Amanda Seyfried on Challenges of Playing Elizabeth Holmes — And Why She Initially Turned Down Role

"I watched and listened to all of it, but I learned nothing about her. It’s crazy that she can still be such an enigma with all the information surrounding her," Amanda Seyfried said

Amanda Seyfried
Photo: David Needleman

Amanda Seyfried had hesitations about taking on the role of the disgraced Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, in Hulu's upcoming series The Dropout.

The actress, 36, revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that she initially turned down the part — which was offered to her after Kate McKinnon dropped out — because it would require her to be away from family and take on the challenges of playing the notorious figure.

"I had COVID. I was isolating in the basement of a gross townhouse in Savannah, Georgia, because my husband was working on a movie there," she admitted to the outlet. "And now an L.A. shoot? Pass!"

By the next morning, however, Seyfried had a change of heart and told her agents she wanted to play Holmes. "It's really going to be difficult," she recalled thinking to herself. "It's a huge challenge. But I can't believe that I get a challenge like this."

Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes
Beth Dubber/Hulu

The Dropout chronicles the "unbelievable true story" of the rise and fall of Holmes, 38, who was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy last month after duping investors out of millions by falsely purporting that Theranos' technology could run hundreds of medical tests using just a few drops of blood.

"This is not just about showing all the points where this woman made bad choices," Seyfried told THR. "We're investigating why we love a fall from grace, why we want to watch train wrecks."

As Seyfried jumped into the role by studying Holmes' life, she quickly realized that the entrepreneur was an "enigma," even with all the media attention surrounding her and the company.

"I watched and listened to all of it, but I learned nothing about her," Seyfried revealed. "It's crazy that she can still be such an enigma with all the information surrounding her."

The Dropout
Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes. Beth Dubber/Hulu

Holmes' deep voice, one of her most distinctive traits, was also one of the reasons that Seyfried believed she would be difficult to portray.

"I knew my voice was never going to be as deep as hers because I'm physically not capable of it," she said. "Besides, I promised I wasn't going to give myself a hard time and try to completely mimic this other human being."

Despite her concerns about the role, the Oscar winner was able to understand why Holmes might have felt pressured to develop a unique persona in her job as a healthcare entrepreneur.

"If you're trying to be taken seriously by all of these powerful men, what else do you do?" Seyfried said. "We all take on traits, subconsciously most of the time, to fit in and survive."

"I caught myself doing some [of] her mannerisms just the other day," she added. "You can't help it. We're sensitive. We're absorbent. We're f—ing humans."

Viewers first got a look at The Dropout in December, as photos revealed Seyfried channeling the Theranos founder with intense facial expressions and her blonde hair pulled back in a bun. Two months later, Hulu released the dramatic, first trailer for the series.

In January, Holmes was charged with 11 counts of fraud for claims made to investors and patients of Theranos. The jury handed down a partial verdict, finding Holmes guilty of four of the 11 charges — three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She now faces a federal prison sentence of up to 20 years. A sentencing date has not yet been announced.

The Dropout premieres on Hulu on March 3.

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