We could all learn a thing or two from Drew Barrymore. Despite having experienced more drama before her 15th birthday than your average series of Game of Thrones, she emerged on the other side to become one of the most joyful, relaxed and downright sorted Hollywood stars you could ever meet. She’s a genuine role model: a successful actor, producer and director, plus entrepreneur (she founded cosmetics line, Flower Beauty) and a mother to two girls. Couple all that awesomeness with a career that’s included some of the iconic movies of the ’80s, ’90s and noughties – from E.T. to Donnie Darko to Never Been Kissed – and Barrymore is as recognisable as she is relatable.
We meet her in Berlin, for the launch of her first foray into television: Netflix’s ten-part comedy Santa Clarita Diet. The plot follows a married couple, Sheila (Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant), both real estate agents who live with their 16-year-old daughter Abby (Liv Hewson) in the middling LA suburb of Santa Clarita. So far, so normal.
That is until Sheila’s taken sick and suddenly develops both a taste for human flesh and a no-nonsense attitude. It’s gory and silly with a feminist undercurrent that feels very 2017 (spoiler alert: in the first episode Sheila ends up devouring her slimy colleague), with perfect comedic timing and quick quips from Barrymore and co-star Olyphant balancing out the blood and guts scenes, to ensure you don’t end up losing your own dinner.
There are a lot of gross-out moments in Santa Clarita Diet. In the first episode you projectile vomit for an entire scene.
“We really went for it. I had to sit in vomit for hours and hours. Just covered in that disgusting stuff. And I loved it. I had blood all over me, every night. And I was like: ‘This is so much fun!’ It’s not real blood, it’s make-believe and it was just a blast. I always wanted to just go for it as much as possible.”
You play an estate agent turned flesh-eating zombie and your character feasts on a lot of raw meat – and human flesh. What were you actually eating?
“It was always different things. One day it would be rehydrated apple. The chicken was actually wet cake. Some days it was ahi tuna. I never knew what I was getting.”
Until she turns into a cannibal, Sheila is a people-pleaser. Do you ever find yourself slipping into that kind of behaviour?
“Oh yeah, I’m a people-pleaser, for sure. But I like people and I want to have a positive exchange with them. I think if someone is walking all over you and you draw a boundary and you stick to it, it’s going to be really hard at first because it goes against your nature, if you’re a people-pleaser, but I love the day when it’s like:
‘Don’t mess with me anymore.’ When someone’s making your life hell and you just spin around one minute and you just go, ‘No more, no more!’ That’s so great.”
You've said that you laugh at inappropriate moments. Could you give us an example?
“Oh, if anyone talks about death I just start giggling. It’s a nervous laugh. I think it makes me so uncomfortable that I just start giggling. I think sometimes people don’t like that… And just like if you’re in a room and it’s quiet and you’re supposed to be quiet I just get the giggles because you know it’s just the worst thing that could happen.”
Which comedians do you love right now?
“I cannot get enough of Amy Schumer. She is just the real deal. She’s legendary. My friend, and, to me, a national treasure, Kristen Wiig. And John Oliver: his show is everything to me. I am obsessed.”
The great thing about Netflix is that you can binge on a whole TV show in one go. What was your last Netflix binge-watch?
“I watched The Crown and was so upset when it was over. I didn’t get to binge-watch it, though. I never get to binge-watch because, as a parent, I’m with my kids so much.”
When we told our friends we were interviewing you, they got really excited. You have a massive female fanbase, across multiple age-groups. Why do you think that is?
“I love that because I am such a girl’s girl! I think some of my biggest heroes in life have been women. I love men, but everything in my world is about girls. I have two daughters. I love it when me and my daughters go: ‘Who runs the world?’ and they go: ‘Girls!’ I’ll never forget the day when I found out I was pregnant with Olive and I thought: ‘Here we go, gotta work through the mother issues. And when I got the call with my second child and they said, ‘It’s a girl’, everything fell into place. I was like: ‘Oh, I see, I’m here to raise girls. It’s the point of my whole life.’”
Which of your films do people come up and talk to you about most?
“It’s a real mixed bag. Some people come up to me and they’re like: Firestarter; and some people are like: ‘Are you the girl from Blended?’ I can sometimes predict what a person is going to say based on their age but I get surprised a lot too. I get a lot of 50 First Dates and a lot of Never Been Kissed and Charlie’s Angels.”
Do you miss your characters when you stop playing them?
“I sometimes miss Dylan from Charlie’s Angels because she could just do the coolest stuff. That movie for me is a real love letter to women. And then I’m so Josie Grossie from Never Been Kissed. I can never kick that character. I’m goofy and vulnerable and I am not cool a lot of the time, and that’s okay. It’s about coming to terms with that and actually celebrating your little freak.”
Santa Clarita Diet is now streaming on Netflix.