'Santa Clarita Diet' Stars Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant on the Accidental Relevance of Season 2

"I think we were more on the pulse of the outside world than we may have even intended to be," Olyphant says of how much the latest batch of episodes of Netflix's zombie comedy touch on the current political climate.
Courtesy of Netflix

Santa Clarita Diet was quick to establish its strong feminist perspective when its first season debuted last year. As Drew Barrymore's meek suburban real estate agent Sheila Hammond transformed from living to undead, she also became noticeably more confident and assertive, even aggressive.

Now with the second season of Netflix's zombie sitcom premiering Friday, as more and more women are speaking out via the #MeToo movement, the show's take-charge female characters seem even more timely.

It's a perspective that Barrymore ironically attributes to the vision of male creator and showrunner Victor Fresco.

"I think Victor is a feminist himself, so I think he writes really lovable and admirable men, but I also think he writes a very strong woman," Barrymore tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Myself and [onscreen daughter] Abby (Liv Hewson) have this ferocious, yummy empowerment that is really all coming from him. He just inherently gives women a great opportunity. I certainly had more of an awakening and a more exciting time becoming Sheila than some other characters [I've played]. She had something to her that really was like a weird wake-up call for me. And that's a man writing a woman."

Still, in terms of overt references to current gender politics, that's something for a potential third season, she cautions.

"As far as whether we get into the political climate of harassment and equal pay and marching and all of that stuff, that's up to Victor to figure out if he thinks that his show is the appropriate place for that," she adds.

And while neither Barrymore nor fellow star Timothy Olyphant, who plays Sheila's husband Joel, could talk specifics about the upcoming 10 episodes, Olyphant tells THR that he felt by the end of production on season two, "We were more on the pulse of the outside world than we may have even intended to [be], but lately perhaps things are just crazier in the outside world than they used to be."

He adds, "The two have come together in an odd way."

Barrymore also hopes that the series' irreverent comedy takes viewers away from the craziness of the real world.

"I feel like one of the best political efforts I could make would be to be a part of something that takes people out of their lives and entertains them but something that isn't just violent or bloody for that sake or empty comedy," she says. "I think this show has a lot of unique tones going through it, and at the end of the day, it is about a family and people who are trying to make it work, and that's exactly what we're all trying to do out there, trying to survive this crazy world that we're living in right now. I feel like that's one of the ways that I could best serve anyone is to just take them out of their own troubles and fears and pains or whatever for a 10, 30-minute episode binge of something that is a comedy but it's got balls. And this world, we've gone so far in that direction, that I don't think anything less irreverent would be relevant."

Within the world of the show, after learning at the end of the first season that there isn't a cure for Sheila's undead condition, Joel quickly accepts that there's no going back to the way things were.

"He's pretty clear on this is the new normal, and he comes to terms with that pretty quickly," Olyphant says. "Now it's about how to make a relationship work within those circumstances."

And while he was preoccupied with finding a cure for Sheila in season one, in season two, Joel's focus shifts wider.

"Joel is determined to try to figure out how this happened and hopefully keep it from happening to anyone else," Olyphant says before joking of the lofty goals, "Essentially save humanity. You know, keep the marriage together, keep it working, keep the family together and oh, by the way, if you can, save humanity."

Barrymore adds, "All from the Santa Clarita ZIP code."