How The Dropout Star Amanda Seyfried Captured the Oddness of Elizabeth Holmes Voice

Amanda Seyfried doesn’t think she nailed the iconic deep voice of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes for Hulu’s upcoming limited series “The Dropout” — but she did her “best to try to capture the oddness of it.”

“The shape of my mouth isn’t the same as hers, but I can make sounds somewhat or pretty close to what she did,” Seyfried, who plays the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire on the Hulu show, said during a virtual panel at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour Tuesday. “And that’s my job as an actor, mimicking and stuff like that. But in terms of the depth of it, I had to work really hard to get there because I speak at such a higher level than she does naturally. So even though she was deepening her voice more and more to what we all understand is for power’s sake, to make an impact, I still couldn’t get all the way there.”

Seyfried says she practiced “different breathing and tricks,” and though she doesn’t think she “nailed it 100%” in the end, she does believe she did “what I needed to do for the audience to to come with us.”

“And that was really my only concern,” “The Dropout” star said. “So I am a little worried about what people are going to say about the voice. But at the end of the day, I’m an actor and I’m not her and I did my best to try to capture the oddness of it.”

“The Dropout” showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether (“New Girl”) said during the panel she was “really blown away” by Seyfried’s version of Holmes’ voice and her performance in one installment of the eight-episode show that is devoted to how Holmes’ voice got there over time.

“I didn’t want it to be at all a sketch or a satire,” Meriwether told reporters. “And so what was incredible, what Amanda did was that she kept herself and she kept the emotional reality going while transforming into this character, that I think just made it feel real. And you never get taken out of the story, which I was sort of worried that — there’s so much emphasis on her voice in the public imagination, I was worried that that was going to take the audience out of the story.”

Seyfried too was concerned about not turning her performance into a parody, which she specifically avoided by not watching “SNL” sketches of Holmes impersonations, most famously done by cast member Chloe Fineman.

“When you think about the turtleneck, the lips, the voice, the messy hair — that’s how you clothe yourself in Elizabeth Holmes if you’re going to play her on ‘SNL,’” said Seyfried, who actually took over the role of Holmes in “The Dropout” from “SNL” star Kate McKinnon, who departed it last February before production began. “I mean, I actually don’t remember seeing it before the show was even formed for me. I didn’t search for it after I was cast, and I definitely didn’t really remember it. So I was lucky with that. But you take all those things that make the iconic pieces of Elizabeth Holmes and you have to throw them away for a minute because you can add those back into a fully formed human being. Luckily, they didn’t have any negative impacts. I don’t think they would have anyway. I think I could just watch it and laugh because I was confident in my own relationship with the character. That I was making different choices for a different kind of show.”

Meriwether says “The Dropout” episode about the evolution of Holmes’ voice in particular focuses on the physical effects on “this young woman in a position of power and not knowing what to do with that.”

“I really relate it to the experience of feeling like something about your body doesn’t fit the role that you’re in and that you sort of have to change your body to fit this role,” she said. “So I think that is why I dedicated an episode to it, because I felt like that particular episode is about her trying to change herself to fit the role of CEO. And not having a lot of models of female CEOs and going to Steve Jobs and trying to just change herself to be what she thinks somebody powerful is.”

“The Dropout” premieres March 3 on Hulu.

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