February 3, 2017
Santa Clarita Diet is the latest Netflix Original available to stream from today, and here’s what to expect: Drew Barrymore as a suburban mum, digging into her dead neighbour’s guts in this show, but not in a zombie apocalypse kind of way – this is actually made to be a rom-com, no kidding.
Here’s the lowdown on the show: the city of Santa Clarita lies in the northwestern part of the Los Angeles County, about a 45-minute drive from downtown LA. It’s a largely residential area, with neat rows of houses arranged amidst a dry brush landscape, a lack of tall buildings allowing the Californian mountains in the background to be displayed in their full glory.
It’s undoubtedly a suburban area, quite a far cry from the bright lights and buzzing tourist activity of nearby Hollywood. A place where things are orderly, quiet, and mostly peaceful. A place where the last thing you’d expect is for your friendly-looking neighbour to be an undead eater of human flesh.
That’s exactly the premise of Santa Clarita Diet. Netflix brought us to Santa Clarita itself to visit the set while the series was still being filmed sometime last year, and speak to the cast and crew who would like to clarify that nope, this isn’t yet another zombie show. The Walking Dead might be streaming on Netflix too, but this is really the furthest thing from it.
The main characters are Sheila and Joel Hammond, played by Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant, a married couple of two realtors living a somewhat mundane life in Santa Clarita. But within the first episode, Sheila dies, comes back from the dead, and finds herself having a newfound appetite for… people.
Despite the goriness – and there will be plenty, if the lifelike prosthetics we saw on set are anything to go by – show creator Victor Fresco insists this is really at heart a comedy that examines the meaning of being in a marriage. “(Sheila and Tim) have been together 25 years, and they have a pretty routine life, I would say. And what happens in a marriage when something changes? And this is a big change, which is Sheila waking up one day and she’s acquired a taste for human flesh,” he tells us.
Santa Clarita was also intentionally chosen as the setting of the story. “I like the planned communities – everything seems really perfect and in place, and ordered, structured, beautiful, planned,” Fresco tells us. “There’s kind of a tightness with your neighbours here, but I like to juxtapose that kind of environment to the craziness of one of your neighbours who’s killing people and eating them. To me, it was kind of a comedic setting to put that kind of adventure.”
Santa Clarita Diet is also Barrymore’s first regular role in a TV series, and watching the chemistry between her and her on-screen husband Olyphant during our interview, we have a pretty good feeling that we’re in for plenty of laughs across the 10 episodes. “My wife in the show has inexplicably got a thing where she’s got urges, and she’s got desires, and she is acting on them, and it is both lovely and wonderful and frightening. And we’re doing our best to navigate that,” Olyphant says. “And frightening and wonderful can be surprisingly synonymous,” chimes in Barrymore.
We’re sure the show will prove her statement right. Since official posters and several episode stills were released last month, the internet has been buzzing in anticipation of getting to watch Barrymore’s character devour some people, one of the biggest twists possible to a show that belongs to the usually-staid rom-com TV genre.
Executive producer Tracy Katsky shares this particularly compelling anecdote from the filming: “So it’s over 100°F [approximately 38°C], and it had been a really long week. Everyone on the crew was a little bit cranky. And we get to the scene where Sheila eats (someone), which is the first time you see anything like that. And there was a shot of Drew Barrymore, America’s sweetheart, with her face buried in a pile of human wreckage, and she pulls up with blood all over her face and hair and hands and looks her husband in the face and says, ‘I really want to make this work.’ We all knew, in that moment, ‘We are doing something really different here.’”
And the excitement doesn’t just last in the first few episodes as you might expect, the cast promises. “It was such a bold and ambitious first episode that my only concern was which way it was going to commit after,” Olyphant admits. “Because it takes such an enormous leap right off the bat, and sometimes as a viewer you see that after a big, big hello, it just sort of settles down into an ordinary sitcom.”
“And this doesn’t, I’m so happy to say!” Barrymore assures us.
We’ll trust her on that as we tune in from today, and we’re pretty sure it’ll be a bloody binge where we devour all 10 episodes at one go. Sign us up for the Santa Clarita Diet.
Watch the official trailer here:
Santa Clarita Diet is available on Netflix. netflix.com