Upbeat, outgoing and open, Drew Barrymore is exactly what you expect her to be in person. But the roles that she gravitates to are much harder to predict. That’s why we couldn’t wait to sit down with the actress and producer, 42, and find out what drew her to Sheila, the flesh-eating real estate agent Drew inhabits with such glee in the dark comedy Santa Clarita Diet.
Speaking to Hello! in New York City, Drew says of her Netflix series, “It was a new format for me and I loved it. We shot for three months, and people can binge-watch and enjoy it.”
It was a win-win, especially for Drew. The condensed shooting schedule for the debut season (a second-season order is all but guaranteed!) allowed her to devote most of her time to co-parenting her daughters Olive, 4, and Frankie, 2, with ex Will Kopelman. (The couple divorced in August after four years of marriage.)
Perhaps best of all? In our candid conversation, Drew reveals playing an undead suburban wife and mother gave her a fresh perspective on the state of her own life.
At this point in your career, were you looking to do TV? I’ve seen people who have done TV, who barely have any time off. When you do an hour-long, 24-episode drama, you really don’t have a life. But this isn’t that, so I was definitely not looking to do that. I was sort of out of the game for a while because I wanted to stay home and raise my kids. Then this came along. It was going to bring us back to Los Angeles – so my children and I could be at our house for the summer -- which made me very happy. [They’re based in New York City during the school year.] They went to camp, they came to visit the set. It was so conducive to my real life.
What excited you most about this role? I really like Sheila. I saw an opportunity, and saw how it could affect my own personal life really positively. She’s getting leaner, more empowered, more confident -- there’s such an enthusiasm and zest for all. I love that there’s depth to what behaviour has consequences. [The show looks at] what’s a good expression of freedom, what affects people negatively and when you’ve got to reel it in. It’s certainly a quality topic for these times.
‘I was such a better, healthier, happier person when I ended this show than when I started it, so that says a lot’
Clearly, you really related to Sheila! She’s having an awakening. I needed an awakening in my own life. I related to Sheila in that I think I was in a slump and a monotonous sort of haze -- with the exception of my children, who have made me think that my life has the greatest meaning and purpose it has had. I was just in a tough place in my personal life and Sheila gave me a lot of hope. I was such a better, healthier, happier person when I ended this show than when I started it, so that says a lot.
How do you recommend people shake up their own lives?It’s a lot of attitudinal stuff. I think [my character] thinks and feels differently. I think it has to be an empowered choice to put one foot in front of the other and, with each step, get a little better as long as you don’t hurt those that you love along the way. The point of the show is, just like in real life, you want to maintain relationships and to have love. You want to make a dynamic work with people that are your everything.
Your character’s family really rallies around her to help with this new phase in her life. How do you encourage your kids to look after one another?
I’m always trying to make sure that Olive doesn’t feel like in this single-parent sort of dynamic now, it’s not your world’s mission to make sure your sister is OK because she doesn’t want to be a pressure or burden. So I try to eloquently express it in a way that’s graspable for her. That is a little bit of her mission in life, to be a good big sister and for them to be there for each other. I’m always encouraging the sisterhood. I’m so fascinated by the fact that I have these two girls, they’re going to have each other and how I foster that relationship.
When the kids are asleep, will you turn on other TV zombie shows?
I can get into anything if I can emotionally relate to it on some level. I want to escape, but I don’t need a vapid escape. I want to escape because it’s taking me out of my own problems in life, but it’s also giving me something back about my life. Escapism and entertainment with relatability is the magic combo for me.