Timothy Olyphant: From ‘Santa Clarita’ to Manila and back
LOS ANGELES—Since “Santa Clarita Diet” star Timothy Olyphant has just come from a trip to the Philippines, Manila was on the menu of topics in our chat with the actor at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles.
We learned from our editor Rito Asilo’s recent story that Timothy and his series costar, Drew Barrymore, were in Manila to promote their Netflix show. We also found out in Rito’s piece that Timothy, who comes from the Vanderbilt family (Anderson Cooper is his third cousin), lived for two years in the Philippines when he was very young. His father worked for Del Monte during that time in the ’70s.
“It was all a bit of a blur because I was really young,” said the 2011 Emmy best actor nominee in a drama series (“Justified”) about living in Davao and Manila. The recent trip to Manila was Timothy’s first time to return to the Philippines. It was also Drew’s second trip to Manila after her 2016 business trip for her makeup brand.
In their comedy-horror series, the two play Joel and Sheila, a couple living in Santa Clarita, California, a suburban haven of tract homes, whose lives are upended when Sheila becomes a zombie who craves human flesh.
In real life, 49-year-old Timothy is married to his college girlfriend, Alexis Knief, with whom he has a son and two daughters. The Hawaii-born, California-raised actor’s other credits include “Deadwood” and “The Grinder.”
What was it like for you to return to the Philippines? Sadly, I was there for just a blip, but it looked a lot like the Philippines that I saw, which was cool. And it’s quite shocking, thrilling and just a lovely experience to see people from a culture that is seemingly so different than your own respond to the work.
It’s a very refreshing experience to feel like you can connect through storytelling with people that otherwise have a very different life than yours. It was quite humbling to be there and see so many people who enjoy the show that we’re shooting out in a suburb 20 miles from here (LA).
The show’s subject matter straddles the line between a comedy and such themes as marriage, family and relationships. Your character has to deal with the change in his partner. Can you talk about that, especially for a family man like you who’s aware of the family dynamics? Yes, I’ve had a family for a long time. I can’t seem to shake them. My favorite thing about the show is that essentially, it’s about marriage, family and the sacrifices that everybody’s willing to make to try to make it work. That’s what grounds the show.
I like that it’s so big and, at the same time, I know that in most long-term relationships, any time someone makes the slightest adjustment—a decision to go back to work after not having worked for years, or get a degree—puts a lot of stress on a relationship. It causes upheaval and disruption. That’s what’s happening here.
Both you and Drew are also the producers. Do you get to talk about what you specifically want for your characters? I do talk to Victor (Fresco, series creator) quite a bit. We’re going to meet soon about Season 3, although we don’t start shooting until July. I adore the man.
There was concern about too much gore in the first season. Is that addressed in Season 2? Are you talking about my mother (laughs)? I heard some of that criticism from her. We’re still not speaking.
I don’t know if it’s any less bloody than it was last season. I feel like the thing that is more noticeable is that the relationships are explored in a deeper way. We found a comedic tone. We seem more dialed into the tone and the balancing act.
Sometimes, television takes a bit of time to set things up. This season, we’re not burdened by having to deal with any setup. We hit the ground running this year.
Obviously, on the show, your character’s wife has a strange appetite. What is your worst craving? I’m lazy. I really like a good nap, and that’s probably my worst. Although I’m not going to apologize for it. But there are times when I feel like I should be a little more …
What do you like to do when you aren’t working on the set? Nap. Usually, it’s preceded by reading a book, then napping. I enjoy when my kids are around. I like hanging out with them. I like Southern California, being outside. A day at art galleries is always a nice day. LA has great museums, so we’re very lucky.
What about your guilty food pleasure? Less so now. But you know, I can eat ice cream with the best of them. I’m a sucker for ice cream.
What flavor? Vanilla.
It will be interesting to see what Ramona Young’s character, who’s also named Ramona, will bring. Yeah, isn’t she wonderful? What I like about this show is that we’ve got a lot of room to grow, where we can open this puppy up, because what happened to Sheila could happen to others. This year, we let it breathe a little bit, and we have other people who have been infected.
Will Ramona have a thing for your character? Ramona doesn’t have a thing for me. She’s got a thing for Skyler Gisondo’s character (Eric Bemis). She wants someone like me in her life. She realizes—this is a spoiler alert, as they say—but the way the storyline goes is that she identifies with Sheila because they’re both undead.
But, what she doesn’t have that Sheila has is someone like me, who’s there to support, help and protect her and try to do everything he can.
Sheila has made it very clear that she wouldn’t survive without having Joel in her life. So, Ramona gets the idea that she needs to find her own Joel, which leads to problems.
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