Netflix’s latest show, Santa Clarita Diet, puts a family-centric twist on the zombie genre. We joined actors Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant, and showrunner Victor Fresco, to learn about epic on-set wipeouts, method acting for the undead, and much more.
Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore in Santa Clarita Diet.
Scary, unintelligible zombies are so last decade—2017 is the year of the mombie. In Netflix’s new thriller-comedy Santa Clarita Diet, Drew Barrymore plays a quotidian suburban mom named Sheila who wakes up one morning and discovers that she’s undead. Undeterred by her new state, she and her husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant) vow to continue living in their unremarkable suburb as unremarkable real estate agents. And other than the small issue of eating other humans, how hard can that be? We sat down with Barrymore, Olyphant, and showrunner Victor Fresco to find out about that and more.
Barrymore practiced method acting (to a point)
No, she didn’t become a cannibal, but the actress did severely restrict her caloric intake while on set. “I put myself on a strict diet, so I was very hungry,” she says. “So, I understood Sheila, because I wanted to rip everyone’s f--king face off that was eating craft service at lunch and I wasn’t getting to do that. That helped incentivize my furor at everybody,” she adds with a laugh. “It gave me a real sense of seagull-like pang and hankering for what everyone was eating around me.”
She also nearly died while shooting
“I jumped on [another actor’s] back in rehearsal and I fell down six feet onto concrete on my head. It was definitely the scariest thing that’s happened to me in many years,” she says. And while co-star Olyphant tried to help, he didn’t quite get there in time. “Thank god I was there to catch [her] head after it hit the pavement,” he said wryly. Barrymore landed in the hospital for two days and stopped doing her own stunts after that. “I’m too old!” she chuckles.
There’s no chance of a cure for Sheila
When discussing season two, Fresco admits that he doesn’t really know “what we’re going to do yet, with any definitiveness.” But one storyline that’s not in the cards is Sheila reverting to her former self. “There’s no going back; she is undead and can’t become alive,” says Fresco. “So, she’s going to have these symptoms for the rest of her—life, I was going to say—but for the rest of her undead-ness.”
Barrymore made a conscious choice to be in a comedy
“I don’t want to watch dark sh-t, I don’t want to be in dark sh-t, and I don’t want to put dark sh-t out there. I hate negativity. I want to be optimistic and problem solving,” she says.
The actors leave their personas on set
When the shooting is over, Barrymore and Olyphant slip seamlessly back into their regular lives. “She’s not like, ‘Tell me about your character,’” Olyphant says of wife Alexis Knief. “She’s like, ‘How’s work honey? Great. Anyway….’” Barrymore adds, “Victor said, ‘When I put my keys in the door at night and I go home, I remember that it’s no longer about me.’”