- The Dropout -Here's What Made Making 'The Dropout' So Hard, According To Creator Liz Meriwether
In the first few minutes of Hulu's The Dropout, we learn a concrete detail about Elizabeth Holmes: The woman loves a green juice. Amanda Seyfried's delivery of the line breaks the awkwardness Holmes naturally exudes and it sets off a series of humanizing choices made by Dropout showrunner Liz Meriwether (New Girl, Friends With Benefits) to bring the Theranos villain into a neutral light.
Since the public downfall of Theranos, and Holmes, in 2015, the black turtlenecked, messy-haired CEO has been painted as one of the big bad wolves of the medtech industry. For those that saw HBO's documentary The Inventor, or read John Carreyrou's book Bad Blood, or listened to the podcast that inspired the Hulu series by the same name, you may have a pretty clear vision of who Holmes is — a convicted liar and a fraud. So to humanize this person through a green juice or a karaoke session to "We Run This" by Missy Elliot almost seems too... kind.
For Meriwether, that was the challenge. "Humanizing is an interesting word," Meriwether says, "because I don't think that means making somebody into a hero, either ... My job as a dramatist was to try to tell [this story] from the human level and understand emotionally what was going on."
In Dec. 2021, the Meriwether told EW that escaping those black and white binaries and approaching the eight-episode series from a gray lens was incredibly important to her while making the show. But that's a difficult thing to do considering what we all know about Holmes; that'd be like pinning down a cloud, or getting a pig to fly, or creating a small machine that could run over 100 blood tests with the prick of a finger at a Walgreens.
Halfway through the series there's a shift in The Dropout. It's what caused Meriwether her greatest struggle, she tells The Dipp ahead of the series' premiere, in finding that gray area. "It's the moment that Theranos devices are put into actual stores in Walgreens ... when they start actually taking real people's blood and testing it," she says. That, plus a devastating loss on the original Theranos team, made telling the story from an impartial POV near impossible.
Also impossible? Getting into the mind of someone like Holmes. This is someone who idolized Steve Jobs and dropped out of college as a sophomore to become a "disruptor" in the healthcare technology field. (Aka, she's not a lot of fun at parties.) She managed to disrupt, for better or for worse, but understanding why she made the decisions she made was also a challenge Meriwether took head on.
"The mystery of [Holmes] is the driving force in the series," Meriwether says. "I feel like I was able to deepen the conversation [of who she is], but I don't think I have answers. For me, she continues to be a mystery."
While the mystery of Elizabeth Holmes, her motivations, her lies, and her green juice of choice may be things we never fully understand, we do know this as fact: Holmes was found guilty on four counts of defrauding investors – three counts of wire fraud, and one of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. And in September 2022, she will be sentenced.