Out of the ER: From Grey’s to Reindeer Games Homecoming
Sarah Drew Talks About Her New Holiday Movie and Her Family’s Favourite Traditions
by Arianne Granada
Making her mark by playing iconic characters like Dr. April Kepner from Grey’s Anatomy and Sarah Brown from Amber Brown, Sarah Drew is set to make her writing debut with the upcoming Holiday rom-com Reindeer Games Homecoming as part of her two-picture deal with Lifetime. We sat down with Drew to talk about how she navigates motherhood and parenting while being a full-time actress, director, producer, and writer.
Your new show Amber Brown has recently premiered on Apple TV+, can you tell us more about your role?
I play Amber’s Mom, Sarah. She loves her daughter so much and is trying hard to navigate the giant changes in their lives with grace and kindness. Sarah creates healthy boundaries for Amber and is committed to repairing when there is a rupture in the relationship. Sarah is also coming into her own. She’s in therapy, learning how to identify and pursue her own desires while also parenting well. It’s fun to see both Sarah and Amber navigate these changes together.
How similar or how different is Sarah Drew to Sarah Brown?
I’m very similar to Sarah for all of the reasons I mentioned above. I’m always thinking about my kids. I believe in setting good boundaries. I’m committed to raising kind and brave kiddos and part of that comes with moments when they don’t like me very much. Like Sarah Brown, trust is absolutely essential to our family dynamic. We have a rule in our home that we never go to bed angry. We must make peace before saying goodnight.
What is your favourite part about filming for Amber Brown?
I loved the community that we built. I loved the brilliant words that Bonnie Hunt gave us to say, and how playful the set was. It was also a joy to watch Carsyn grow and blossom into a truly brilliant artist on set!
How has being a real-life mom affected how you played your roles?
I’m more selective about the jobs I take. Every job takes me away from my kids — sometimes out of the country even. I think about the fact that they will probably watch all of my work at some point, so I am sure that I’m making art that I’m proud of and that I’ll be proud to share with them. It was an extra bonus getting to make a show that was designed to be watched together as a family. Watching Amber Brown with my kids has been the highlight of my career.
Your kids are turning teens in a couple of years. What is it like being able to witness their growth both as a full-time actor and a full-time mom? What can you say are the challenges?
Watching them become who they are is the joy of my life. Recently my son has taken a liking to musical theatre. He loves listening to soundtracks and going to see shows and now he’s performing in them himself. My daughter is equally excited about dance. It’s so much fun to watch them find their THING. It’s really fun to foster that interest and delight and find ways to connect with them about those things. The greatest challenge is also the greatest joy. They are changing all the time. Once you feel like you understand what they like or how they will react to something, they shift gears. I feel like I’m constantly playing catch up to their ever-evolving selves. It’s really fun but can also be really stressful.
Would you like your kids to follow in your footsteps someday?
I just want them to find joy in whatever they do. I want them to love their communities well, and to be kind and brave. Right now they are both very interested in performing but I’m not rushing them into this industry. For now, doing theatre is a place where they are finding belonging and fostering their creativity and I’d like to keep it that way before adding the pressure of the business side of it.
You recently guest-starred in the Grey’s Anatomy season 18 finale. What was it like revisiting your role as Dr. April Kepner? Were you secretly also hoping for a spin-off for April and Jackson’s life in Boston?
I think it would be super fun to do a Japril Spinoff because I love those two characters and I think they’d have a lot of stories to tell in their new situation in Boston… but it isn’t up to me.
What’s also super fun is your two-picture deal with Lifetime! Can you tell us about it?
I’m in post-production for the first of my two films with Lifetime. That is Reindeer Games Homecoming and it’s my writing debut and my first-time production with Lifetime. My second film will be for next year’s holiday slate and I’m hoping to write that one as well. I’ve got some ideas brewing but we will see what happens.
What was your inspiration for writing Reindeer Games Homecoming?
I wanted to capture the essence of some of my favourite rom coms… While You Were Sleeping being one of them. I loved the idea of incorporating the importance of friendship and community into an entertaining love story. My mom was my inspiration for the lead character, Mac. She is a brilliant scientist and was a high school science teacher for many years. She was my teacher, in fact. And my own experience of Hollywood and the struggle over where we find true importance and meaning is what inspired the Chase character. The Reindeer Games themselves were inspired by a tradition at Dartmouth College (which is where my husband went to undergrad) called the Winter Carnival. I threw all of these fun things together to create a moving and funny Holiday rom-com!!
In the film, “The Reindeer Games Homecoming” is the town’s holiday fundraising tradition. Do you have any holiday traditions of your own?
We have a ton. One of my favourites started when my son was five years old. The only thing he asked for, for Christmas was to BE Santa Claus. So we got him a Santa suit, invited the neighbourhood kids over to decorate cookies, then decorated a little red wagon and went around the neighbourhood delivering the cookies. It’s sort of a reverse Halloween but Santa-style! Now it’s evolved to decorating ornaments and Christmas carolling while delivering to the neighbourhood. It’s one of my favourite traditions.
Speaking of fundraisers, when you’re not acting, you try to give back to the community. Can you tell us more about your chosen charities Door of Hope in Pasadena and Lwala Community Alliance?
Door of Hope is a transitional housing organization in Pasadena that helps unhoused families stay together while they get back on their feet by offering a home, life skills education, career counselling, and an alumni support program.
Door of Hope has a tremendous impact in our own community and addresses one of the most pressing needs we have here in Southern California. Though it’s a long way from home, the Lwala Community Alliance is an organization my husband has been connected to since the early days of the organization in 2007. It was started by two brothers who went to Dartmouth and were mentored by the same person who mentored my husband (Craig also officiated our wedding in 2002). The community health center now serves a population of 145,000 creating a place for health and wellness of all kinds where it didn’t exist before, especially for mothers and children under five.
Lwala has provided access to life-saving and life-transforming medical care and has effectively and efficiently made huge life-changing differences in and around Lwala. We like supporting smaller organizations where we can really have a meaningful impact with our resources. Our years of connection with Lwala also led us to another great partnership with Blood Water Mission which bring water, health education, and care to communities all over Africa. Lwala and Blood Water Mission have both impressed us with their ability to empower local leaders to make a difference in their own communities and emphasize sustainable self-sufficiency and sustainability.