Drew Barrymore Rediscovered Her Love For Acting–She Just Had To Start Eating People

The star of Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet was admittedly in a bit of a funk–here’s how she channeled it into something creative.

Drew Barrymore Rediscovered Her Love For Acting–She Just Had To Start Eating People
Timothy Olyphant as Joel Hammond and Drew Barrymore as Sheila Hammond in Santa Clarita Diet [Photo: Saeed Adyani, courtesy of Netflix]

Drew Barrymore has been consistently acting since the age of six, so it’s no surprise that she would be feeling a tad burnt out. Over the past few years, Barrymore has made it a point to explore other ventures beyond acting or producing, with her beauty line Flower Cosmetics and a recent memoir.


“Once I had my kids, it didn’t feel like a sacrifice to not work–it just felt like the right and natural thing to do,” Barrymore says. “My life has changed a lot, and for some reason working in that profession has just been the last thing on my mind. So when I would hear, ‘you need to read this script,’ I’m like, no I don’t and I don’t want to.”

But it was a TV show script about a suburban mom turning into a zombie that finally piqued Barrymore’s interest in acting again–go figure.

“I was like, ‘fuck, this is different–this is good,’” Barrymore says. “And so it incentivized me to sit down and meet with Victor [Fresco] who wrote it.”

Santa Clarita Diet stars Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant as Sheila and Joel Hammond, a married couple that has slipped into something of rut. That is, until Sheila contracts a rare virus that turns her into a flesh-eating zombie. Ironically enough, the situation serves as an awakening of sorts for Sheila, as she reclaims her confidence and joie de vivre, never mind the fact that she has to kill and consume people to do it.

Santa Clarita Diet was more than just an interesting project for Barrymore–it was a role in which she was able to channel the sadness and disappointment in her own life from a fresh divorce, graft it onto Sheila, and, in turn, take back a bit of her own happiness.

[Photo: Saeed Adyani, courtesy of Netflix]

“I was like, what if [Sheila] goes full evolution, like crouched Cro-Magnon in the beginning to full erectus, and each episode is another one of those evolutionary stances–its behavioral and it’s attitudinal and it’s getting your confidence back. Those are all things that I would love to happen for me in my personal life so could I parallel that with Sheila,” Barrymore says of developing her character with Fresco.


“I was in a really shitty place in my life and I got to know [Fresco] well enough where I felt like I could trust him to say I’m in a really dark, lost, sad place and my whole world is falling apart. And your script and writing made me happy and it took me out of my sadness and it made me escape and it was entertaining and it was funny and it made me laugh but it wasn’t vacant comedy. It had a sweetness and a weird optimism.”

[Photo: Erica Parise, courtesy of Netflix]

Amid the camp, gore, and supernatural, Santa Clarita Diet is rooted in something so familiar, which is ultimately what shook Barrymore out of her personal slump and served as an inspiration to not only say yes to the script but to also branch out into TV, an unfamiliar terrain to her that she admits was a little intimidating .

“You can relate to it because really at the end of the day it’s also about a family and marriage,” Barrymore says. “I grew up with E.T. and Back to the Future and even looking at Stranger Things, if it’s human, I’m going to relate to it lot more. You can give me vampires and zombies and time travel and aliens. But if it’s taking place inside of a home where people are living their daily lives, I just feel like there’s so much more relatability.”

About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America" where he was the social media producer.