More than a year after “Santa Clarita Diet” first debuted on Netflix, the undead comedy is coming back for a second season, and star Drew Barrymore admits to feeling “rusty” during the first week of filming. But star Timothy Olyphant feels like they “just jumped back in.”
“For me, in the first episode it felt like we clicked right off the bat,” Olyphant tells Variety.
Barrymore and Olyphant are longtime friends, in addition to being co-stars and co-executive producers on this series. Their ribbing and yin-and-yang chemistry is key to their portrayal of a married couple of realtors living and working in sunny Southern California — a duo that is typical in every respect except for the tiny fact that Barrymore’s character, Sheila, turned into a zombie in the pilot episode of the off-kilter, macabre comedy. Now she devours human flesh and is being kept chained in a basement while her family tries to figure out what caused her to turn and if there is a cure. The upside is that she’s never been more in lust with Olyphant’s Joel, who was accidentally committed to a mental institution at the end of the first season.
Ahead of the season 2 premiere, one of 10 new episodes that arrives Mar. 23 and picks up immediately from the finale, Barrymore and Olyphant talk to Variety about the evolution of the show, mixing genres within the show, and whether or not Sheila is the only zombie in their world.
Does the show work if Sheila is cured?
Olyphant: I would say the answer is no. I don’t want to give anything away, but I don’t see a cure coming. I only see things getting worse.
Barrymore: I think the show is about a married a couple and a marriage that’s constantly getting challenged. And this husband and wife react to that. But I also love the balance. One moment you’re hearing the craziest thing you’ve ever said or heard and the next [it’s] where are our garden hoses and why are they getting stolen? Typical mundane suburban things. We’re also raising a teenage daughter, so there’s a domestic element. It’s all very human and suburban and relatable, and the stakes are crazy. But I think in this world, you need to go to this crazy place for it to be shocking.
Olyphant: So you’re saying the show wouldn’t work if it were only about you eating people.
Barrymore: Yeah! But this season we’re more proactive because we’re not reacting. We’re sort of figuring out the new normal.
What else is happening in season two?
Olyphant: I can’t talk specifics, which is a bummer, but we’re trying to keep the marriage together and keep the family together. We’re also trying to get to the bottom of how this thing happened to her and hopefully preventing it from happening to someone else.
Barrymore: And did it really happen to someone else? We’re also not trying to eat people by accident. We want to seek out people that the world would be better without.
Olyphant: It’s tricky because Sheila feels so strong and capable and wants to make her mark in the world. But I would feel like it would be good for her to keep a low profile on account of her killing people. It’s created a level of stress.
Drew, last year you told Variety that filming this show was like a “wake-up call.” How are you feeling about it now?
Barrymore: I’m still awake! But it’s weird because I had never gone away and come back and played the same character. It took a week for me. I felt like I sounded different, acted different, looked different. Then I realized no, I still fit into the jeans from last season. When I heard that we were picking up right from last season, I was like, ‘Holy f—ing sh—!’ I lost 20 pounds over the course of last season. I used the show to get back to my best self.
What’s your dynamic like off-camera?
Olyphant: This is it!
Barrymore: Deep respect. A lot of fun. We both take our jobs very seriously but not as much as life. We’re both happy and fun and silly people. I love my family more than anything else in the world and Tim loves his family.
Olyphant: They’re OK.
Barrymore: He’s joking. He loves his family. And that makes me feel safe. [Series creator] Victor Fresco is too. As a woman, I get to work with these two great guys that I love so much. When we started the show, I was in a tough place emotionally and logistically in my life. I was a new single mom. And I walked into their world, and I’ve felt very happy and lucky. It’s a safe place for me.
What’s the word on season three?
Olyphant: I’m free.
Barrymore: I’m available and eager. I’m foaming at the mouth. Otherwise, I’m just working on my businesses for Flower.
Olyphant: This is it for me. I like this job. If I can figure it out, I’ll call it a day.
Barrymore: If this show went on for a long time, that would be the most comforting thing in the world.