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New Hulu Series, ‘The Dropout,’ Wants to Humanize Elizabeth Holmes

Honestly, it’s been amazing to be able to do something that isn’t a comedy. But coming from comedy, I was very interested in the absurdities of the world. Because as I learned more about Silicon Valley, and how everything works, it can be an absurd place. And the performance aspect of her character — the turtleneck and the voice  — as somebody who has been in rooms with all men and not knowing what to do with my hands or my face, I understood that.

Well, you do have a longstanding interest in messy, charismatic women. Underneath the turtleneck, maybe she’s one more.

MERIWETHER There are a lot of layers and facets and history. I felt like people’s understanding of who she was had been limited to the deep voice and the turtleneck. I was interested in going deeper, and I felt like Rebecca’s podcast was made with that spirit of wanting to figure out what motivated her. It was a really hard tone to figure out. As opposed to other stories of start-ups that have failed, the stakes for this were so high. This was people’s health. This was, in a very primal way, their blood.

Amanda, why did the series interest you?

SEYFRIED I had been very curious about Elizabeth Holmes. I had, on my own, binged everything I could on her. I just I knew that this was something that I was going to be able to live with for a long time and explore in a completely new way for myself as an actor, somebody that’s here with us and living her life. It felt like going to college, this job.

MERIWETHER It was so much research!

SEYFRIED I mean, I bought a book on microfluidics. I sat and I watched and listened to those deposition tapes [related to a 2018 Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit against Holmes, Balwani and Theranos]. I re-listened to “The Dropout.” I listened to [an audiobook version of] “Bad Blood.” I just didn’t stop, and it never got old. I felt like I was absorbing her.

At some point you had to decide what motivated her. What was it?

SEYFRIED Belief. Our imaginations are wild, if we exercise them. I chose to just, as this character, believe in everything. And when I was told that something wasn’t true, I doubled down.

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