh. It made her forget her problems for a second, which is something she so needed. Signing on to Santa Clarita Diet completely reenergized Barrymore emotionally, mentally, and even physically—and she hopes people who watch the show have a similar experience. Below, Barrymore explains exactly how this kooky Netflix show changed her life.
Glamour: Santa Clarita Diet is your first major acting project in several years. Why this role? Why now?
Drew Barrymore: I didn’t want to work, but the script was so good it made me furious. I was like, “No, I can’t do this right now. It’s really bad timing for my life. I’m just going through a really bad time in my personal life, and I don’t really want to be acting.” I’ve been more of a stay-at-home mom, being with my kids and starting companies and writing books—just doing anything to have a more normal and consistent schedule. To be with my kids, I wanted to step out of filmmaking. After 35 years in the business, it was easy. It didn’t feel like a sacrifice. Also, you can’t do everything at the same time. I didn’t want to be bedraggled on a set and trying to be a mom and having other people raise my kids. I was like, “F-ck that.” I want to be at home. I want to raise my kids. And then [Santa Clarita Diet] came along, and it was so good that it forced me to go back to work. I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience because it’s actually been super positive for my life.
Glamour: In an extreme sense, your character, Sheila, unapologetically lives for herself. She owns herself and her truth. Has playing her informed the way you live your life?
DB: I definitely paralleled myself with her over the summer. I started at 144 pounds; I ended at 124. I was like, “If you only ate meat, you would lean out.” There’s no question about that. And then just her awakening: I felt really gray and in a slump and a little hopeless and sad. Maybe I was going through a little bit of the monotony of life—other than my children, of course, which make me the happiest and give me the most joy and the most excitement about life. They’re completely exempt from the conversation. It was just something personal and inside of me. Getting divorced and just being like, “Oh my God. Everything I dreamed and hope for and worked toward is not working.” I felt sad and lost. [But] I read this script [for Santa Clarita Diet], and it made me forget about my problems. It made me giggle and laugh, but it wasn’t vacant comedy. It had this strange optimism in the middle of all this, zombie, “mombie” blood. There was just something about it, and I thought, too, if I was to go back to work, I’d like to be a part of something that made someone else feel like that. It just took people out of their sh-t for a minute. It’s enjoyable. That really felt like an antidote to me. And there’s something about Sheila that is a bit of an antidote. So, yeah, she was an antidote for my life too. I think watching the show is an antidote—escaping the harsh realities of the world. The timing is really good for this.
Glamour: Speaking of timing, we’re living in such a crazy time right now. As a mother to two daughters, how are you feeling about the state of things?
DB: I was very proud. My daughter marched in the [Women’s] March, which was so wonderful. It’s her first taste of feminism [and] empowerment. I read the paper in front of my kids every morning. I love that she will point to the people in the pictures and know who they are. I appreciate the trust and savviness the world and women are instilling in their children right now. It’s so remarkable. The polarity of that is that kids are seeing really not good things and bad words and negativity, so it’s a very scary time as well. But I am an optimist, and I will focus on the positive or I do really get lost. I’m very solution-oriented and problem-solving rather than lying down in the corner. My whole motto in life is, “One foot in front of the other.” I love that women are putting one foot in front of the other. People are constantly protesting and speaking out. It’s a wild and amazing thing that when you watch CNN, it’s like four boxes of cities protesting, and the box of the anchor is smaller than those. That’s a nice change from watching CNN last year. Hopefully, everyone will say it’s “day what” of the revolution.
Glamour: There are some feminist themes in Santa Clarita Diet. Sheila and her husband, Joel [Olyphant], are dual partners on the show. What do you think couples can take away from seeing their dynamic?
DB: I really took hope. I was entering it as someone going through a divorce, and Victor [Fresco, the show’s creator] and Tim [Olyphant] have both been married for, like, 25 years. It’s nice to see that partnerships can excel, especially during adversity or the world crashing down around them. Victor said to me, “I don’t want to see this couple fight or fall apart,” and I was like, “OK, then definitely sign me up.” I hate watching people fight and fall apart. There’s enough of that in real life. It’s negative. I don’t want to watch it.