Inside the Drew Barrymore Talk Show

Oh, the stains. The staaaains! It’s the stains that truly obsess Drew Barrymore.

“I’m a stan for stains,” she said on a recent episode of “The Drew Barrymore Show,” her syndicated talk show that premiered nationally in mid-September. Not that she knew what a “stan”— a portmanteau of ‘“stalker” and “fan” — actually was, which explains why she pronounced it “stand.” Whatever.

Ms. Barrymore, 45, was wearing a white lab coat over an olive green shirt, a pussy bow peeking out. Boldly labeled bottles — Laundry Detergent, Club Soda, Hand Soap, Rubbing Alcohol — were lined up on a table. As she told the audience, she’s a mother, and thus constantly rubbing, scrubbing and scouring.

This is a source of enormous pleasure. “I love concocting the perfect solutions, products, combinations, treatments, methodologies,” she said with her signature lisp. She might as well have been Carol Channing in the Gen X classic “Free to Be You and Me.”

But Ms. Barrymore wasn’t rhapsodizing about the need to share housework or the evils of advertising. Along with interior design and food, which the show also covers, stain removal is a lifelong passion. She asked viewers to send her their most aggressive soils, and she, Drew Barrymore — actress, producer, director, author, Golden Globe winner, former emancipated minor, three-time ex-wife, two-time mother, beauty entrepreneur and now host — would help them fix it.

Solving these sorts of human disasters is one of several bits on Ms. Barrymore’s sunny and frenetic show, “a jolt of optimism in a turbulent time,” as she said in a recent interview.

It was the Monday after Joe Biden’s win was announced, and Ms. Barrymore was feeling a bit wistful. People had been partying in the streets all weekend, but she and her two daughters, Olive Barrymore Kopelman, 8, and Frankie Barrymore Kopelman, 6, were out of town and missed the festivities.

“We felt like old fuddy-duddies,” she said. “We were all having FOMO. But I was also processing all weekend. I felt really internal and quiet, and I tried to think about how I could address it on the show.”

This was more challenging than it may sound, because “TDBS,” as it’s called by fans and those who produce the show, is supposed to appeal to everyone. The show is a “safe space,” and as Ms. Barrymore said in her four minute and 38 second opening monologue that morning, “I didn’t want to gloat because I know there are people out there who are hurting.”

She teared up, as she does often. Like when her ex-husband Tom Green, whom she hadn’t seen or spoken to in about 15 years, came on the show and they reminisced. Or when a psychic medium told Ms. Barrymore that Will Kopelman, to whom she was married until 2016, had relatives on the Other Side who loved her and considered her a member of the family.

Ms. Barrymore, a “little bit of a skeptic who also believes in everything,” bawled. (Mr. Kopelman later told Page Six that one of the alleged spirits was alive and well in Boston.)

A few hours later an email popped up from the psychic and we scheduled a session. (For what it’s worth, I think she’s an amazingly gifted … Googler).

During another conversation, Ms. Barrymore was feeling anxious. “I’m coming down after a four-hour panic attack, which is awesome,” she said. “Work and life and everything sort of collided today. It’s like I felt somehow slightly paralyzed.

“It’s hard to do it all,” she continued. “I felt like a complete failure today. Sometimes I feel like I can take on the world and today, actually, I do not feel that way at all.”

Candor has long come naturally to Ms. Barrymore. A native Angeleno, she moved to New York six years ago with Mr. Kopelman, an art adviser. They had married in 2012 in a “very Jewish” ceremony; their children are being raised Jewish, although Ms. Barrymore didn’t officially convert. But she celebrates all the holidays, which makes her … Drewish?

Moving to New York was jarring. East Coast winters felt brutal. And then, in 2016, just when she was kind of getting used to it, she and Mr. Kopelman divorced.

“Nothing I’ve ever been through compared to this divorce,” she said. “This was the first big thing that I went through that was involving a few people I care about far more than myself. I was depressed for like five years. I just wasn’t coping with it very well.”

Time helped. So does 20 milligrams of Lexapro every day. And so, finally, does this show.

“I don’t know who I would be without this job,” she said. “My kids come first, but I’m so lucky to have everything that I care about or attempt to do in this thing.”

The show is taped in New York, where it is broadcast live, five days a week. Ms. Barrymore wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and works out (“well, that’s wishy-washy”) before arriving at work at 6:45. She and her team write an opening monologue off the news, and then they’re on set by 8:15. The hourlong program starts at 9 a.m. in New York and is syndicated around the country. She spends the rest of the day preparing for the following day. She’s home by about 5:30, when she goes into “mom mode.”

“It’s a lot,” she said. “But you know, what’s the alternative? There’s none. We got one life. This is it. I’m going to burn the” — BLEEP! — “out of that candle at every moment.”

Going live is extra pressure, but Ms. Barrymore felt that she owed it to the audience. “I thought, ‘If there’s one thing 2020 demands, it’s live television,” she said. “You have to be up to the second in this day and age. It’s, like, so wild to be a live show that wants to talk about the world we’re living in while not talking about politics or being political or trying to alienate people.”

Most of the guests are her adored celebrity pals like Cameron (Diaz) and Charlize (Theron) and Reese (Witherspoon) and Gwyneth (Paltrow), who was given the task of coming up with a “Drewphemism” for words you can’t always comfortably say on morning network TV like “butt” or “something beginning with v that ends in ‘ina,’” as Ms. Barrymore put it.

“Lady bits?” Ms. Paltrow offered. “Life’s cornucopia?”

“I mean it is,” Ms Barrymore said, and they chortled.

The show features civilians, too, like a relationship expert to help people navigate divorce and a financial guru to help talk to kids about money. (Big Bird joined her in mid-November.)

But considering the emotional roller coaster of 2020, it may be just what we need as 2021 dawns. It’s fun, if occasionally cringe inducing, to watch Ms. Barrymore try so hard to have fun.

Because let’s be clear: trying to have fun is work. Ms. Barrymore, as an executive producer, weighs in on everything, down to her chic schoolmarm costumes. “I love dressing up for work,” she said. There are few child stars who go on to such sustained success. Of course, there are few with such a storied name (her grandfather John, great-uncle Lionel and great-aunt Ethel were all stars in their day).

She was only 19 when she helped found her production company, Flower Films, which has produced, among many others, “Charlie’s Angels,” “50 First Dates,” “Never Been Kissed” and “Whip It!,” which she directed and starred in. Most recently, she was a producer and star of the Netflix original series “Santa Clarita Diet.” This on top of Barrymore Brands, whose lifestyle brand, Flower by Drew, includes beauty products, a home line, hair tools and eyewear.

Chris Miller, 51, the president of Flower Films recalled being in huge marketing meetings at Sony for “Charlie’s Angels” back in the late 1990s. “Drew was in her mid-20s at the time and just had such conviction for how those movies should be marketed and sold,” he said. “She knew and understood every detail about the product because she was involved in every aspect of its creation.”

Years later, he said, “she’d be pitching a new lipstick and talking about how she had challenged the engineers to make the cap in a certain way that would not only feel good in your hand but would stay on during a six-foot drop test.”

Mr. Miller has been with her for more than 20 years, as have most of the people in her immediate orbit.

“I’m very grounded in my life — all of my friends are 20 years, some 25 or 30,” she said. “My friends are my first family.”

She is trying to make sure her daughters have a more stable home life than she did. As Barrymore scholars know, she won emancipation from her parents at 14, not long after she went into rehab for drug addiction. She had been institutionalized for a year and a half, which she has since said she needed. Her father, John Drew Barrymore, died in 2004 after a life of substance-abuse issues, but her daughters have met her mother, Ildiko Jaid Barrymore, a few times. “We just gauge it year by year,” she said.

She and Mr. Kopelman co-parent amicably, Ms. Barrymore said. But the divorce is still pretty raw, and she’s still single. As for dating, well, there’s this pandemic. And men never ask her out. “I tried a dating app once, and I just got blown off a lot,” she said. “I’d match with people, and they never followed through.”

She’d like to go on a blind date, though maybe not 50 of them. She’s trying to get to a place where she finds dating “delightful” again. “I just felt so heavy for so long that even the idea of lightening up about the whole thing would be such tremendous growth for me.”

But for the most part, she’s doing just fine on her own.

“I’ve never known this level of contentment,” Ms. Barrymore said. “This is new territory for me, and I just don’t want to screw it up.”

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