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'Dropout' star Amanda Seyfried had to 'fall in love' with Elizabeth Holmes

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Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried) drops out of Stanford to start her company. Photo courtesy of Hulu
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried) drops out of Stanford to start her company. Photo courtesy of Hulu

LOS ANGELES, March 1 (UPI) -- Amanda Seyfried said playing Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout, premiering Thursday on Hulu, required her to find admirable qualities in the convicted fraud character.

"You kind of have to fall in love with them a little bit regardless of what they've done or who they are," Seyfried said on a Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "That's where my process begins."

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Holmes claimed to have created a test that performed hundreds of diagnostic tests from a single drop of blood taken from a thumb prick. Holmes raised millions in funding for her company, Theranos, but was indicted for fraud by the SEC in 2018.

Holmes was found guilty Jan. 3 of four counts of fraud. She was also the subject of the 2019 documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.

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"It's crazy that we were shooting this show while the trial was beginning," Seyfried said. "New information was always coming through to us."

With all the coverage of Holmes available, Seyfried, 36, said The Dropout attempts to explain why Holmes perpetrated her crime. However, Seyfried said the cast and creator-executive producer Elizabeth Meriwether only extrapolate from their research, including ABC News correspondent Rebecca Jarvis' podcast, The Dropout.

"She's still such a mystery, and I think this is the only project that actually gives insight," Seyfried said. "It's a lot of guesswork, but guesswork based on a lot of facts."

Early episodes of The Dropout show Holmes' admiration of Steve Jobs and ambitions to create a product and become a billionaire. At Stanford University, freshman Holmes got into a senior level laboratory program.

Holmes dropped out of Stanford in 2004 and instead used the money saved for tuition to invest in her fledgling company. Seyfried said she believes Holmes convinced herself her blood test would work.

"A true devotion to something led her to this, whether it's true devotion to becoming a billionaire, or really saving people's lives," Seyfried said. "She was devoted to her goals."

Seyfried said that devotion made Holmes convincing to investors and fellow scientists. Even when they questioned her, Seyfried said, Holmes could make them believe her.

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"She could sell me sand, if I ever met her," Seyfried said. "She would always deflect anything she didn't really know with something she did know. So she'd double down."

The Dropout also depicts how Holmes adopted a deeper speaking voice as she became the public face of Theranos. The Dropout depicts Holmes as a child, and Seyfried plays her as a teenager with a higher pitched voice.

Seyfried said adopting such a deep voice showed her how challenging Holmes' persona became.

"I had to work really hard to get there because I speak at such a higher level than she does naturally," Seyfried said. "I still couldn't get all the way there. There were some different breathing tricks, but I don't think I nailed it 100%."

The Dropout also depicts Holmes' relationship with Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani (Naveen Andrews). Balwani was an older businessman Holmes met during a study abroad program in Beijing in 2002. He became Holmes' boyfriend and Theranos partner.

Seyfried said it was more challenging to figure out what happened in private moments between Holmes and Balwani. She said Meriwether's script and extrapolating the facts on the record guided her and Andrews to portray the private moments.

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"We were able to come up with a pretty good idea of what might have happened together," Seyfried said.

New episodes of The Dropout stream Thursdays on Hulu.

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