Till a few weeks ago, actress Drew Barrymore’s Instagram bio described her as an ‘artiste’. It now says ‘Silly goose, mom, business person’ and the artiste has been replaced with ‘Old-timey actress’. “I noticed it said artiste and I thought was an asshole. Why did I never notice that? What a pretentious, dumb, unencompassing bio! I don’t know how it got there because I run my own Instagram,” says the 43-year-old star of many films like 50 First Dates and Charlie’s Angels. Barrymore, is indeed, an old time actress. She’s been in front of the camera since age 7 when she appeared in Steven Spielberg’s ET. However, she took a sort of voluntary retirement a few years back to raise her two kids and run her beauty company.
Last year, after much cajoling she decided to take a “gamble” by returning to the screen. However this time it was not to the movies, but the Netflix show Santa Clarita Diet of which she’s also the executive producer. “I was really just being a mom and wearing sweatpants and kind of letting myself go. That was so great for like 5 years. When you have kids you don’t know who you are anymore. You cant be the person you were, you don’t know where you’re going, and you’re always thinking about other people. When this came I thought maybe I am an actress. Maybe I should go back to doing what I know or love to do,” she said a recent press junket in Thailand.
I was really just being a mom and wearing sweatpants and kind of letting myself go. That was so great for like 5 years. When you have kids you don’t know who you are anymore. When this came I thought maybe I am an actress. Maybe I should go back to doing what I know or love to do
Santa Clarita Diet is now in its second season (it premieres on March 23 on Netflix) and Barrymore is happy to report that the gamble paid off. On paper, the premise of the show is rather preposterous. Barrymore plays Sheila Hammond, a realtor who lives a rather mundane existence in the sleepy Santa Clarita. One day she ‘dies’ after a virus attack, but later becomes ‘undead’. The new Sheila is full of life, a risk taker, and has an appetite for human flesh. She eats her neighbours with glee and her husband quietly supports his wife’s new diet. Timothy Olyphant, who plays her almost too-good-to-be-true husband, calls the show “geniusly stupid”.
It’s hard to find an appropriate genre for the show – you have a couple casually talking about licking a human heart for dinner and buying groceries in the same breath. Barrymore is seen savagely eating a man with blood splattered all over her, but you never stop empathising with her. Olyphant says only Barrymore has the ability to look endearing even she’s drenched in blood, chewing a man’s torso. “There’s something sweet and vulnerable about her. There’s no separation from what she’s really like to when the camera rolls, which really is a gift. In this case, that quality is essential to the show. If Sheila was played by someone who doesn’t have that, then you don’t have a story worth telling,” he says.
Netflix is really smart and they’re not messing around. They’re not trying to make their opening weekend and there’s not 80,000 cooks in the kitchen. They’re brilliant and are taking over the world, literally!
For Barrymore, the idea of finding life after death is what spoke to her. The script came to her when she was dealing with the end of her own marriage. “I could tell from the script that she wouldn’t be like any other zombie. I saw the undead as a metaphor for waking up and maybe how her life was a little dead before. As a woman, she was giving herself a wake up in her 40s. I felt that’s what I wanted to do in my life right now. We could parallel the character and do it together. Just getting your roots done, and tweezing your eyebrows and shaving your legs is such a fucking pain in the ass. Personal grooming is something that empowers you and yet who has the time for it. I can relate to that. Meeting Sheila was quite positive for my own human life,” she explains.
More importantly, she was keen on doing a show that at its core was about family, marriage and a husband standing by his wife even when she turns into a zombie. “I don’t want to do a dark heavy show and I’m not interested in eating people. But what I liked is that it is a comedy, it’s light hearted and it’s about a marriage. Also, I want to work with nice, safe people who want to get back to their families after work,” she says.
Barrymore is now in the process of considering another project, but she says there’s a long way to go before she makes up her mind. For now, she’s happy to have Netflix as her boss. “They are really smart and they’re not messing around. They’re not trying to make their opening weekend and there’s not 80,000 cooks in the kitchen. They’re letting people make what they really want to make and then they come out with a strong advertising campaign to support it. They’re brilliant and are taking over the world, literally!”