Actress Amanda Seyfried donned an all-black power suit and slicked back bun to portray Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes in the Hulu original miniseries, “The Dropout.” The first three
episodes premiered on March 3 and new episodes were released each week leading up to the April 7 finale.
The show focused on Holmes and her effort to change the course of health technology by developing ways in which one drop of blood can be used to perform hundreds of medical tests through her company “Theranos.”
At the start of her career in 2015, Forbes named Holmes the “youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America.” She gained support of many influential figures, including capitalist investor Tim Draper and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
According to Professor Davis Dunavin, communications & media studies instructor at Sacred Heart University, “She comes from the generation of tech gurus, people like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. They managed to make these mass amounts of money based on promises of what they can create.”
However, Holmes’s success was short-lived when a federal grand jury accused her of multiple counts of fraud in June 2018. The U.S. vs. Holmes’ trial began in Aug. 2021 and concluded in January, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The jury found Ms. Holmes guilty on four of 11 counts of wire fraud or conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years,” reported the Wall Street Journal.
“The Dropout” was written and produced during Holmes’s trial. It was writer Elizabeth Meriwether’s task to adapt her story on screen and create an accurate representation of the reality.
“In this story, the deeper you dig, the less understanding you have. She’s such a mystery and, for me, she continues to be a mystery even after working on the show,” said Meriwether to NBC News.
Meriwether wasn’t the only one who found mystery in Holmes’s character. Seyfried revealed her thoughts on playing this complex role.
“Gosh, what a complicated person to be able to play. I feel so lucky. And yet I don’t know anything about her, but her story is fascinating,” said Seyfried on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”
Seyfried also revealed the challenge she faced to master the deliberate low baritone voice that Holmes created.
“I would be talking like Elizabeth and (my throat would) get a little sore, And I’d be like, ‘This can’t happen. Am I going to be able to do this for weeks?’” said Seyfried in an interview with LA Times.
Wardrobe choices were another important element in the show as they aimed to accurately depict Holmes’s sometimes ill-fitted corporate style.
“Costume designer Claire Parkinson ensured that all of Amanda’s clothes looked awkward and ill-fitting, sampling wrinkled and billowed pieces from Gap and J. Crew,” said beauty and pop culture TikTok content creator Cat Quinn.
Dr. Rachel Bauer, theater arts coordinator at Sacred Heart, believes that costumes are vital aspects to any life-to-television adaptation.
“Costumes say so much more to an audience than we realize. In this case, the subtly of the ill-fitting costumes goes a long way to showing how Holmes was a bit of an outsider who worked her way into the industry,” said Dr. Bauer.
“The Dropout” is not the only way to learn about Holmes’s story. In Feb. 2019, ABC launched a seven-episode investigative podcast with the same title discussing Holmes and her trial. That same year, Alex Gibney directed a documentary titled “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” which chronicled Holmes’s well-publicized rise and fall.
In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Amanda Seyfried said, “I watched everything and listened to everything, the videos, the podcasts. Man, I couldn’t get enough.”