The Dropout—Is Elizabeth Holmes’ new drama based on a true story?

The first three episodes of the much-anticipated miniseries, The Dropout, are now on Hulu. The gripping plot details the downfall of tech company Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes. As tension mounts, fans are wondering if it’s based on a true story. Remarkably, it is.

The show stars Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced Theranos founder. Given the almost surreal details of the rise and fall of her company, it is not surprising that audiences are questioning the extent of the show’s dedication to reality.

IS THE DROPOUT BASED ON A TRUE STORY?

Yes, it is. Specifically, the TV show is based on an eponymous podcast by Rebecca Jarvis and ABC Audio, which detailed the rise and fall of the Theranos founder.

The hit podcast first aired back in August of 2021 and featured exclusive interviews with former Theranos employees, patients, and investors. 

It also included the never-before-aired deposition testimony of Elizabeth herself, who was found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud against investors in January of 2022.

WHAT IS THE DROPOUT ABOUT?

We won’t spoil the hit series for you but you should know that the story starts in 2003, when then 19-year-old Elizabeth founded health technology company Theranos.

The company patented a blood-testing machine that they named Edison, which was theoretically supposed to run nearly 1,000 tests based on a single drop of blood. 

Impressing just about everyone in Silicon Valley, she raised over $700M for her venture and was eventually given a $10B valuation at the company’s peak in 2014. 

Of course, given the amount of money involved, the revolutionary new technology, and her rather young age—Elizabeth received a lot of attention from both tech experts and the media. 

This attention changed entirely when it turned out that everything wasn’t quite as it seemed. From Silicon Valley’s prodigy, she became a pariah, and when legal proceedings began—she became a suspect.

The show chronicles the rise and fall of both Elizabeth and Theranos as well as other aspects of the now-convicted felon’s life. 

Factors include her relationship with her then-boyfriend and Theranos Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ramesh ‘Sunny’ Balwani, her unusual voice, and her obsession with Steve Jobs.

The Dropout set

(Image credit: Beth Dubber/HULU)

WHO STARS IN THE DROPOUT?

Amanda takes on the show’s leading role opposite Naveen Andrews, who stars as Theranos COO Ramesh.

Fans will also catch William H. Macy as inventor and entrepreneur Dr. Richard Fuisz, who helped journalists uncover the truth about Theranos. 

Dylan Minnette as whistleblower Tyler Shultz, Sam Waterston plays the company’s board director, Tyler’s grandpa, George Shultz. 

Stephen Fry stars as Dr. Ian Gibbons, the chief scientist at Theranos and Lauri Metcalf appears as Stanford professor Dr. Phyllis Gardner.

WHERE CAN I WATCH THE DROPOUT?

US-based fans can fill up their boots over on Hulu, where the first three episodes are already out. There are eight episodes in total and a new one drops on the streaming network every Thursday.

UK-based viewers can also enjoy the hit show, by checking it out on Disney+ Star Channel.

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT ELIZABETH HOLMES?

Back in 2019, HBO released a documentary about the Theranos scandal and its disgraced founder. You can still stream the production, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, on the network. 

Superfans might like to go even deeper into the story by reading Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by Wall Street Journal writer John Carreyrou. 

John was the journalist who first reported the discrepancies between what Theranos claimed they were doing and what was actually happening behind the scenes.

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