TV & Movies

Only Drew Barrymore Could Make a Show About Eating People So Damn Relatable

We spoke to the star of Santa Clarita Diet about channelling her inner Oprah to play zombie mom, Sheila, and how the show's strength is its mix of the utterly regular with the totally ridiculous

(Photo: Getty Images)

From mommy to zombie, y’all. She might be better known for cinema classics like E.T. and romcoms like Never Been Kissed, but with the success of Santa Clarita Diet, Drew Barrymore, 43, is holding her own in another genre: comedic horror with a healthy helping of cannibalism (seriously). It’s new territory for the veteran actress, but she’s… eating up the challenge of playing Sheila, a suburban mom who’s balancing the demands of everyday life with sudden-onset zombie tendencies—I mean, who among us *hasn’t* felt overwhelmed trying to juggle the demands of career, family, romance and the all-encompassing urge to gnaw on someone? (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

People-eating jokes aside, what Barrymore accomplishes alongside her TV family in Santa Clarita Diet is truly impressive. You feel like you’re watching an average family—hell, it could be your own—navigate all the stuff of real life with the addition of a major crisis. But while your fam’s current emergency might be dealing with a job loss or death of a loved one, the Hammonds have a mom who suddenly needs to feed on human flesh and has a few bloody messes to clean up, nbd. It’s a blend of the realistic with the ridiculous and even if you really hate blood and guts, it just works.

At a recent press day promoting Season 2 (which just landed on Netflix), Barrymore, who also acts as executive producer on the series, told FLARE why her scene-stealing role has her channelling her inner Oprah—and telling little white lies to her daughters Olive, 5, and Frankie, 3.

(Photo: Netflix Canada)

The beauty of the show is it’s about a normal couple doing very mundane things… but with a seriously heavy secret 

When talking about the SCD’s balance of the average with the absurd, Barrymore pointed to an episode midway through Season 2 that sticks out as particularly… regular. “I was obsessed with this scene in episode 8 where we’re really getting to the crux of what’s really going on and everything’s just on high octane, we’re speaking faster than ever, and then I interrupt Joel to go, ‘By the way, where are the garden hoses, and why do they keep disappearing?’ The term ‘garden hose’ is just such real-life, normal, mundane bullshit,” she says, explaining why it’s the perfect household item to juxtapose against Sheila’s secret cannibalism.

“This show has that strange balance, and I think that’s like any couple in these circumstances—if a person has something tragic going on, they still try to talk about [everyday] things. Life can’t help it, it’s a 24-hour cycle. So I like that some of the stuff they talk about is that mundane suburban life, and then the next sentence will be something shockingly abnormal.”

Olyphant, always sympatico with his on-screen wife, chimed in during our group chat: “The very essence of the show is the contradiction between extraordinary circumstances, where we have to kill people for her to eat them and survive, and also maintain some sense of sanity and normalcy of a marriage, and a family, and raising a teenage daughter.”

(Photo: Netflix Canada)

Sheila—yes, the human flesh-craving mom and realtor—is a lot like Oprah 

Barrymore said that to prep for playing Sheila again after a long hiatus between filming the first and second seasons, she got fit and found Oprah. “Sheila is this Oprah, ‘live your best life,’ empowered, thin, healthy person. Almost like when you do a juice cleanse and you’re like, ‘I kinda feel euphoric right now!’—that is the way she feels on a permanent basis. So I try to put myself into that and take really good care of myself, and just be on this natural high of health and fitness,” she says. “I’m trying to give it the full Oprah and live my best life.” And now “giving it the full Oprah” is officially our new life mantra.

Keeping her young kids away from the show’s more gruesome scenes is a ~unique~ challenge 

Barrymore says she’s gotten good at making up little white lies when her daughters, Olive and Frankie, spot any bloody evidence on her after filming. “I had to lie to my children several times! We have this little sound stage in Santa Clarita (where the show is filmed), and they have a really old shower there that I use. But on some nights, I would miss washing off parts of the blood and I would come home and my kids would be like, ‘Mom, what’s that?’ And I’d be like, ‘Paint! We were painting at work today.’ Because, you know, if I say it’s blood, then… So I just lied. But it would happen, like, twice a week. Still painting!”

With files from Sarah Trumbley 

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