How Returning to Acting Helped Drew Barrymore Out of a 'Dark Place' After Divorce

Drew Barrymore says her Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet helped her get through a dark time in her life

Drew Barrymore may go to some pretty dark places in her Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet, where she plays a mom-turned-zombie, but the actress says the show helped her get through a dark time of her own.

“I was not looking for a job,” Barrymore, 43, said in a preview of her upcoming Sunday Today with Willie Geist interview, shared exclusively with PEOPLE.

“I had actually stopped acting for several years because I wanted to raise my kids. But then a shift happened in my life and I was separating from their father and it was just a very difficult time,” she added, referencing her split from ex-husband Will Kopelman.

Barrymore and Kopelman have two children together, daughters Frankie, 4 next month, and Olive, 5.

“I definitely personally was in a very dark and fearful place and then this script came along and I was like, ‘Yeah I don’t think this is a good time’ and ironically, I think it taught me a valuable life lesson,” she said.

“Sometimes when you think something is the worst timing and the worst idea, it can actually become the thing that saves you and pulls you out and gives you a new focus, and empowerment, and switches your constant stuck way of thinking and feeling and put[s] it into something else that might actually get you to a healthier place faster,” she added

Speaking about the diet she undertakes every season to look like a woman on a high-protein (aka human flesh) diet, Barrymore admitted restricting herself isn’t her favorite part of doing the show.

“Let’s face it, I hate it,” she said during an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden on Wednesday night. “I would much rather eat fettuccine alfredo all day long.”

When she started filming the show, Barrymore said she “was 145 lbs. and my life was kind of falling apart,” but just like her character Sheila Hammond, Barrymore was committed to transforming herself over the course of the season.

“I said, ‘Victor [Fresco, the show’s executive producer], can I lose 20 lbs. over the course of the show, and change my eyebrows and the height of my shoes and the body language and attitude and go from someone who’s kind of naïve and unhappy to someone who’s empowered and alive?’ And he said yes, and so I got to make that transformation,” she added.

Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Barrymore went on to explain that during filming she’s on a strict diet but once the cameras stop rolling she lets herself indulge.

“When I’m doing the show I’m a vegan and I barely eat anything, and I workout every day, and it’s so healthy,” she said. “It gets to be euphoric, and then it’s like food poisoning, you feel like you’ll never eat again, and then before you know it you’re pigging out with the feed bag strapped to your face. And I’m a foodie, and love food and I travel the world for food, so I get heavy again between the show.”

Barrymore’s full interview airs March 25 on NBC’s Sunday Today with Willie Geist.

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