Less than two minutes into their interview, Drew Barrymore asks her guest, Jennette McCurdy, whose appearance is presumably part of her book tour, an extremely personal question: “Does someone have to die in order to be able for us to tell our truth?” Barrymore then immediately follows up with an admission: “I don’t know if I can do it because certain people are alive.”
McCurdy, whose book I’m Glad My Mom Died details her relationship with her now-deceased abusive mother, thoughtfully responds, “If saying the truth ends the relationship, I think it’s probably a relationship that needed to end.”
Hoooo boy. The conversation—which was posted Monday on Barrymore’s talk show’s digital component, Barrymore’s Backstage—is far from a typical press tour chat, which McCurdy points out when Barrymore leaps up to give her a hug mid-interview. Both women were child stars and the way that experience fucked them up appears to immediately bond them. By the time she was 15, Barrymore had done an 18-month stay in a psychiatric hospital, gone to rehab, and become legally emancipated from her mother. In her memoir, McCurdy explores the harassment she faced on set, and how she came to realize just how abusive her mother was.
The conversation between the two women covers the difference between guilt and shame (guilt can be worthwhile, but shame keeps you stuck), the fear of having children and perpetuating harmful mothering (Barrymore has two daughters, McCurdy has no children), and how Barrymore’s divorce uncovered the traumas of her past. There’s no lack of heavy silences, agape jaws, and knowing head nods. At one point Barrymore declares she’s having an “aha moment” about not acknowledging abuse done to her because she’s wanted to protect her abuser. (Though she doesn’t explicitly say it, she seems to be talking about her mother.)
It’s a lot for a 20-minute daytime TV segment—but it’s not unusual for Barrymore, who has been facilitating conversations like this since she launched her show two years ago. Her interviews are refreshingly honest and raw, and watching them feels like she’s tackling these subjects out of personal necessity. She forged similar connections with Paris Hilton in September 2020 and Demi Lovato in April 2021, starting off the conversations by assuring her guests that she’s been in their shoes. And she has! She isn’t exhibiting faux-compassion simply for viewership or to pry into the lives of her famous guests. Like Hilton, she was kept in solitary confinement as a teen and wants to talk about it. Like Lovato, she can get real deep on the particular hardships of being famous as a child. Barrymore is able to make her interviews feel like therapeutic exchanges, benefitting both herself and her guests. It always makes me come back for more.
Towards the end of her conversation with McCurdy, Barrymore asks if she wants kids after what she’s gone through. Normally that question makes the hairs on my arms stand up; normally I want to scream, “It’s none of your fucking business!” But in this instance, it felt like Barrymore, a self-described survivor, reaching out to another survivor and comparing notes. McCurdy answers that she doesn’t think so—which is also incredibly refreshing. “I wonder why?” Barrymore jokes and the two of them break into a truly healing cackle.