In Praise of Timothy Olyphant: Santa Clarita Diet


Eeek it has been so long since I did a blog post! I’ve been quite busy this last year. Honestly I have also been lazy and uninspired to write about anything. But that has changed since last night when I watched the first four episodes of Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix.

Santa Clarita Diet is a suburban zombie comedy that recently premiered on Netflix. Joel and Sheila Hammond (Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore) are realtors whose quiet lives get upset when Sheila suddenly becomes a zombie. As I watched the show I couldn’t help but be amazed by Timothy Olyphant and his comedic chops. I have loved him as a dramatic actor for a few years now. And anyone who has seen him make an appearance on Conan knows that he is a naturally funny guy in real life. There is some dark humor to Raylan Givens on Justified. But it is nothing like the gross out and physical humor that is on Santa Clarita Diet.

It amazes me that someone who has played Seth Bullock (Deadwood) so brilliantly can also play realtor Joel Hammond with so much alacrity and ease. Bullock is so serious and dead set on dishing out justice. As is Timothy’s other great dramatic television character, Raylan Givens. Timothy is a master at playing on subtlety in his inflection and physical presence. He owns the screen, but in a quiet subdued way.

That wonderful Seth Bullock stare.

Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that an actor as talented as Timothy can pull off a show like Santa Clarita Diet. But it seems to be a difficult feat for most actors to accomplish. They either fall into the dramatic or comedic sandbox, rarely playing within both categories. Comedic timing and physical humor can be difficult to pull off. But Timothy does it brilliantly with his quick dialogue and genius use of his brilliant smile.

Timothy Olyphant as Joel Hammond and Drew Barrymore as Sheila Hammond on Santa Clarita Diet.

So far I am thoroughly enjoying Santa Clarita Diet. As a whole the show is funny with some shocking (and often gross) humor. Some people may initially think that Drew Barrymore is the star of the show. And while her role is integral, it is really Timothy Olyphant that has to do all the heavy lifting. Drew’s performance is a little dead and flat feeling. Some of that is probably intentional (she is a zombie after all). But her Sheila Hammond is a difficult character to connect to. Not just for the audience, but also for the characters on the show. That is why it is important for Timothy to connect with the audience instead. We sympathize with his struggle to coexist with his zombie wife. Even if we are also laughing at each disastrous scenario his wife puts him through.  Timothy Olyphant’s charming smile carries us through even when we are thinking WTF!!!

I strongly encourage you to give Santa Clarita Diet a try. As well as Timothy’s dramatic work in Deadwood and Justified. Do you have a favorite actor that can play both dramatic and comedic roles?