THERE’S NO SCHOOL FOR TALK SHOW HOSTS, BUT DREW
Barrymore has been studying for the job since childhood. Promoting her first big movie role, in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial at age 7, the precocious newcomer popped out her fake front teeth (kid-size dentures put in place by her handlers while her baby teeth grew in) and plunked them onto Johnny Carson’s desk. (“Now, don’t forget that when you leave,” The Tonight Show host said, unable to contain his laughter.) At 15, after years of personal struggle and a widely publicized stint in rehab, Barrymore confessed on Oprah that she had grown up too fast. Then there was that time in 1995 when Barrymore climbed atop David Letterman’s Late Show desk and flashed him on air for his birthday. “It’s almost like I was a different person,” she says now of that classic TV moment, “but I still think it’s completely hilarious.”
In short, Barrymore, 45, whose great-grandparents and grandparents (including the renowned John Barrymore) were actors, was born for the hosting chair, although she is not doing much sitting lately. Since the debut last September of The Drew Barrymore Show, her new syndicated daytime talk program, the Hollywood royal, entrepreneur, and single mom (Frankie, 6, and Olive, 8, are her daughters with ex-husband Will Kopelman) has been “moving pretty much nonstop, even after the whole world stopped moving,” she says.
Launching a show like hers during a pandemic means being able to “roll with each new crazy adventure as it comes along, and then roll again,” she says. Instead of gathering with her staff in conference rooms, the team meets regularly in Brady Bunch–style Zoom calls. Without an in-person crowd for her live program, Barrymore chitchats with VFFs (short for Virtual Friends and Family—her grinning and waving livestreamed audience) projected behind her at CBS Broadcast Center in New York. The most ingenious workaround comes by way of stunning green-screen effects that make Barrymore’s celebrity guests appear as if they’re sitting with her on set—even if those guests happen to be in Los Angeles. “I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to do with technology,” Barrymore says. “It’s like social distancing meets Star Trek.”
Until there’s a cure, Barrymore hopes her program can serve as “feel-good medicine during these messy and difficult times.” That starts with visits from high-profile pals, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Tyra Banks, Adam Sandler, and Barrymore’s Charlie’s Angels co-stars Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz. The show also features trademark segments like “Drew’s News,” a daily dose of inspiring human-interest stories from around the world.
But it’s Barrymore’s energy, honesty, and sense of hope that are the main draw. “I’m focusing on the things we’re all struggling to find these days,” she says, and she’s not talking about sanitizing wipes. “This show is about little moments of joy, huge moments of laughter, and an almost forgotten sense of thoughtful optimism. We’re desperate for optimism right now. I know I am. Tapping into that feeling isn’t easy, but if you can get there, it’s more rewarding than ever.”
You’ve been an actor, a director, a producer, an author, a designer, an entrepreneur, even a winemaker. What made you want to host a talk show?
I can’t think of a better way to link all my eclectic passions—and I have a ton of them—into one thing. As a talk show host, your job, in a way, is to have a limited attention span. You do best if you can bounce from subject to subject. I’m interested in a wide variety of topics and genres and tones and worlds, and I get to explore all those curiosities. I can help people design a kitchen, because I love interior design. But I can also have an incredible singer like SZA or a personal hero like David Sedaris come on, followed by a fun food segment, and then show cute pictures of puppies. Because you can’t show enough cute pictures of puppies.
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