Amanda Seyfried, Naveen Andrews and creator Elizabeth Meriwether were filming the Hulu series The Dropout while subject Elizabeth Holmes was on trial. During a Contenders TV panel Sunday at the Paramount Theatre, they recalled following the trial closely as they told Holmes’ story. Meriwether incorporated information from personal texts between Holmes and boyfriend/partner Sunny Balwani that came out as evidence during the trial.
“The one big thing that came out was that Elizabeth called him Sunny Tiger, which was a new piece of information,” Meriwether said. “She only calls him tiger in the second half of the show.”
Andrews said he felt validated by the texts. When beginning The Dropout, Andrews said he and Seyfried had to infer private moments between Holmes (Seyfried) and Balwani (Andrews), the pair at the center of the Theranos scandal.
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“Our first day of filming we had to make a decision about the depth and intensity of our relationship, which is always a gamble,” Andrews said. “When these texts came out we thought, ‘Ah, we might be in the right ballpark.’”
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Holmes was ultimately found guilty of defrauding investors in her company. The Dropout, based on a podcast, depicts Holmes pitching a blood test that relied on a single drop from a thumb prick. Holmes’ invention never worked, and Seyfried said she still considers Holmes an enigma.
“I don’t know who she is at all,” Seyfried said. “I’m still trying, will never stop trying to figure out what makes her tick. It was really hard to balance out how much humanizing we were going to do and also stick to the facts and make sure she’s that kind of enigma when we leave her.”
Meriwether said Holmes’ story was so complex, The Dropout had to streamline some of it. For example, Holmes attempted two blood test prototypes, neither of which were successful.
“We actually left out an entire prototype because it also didn’t work,” Holmes said. “I remember in the writers room at some point we were just like, ‘The box still doesn’t work. How are we going to do another episode where they’re like I hope it works? It doesn’t work.’ It was really trying to drill down into what the emotional story was in that moment in time. Everything else that didn’t contribute to that I cut.”
The Dropout is now streaming on Hulu.
Deadline Contenders Television is sponsored by Apple TV+, Eyepetizer, Final Draft, Los Siete Misterios and Michter’s. Partners include Desalto, Film AlUla, Four Seasons Resort Maui, Jason Mizrahi Design, ModMD, The American Pavilion, and Tidelli.
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