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‘Santa Clarita Diet’: Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant on the Show’s Complicated Tone, and Hitting Their Stride in Season 2

Drew Barrymore also doesn't know that Pitbull is Mr. Worldwide, by the way.

Santa Clarita Diet Season 2

Saeed Adyani/Netflix

If you had a little bit of trouble understanding the tone of “Santa Clarita Diet” at the beginning of Season 1, Timothy Olyphant gets it. “I think looking back to the first season, the first two, maybe three, episodes were a little rough,” he told IndieWire at a recent Netflix press event. “I didn’t feel confident until we got to the fourth episode of last year.”

But when it came to Season 2, he felt it was “smooth sailing right from the jump,” something his co-star Drew Barrymore agreed with — though she did have some issues with leaping back into the story of Sheila, whose hyper-normal suburban existence gets upended after some sort of curse turns her into a flesh-craving zombie.

Specifically, coming back to a second season of a TV show was something Barrymore had never done before.

“Coming back to a character I’d already played was a new experience for me,” Barrymore said. “So, I was having sort of internal turmoil — am I matching where I was, where we left off, how she changes? Where am I coming from now? So, I had a little bit of a different experience.”

Santa Clarita Diet Season 2

Olyphant noted that the conversations with creator Victor Fresco about Season 2 were largely about how to push the show further, while also acknowledging the way in which the show straddled genres.

“I remember we felt more confident leaning to the drama — felt more confident in not having to be always funny,” he said. “I think that we realized that the episodes the middle of the season last year when we felt like we really hit our stride. Where the stakes were extremely high. And when the stakes were high, it felt like the show was really working. And so it felt like we just leaned into that a lot.”

He added that “it’s unusual to have a half-hour comedy with life and death stakes. And I think we found that, that’s where we always wanted to be. It was at that place, when the stakes was high, when the water was up to our ears that just felt like that’s when we were having the most fun.”

The pair noted that the show has a wide range of fans, age-wise — from teenagers to 70-somethings. And it also has a geographic range of fans.

“That’s what this is all about. Global domination,” Barrymore said.

“We’re like Pitbull,” Olyphant said.

“Who?” said Barrymore.

“Pitbull,” repeated Olyphant.

“The singer?”

“I saw Pitbull at a jazz fest a few years ago,” Olyphant said. “And he said the word ‘worldwide’ a lot.”

Santa Clarita Diet Season 2

Both Barrymore and Olyphant are parents, and Barrymore felt that while “Santa Clarita Diet” is “a family show that’s not for children,” she did love the fact that it’s a show about two people who love each other.

“Victor and I both bond on not wanting to see couples bicker,” she said. “That’s just not fun, and it’s also awful to act. It always comes off fake. It’s just not the rhythm of our show. Ours is much more like a ’40s, Preston Sturges-type of back and forth.”

In general, Barrymore isn’t sure how to define Netflix as a genre. “I find them [to be] all over the map,” she said. “I mean, they’ve got royals, and sci-fi and teenagers and buddy comedies. They’ve got a ton of kid shows now that they’re doing. I cannot figure out, but I like that. I don’t want anything to really be pinned down into a genre and a tone and I think it’s hard to do that for Netflix, it’s hard to do that for this show. But that means that you’re being challenged.

Added Barrymore, “Which is good. I like something that’s not obvious.”

“Santa Clarita Diet” Season 2 premieres Friday on Netflix. 

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