Drew Barrymore on being cheered up by zombie role in ‘Santa Clarita Diet’

Drew Barrymore on 'empowering' 'Santa Clarita Diet'

TORONTO — Gnawing on body parts turned out to be therapeutic for Drew Barrymore.

The Golden Globe-winning actress says her role as a suburban mom who turns into a zestful zombie in Netflix’s new dark comedy “Santa Clarita Diet” came when she was in a really “hard place” in her life.

It was shot last summer, when she was in the throes of a divorce from her husband of four years, Will Kopelman.

“I read this and it cheered me up,” Barrymore, who is also an executive producer on the show, said in a recent phone interview.

“I thought it was very empowering and about this woman’s awakening and a good marriage, and it was entertaining but it felt gritty and current. But it also takes place in the backyard and in suburbia — and I just can’t really relate, acting-wise or viewer-wise, to things that are other-planet. 

“I liked that they were talking about problems that were very outlandish in a grocery list kind of way.”

It was also the type of story she was craving as a viewer.

“I don’t want to watch anger, I don’t want to be angry,” said Barrymore, who first endeared audiences as a child star in “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and “Irreconcilable Differences.”

“It’s not that anger isn’t healthy or good sometimes, it can be a great motivator, but I don’t want to watch negative things right now. I can’t do it. There’s plenty of it to go around…. I wanted to do something that was cool and fun but was optimistic at the end of the day.”

Barrymore stars as Sheila, a realtor who dies and comes back to life as a zombie — or rather, mombie — while showing a house to clients. Sheila doesn’t look or act like a typical zombie (save for the flesh-eating bit), and even gets a renewed vigour from the condition.

Timothy Olyphant plays her realtor husband, who tries to help Sheila satisfy her ravenous cravings for body parts in a way that doesn’t lead to senseless murder. Liv Hewson plays their teenage daughter.

“I wouldn’t know how to do the gurgly zombie. I just don’t relate to that,” said Barrymore.

“But a woman who’s like, ‘I don’t know if I would want to give this up, because my life is actually maybe the best it’s ever been. Sure, I have to eat people, but I feel good, I look good, I don’t have to sleep’ — it’s kind of an interesting dilemma: would you give up something so wrong because you feel so right?”

Overall, the show explores how people evolve in relationships and also “the instantaneous, gluttonous behavioural society we are and what consequences come with that,” added Barrymore.

“That’s about as current as we’re going to get. If people act however they want, what comes out of that? That’s literally the state of our world. Living in the id is so fun but can it be totally destructive as well? And how do you embrace the empowerment but pull back?”

Barrymore hasn’t had much time to act in recent years, what with her two young daughters as well as a beauty line and production company.

While she hasn’t done much small-screen stuff, she says she loves it.

“I don’t really want to do films so much right now,” she said. “I think it’s what I’m watching at home. I think the home movie theatre has really revolutionized everything and Netflix is the cool kid’s club and I think people are really proud to work on it and it’s exciting.

“We’re always going to love movies and I do take my kids to the movies,” she added. “In fact, I don’t understand why there are not more kids movies. Like, 20 movies open a weekend and yet there’s like one kid’s movie every two months. I don’t really get that.”

Barrymore’s kids haven’t watched “Santa Clarita Diet,” though.

“Oh God no, they’re too young,” she said with a laugh.

Indeed, the series is quite gory at times as Sheila gnaws on limbs, organs and raw meat. Such treats were created with dehydrated apples, edible rubber, raw pasta, wet cake and some “weird, funky jelly type of thing” that “all tasted disgusting,” said Barrymore.

“I can handle blood, I can’t handle people peering in your windows,” she said of her preferred type of horror. “So to me this is domestic gore, it’s tolerable gore, it’s make-believe fun, comical gore.”


Follow @VictoriaAhearn on Twitter.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

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