Drew Barrymore is at a crossroads.
No, not figuratively; in her life and career, the actor-turned-director-turned-talk-show-host has never been more confident in her path. But literally speaking, she’s a bit stuck.
On a Tuesday evening in April, the Variety Power of Women honoree arrived at a Chelsea photo studio, only to find a broken elevator. It’s posing a problem because Barrymore hurt her ankle, making the trek up five flights of stairs more perilous than it needs to be.
The gaggle of publicists and assistants who surround the actor debate what to do: Reschedule the shoot? Carry her upstairs? Never mind. Barrymore takes matters into her own hands, opting to summit the staircase alone — though a member of her team helps hoist her up the final steps.
What’s life without a little excitement?
Since launching her daytime talk show “The Drew Barrymore Show” in the middle of a pandemic, she’s become a pro at adapting on the fly. As the show prepares for Season 3, Barrymore does not want to get complacent. After all, history has shown that not every star is destined to succeed on daytime television. Kris Jenner, Anderson Cooper and Katie Couric are among the boldfaced names that have tried and failed to host their own gabfests. Part of what differentiates Barrymore is that she understands that young people are more likely to watch segments of her show on TikTok than on television.
“Broadcast television is not the way an entire generation absorbs their content,” Barrymore says. “We’re trying not to be naive.”
Barrymore has had a seat on the couch for the evolution of the form as a regular on the talk show circuit for the better part of the past four decades. She famously appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson at age 7 to promote “E.T.” and rather infamously flashed David Letterman on “The Late Show” in her 20s. Now that she’s the one with the mic, she has a new appreciation for what goes into running the show.
“I learned to become a better listener. In the beginning, I over-talked to people, which I felt embarrassed about,” she says. “There’s an art figuring out how to navigate a conversation — and when to stop talking.”
Though she’s been famous her entire life, Barrymore remains relatable. On a recent episode, she gushed about Britney Spears after the pop icon posted a picture of Barrymore and Kate Hudson, calling them “by far the two most beautiful people I have ever seen in my life.”
Barrymore hasn’t asked Spears to appear on “The Drew Barrymore Show” but hopes to eventually foster an “openhearted” interview with the singer, who is newly free from her conservatorship. Barrymore had her own tumultuous upbringing, involving stints in rehab in her teens and getting legally emancipated from her parents.
“We can have a unique conversation,” she says. “There’s not a ton of us out there who have publicly lost our freedom, had breakdowns in front of everyone, become punchlines and fought our way back.”
She’s also using her celebrity to do good. She’s been working to promote celebrity chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, which provides meals to people impacted by natural disasters. “I really love that José Andrés says: ‘It is not tomorrow that we need to help people, it’s today,’” she says.
Barrymore does not pretend to have it all together, and she’s comfortable being an “open book” on her show. “Am I going to go out there and be radically different than myself? That would be misleading my kids — to be this perfect, polished person without a past… who never thinks about a date and doesn’t want to talk about love” she says.
A meet-cute star from “Never Been Kissed,” “50 First Dates” and “Music and Lyrics,” Barrymore is well versed in Hollywood’s version of happily ever after. So she was delighted to see the genre have a big-screen resurgence with Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum’s “The Lost City.”
“There is something timeless about romantic comedies,” she says. “There will always be room for that because it’s aspirational.”
Just don’t expect to see Barrymore as the leading lady in any new movies. She’s taken a step back from acting to focus on raising her two daughters as her daytime career takes off. When they’re older, she says, she’d be interested in returning to direct for film or television.
“I don’t want to be someone else right now,” Barrymore says. “I’m figuring my own stuff out.”