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Santa Clarita Diet May Be Gone, But Its Stars Are Working More Than Ever

The stars of the canceled comedy are thriving, bringing touches of the Netflix series to their current roles.
  • Drew Barrymore, Liv Hewson, and Timothy Olyphant in Santa Clarita Diet (Photo: Saeed Adyani/Netflix)
    Drew Barrymore, Liv Hewson, and Timothy Olyphant in Santa Clarita Diet (Photo: Saeed Adyani/Netflix)

    It’s been four years since Netflix canceled Santa Clarita Diet, and some peopleincluding its star Drew Barrymore — still have a hard time letting go. It’s hard to blame them. The series’s final season was one of its best (just check the Rotten Tomatoes score) and things ended on a major cliffhanger. Even more disappointing is that showrunner Victor Fresno seemed to have a clear vision for where things would go from there. The sting of the comedy’s demise may not go away anytime soon, but the consolation is that its many talented cast members are booked and busy, starring in some of the most exciting series of 2023.

    Santa Clarita Diet followed the Hammond family, Joel (Timothy Olyphant), Sheila (Barrymore), and their daughter Abby (Liv Hewson), and their normal suburban life in, you guessed it, Santa Clarita. Joel and Sheila run a successful real estate business together while their angsty teen deals with typical high school drama. Their lives are upended, however, when Shelia becomes undead (please, don’t call her a zombie).

    The pilot wastes no time getting to the action. The signs of Sheila’s transformation present themselves less than three minutes in. By minute six she’s violently spewing vomit with the color and consistency of split pea soup. She has no pulse to speak of, but a sunnier attitude than ever, which is really saying something for Barrymore. By the end of the episode, she’s devouring Nathan Fillion alive to a cheery needle drop.

    At first, only one person outside of the family knows who she really is: Eric (Skyler Gisondo), the teen son of the Hammond’s next-door neighbors who has a massive unrequited crush on Abby and an obsessive knowledge of zombie — sorry, undead — culture. But as her taste for human flesh increases, it gets tougher and tougher to avoid attention from neighbors, cops, and a cult or two.

    Even with all the blood, gore, and suspense that comes from keeping her satiated and her secret hidden, the show was first and foremost wildly funny. Barrymore and Olyphant shone in displays of morbid slapstick, each committing 100% to an over-the-top optimism in reaction to some truly grotesque moments.

    Sheila’s displays of enthusiasm are not unlike Barrymore’s own demeanor on her hit daytime talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show. She’s been known to dabble in darkly comic bits, like when she fully embodied the M3gan doll while interviewing guest Allison Williams. That Emmy-nominated series, it’s worth noting, debuted in 2020, one year after Santa Clarita Diet’s final season premiered. Had the Netflix show continued, who knows if the world would have ever seen Barrymore living up to her full potential as a chaotic, empathetic, and lovable talk show host.

    Gisondo and Hewson’s roles now feel specifically aligned with their next big things. On both Santa Clarita Diet and The Righteous Gemstones, Gisondo plays one of few characters of reason among a group of larger-than-life, self-involved adults who should know better. Those series share a cynical humor, and potentially a theme — isn’t Jesus just the original member of the undead?

    The onslaught of dismembered bodies and eating of human flesh certainly prepared Hewson for their time on Yellowjackets. While the Showtime series is far less concerned with jokes, Hewson’s character Van still needs to balance a sense of playfulness with utter devastation, reminiscent of how Abby approaches her mom’s situation.

    Olyphant returns to TV on July 18 in FX’s Justified: City Primeval, and while Joel and Raylan Givens have little in common, it’s just another reminder that the cast of this series is doing just fine. And that goes beyond just the leads — Ramona Young, who played Ramona a.k.a. Rite Aid Girl, stars in Netflix’s Never Have I Ever; Natalie Morales, who played Sheriff Anne Garcia, just popped up in Hulu’s History of the World: Part II; Mary Elizabeth Ellis, who played the Hammond’s neighbor Lisa, is still co-starring in FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia; and Nathan Fillion and Richard T. Jones, who play a rival real estate agent and a neighboring cop respectively, can be seen together on ABC’s The Rookie.

    There are some people who may never truly get over the loss of Santa Clarita Diet, and others who are hoping and praying for the show, like Sheila, to come back from the dead. It’s not a completely unprecedented idea, even for a cult comedy — just look at Party Down’s revival. But if that doesn’t happen (or at least, until it potentially does) at least the spirit of Santa Clarita Diet lives on through its cast, most of whom likely won’t stop working anytime soon.

    Santa Clarita Diet Seasons 1 through 3 are streaming on Netflix. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Santa Clarita Diet, The Drew Barrymore Show, Justified: City Primeval, Never Have I Ever, The Righteous Gemstones, Yellowjackets, Drew Barrymore, Liv Hewson, Ramona Young, Skyler Gisondo, Timothy Olyphant