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Amanda Seyfried: A Journey in the Skin of Elizabeth Holmes

The Dropout on Hulu is based on the story of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, who, blinded by ambition and hubris rose to great prominence only to endure an equally spectacular fall, that shook America. Amanda Seyfried is most convincing in the skin of this brilliant and controversial business leader.

The title of the series alone sums up a turning point in the life of Holmes, who left Stanford to found Theranos in 2003. The company then claimed that its technology would revolutionize medical diagnostic testing by using the amount of blood needed for analysis from a single finger prick. Based on this potential promise, Theranos raised more than $900 million from investors, most of whom had no experience in biomedical startups.

Forbes magazine named Holmes the youngest and richest self-made billionaire in the United States in 2015, valuing Theranos at $9 billion. It took the tenacity of Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach on the show, who spent months investigating Theranos and published an explosive series of reports. Forbes revised its valuation of the company to zero in 2016. Holmes and Theranos COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani (played in the series by Naveen Andrews of Lost) was ultimately found to have perpetrated a multi-million dollars scheme to defraud investors and patients. They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

For the creator of The Dropout, Elizabeth Meriwether, it was important for her not to overwhelm Elizabeth Holmes because we do not yet know the story and the facts in full.

In a virtual press event last February, Amanda Seyfried admits that the biggest difficulty in this project was above all to resemble Elizabeth Holmes as much as possible, especially in terms of her voice.

“I speak at such a higher level than she does naturally. So even though she was deepening her voice more and more, I still couldn’t get all the way there,” said Seyfried. “There was some different breathing and tricks, but I don’t think I nailed it 100%. But I think I did what I needed to do for the audience to come with us, and that was really my only concern.”

While she had already been able to distinguish herself last year by entering the skin of a real person in Mank by embodying Marion Davies, the actress claims to have agreed to act in The Dropout and to be one of the producers after being guaranteed that Holmes wouldn’t be portrayed as a bad person.

“I felt like it was a well-rounded perspective,” she added. “There are many reasons why we watch TV and movies and read books, but I think one of the main reasons is that we want to be able to relate to people. And what do you do when you take someone who is infamous? You humanize them because they are human at the end of the day,” she said.