Elizabeth Holmes’ sordid saga goes from trial to TV series | Television


By MICHAEL LIEDTKE Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. – “I expect quite a show.”

I hadn’t realized how prophetic my words would be when ABC News correspondent Rebecca Jarvis asked in early September what I expected on the opening day of a high-profile trial dissecting an alleged scam. orchestrated by fallen Silicon Valley star Elizabeth Holmes.

The interview became part of Jarvis’ podcast, ‘The Dropout,’ revolving around the trial that resulted in Holmes’ January 3 conviction on four counts of fraud related to the nearly $1 billion invested. in Theranos, a blood testing company she founded at age 19 after dropping out of Stanford.

Now that she’s facing jail time, Holmes’ meteoric rise and mortifying collapse has been turned into “The Dropout,” a highly entertaining Hulu television series based on the podcast and other sources that have looked into a drama that shone a light on the dark side of Silicon Valley.

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Holmes, who faces 20 years in prison when sentenced in September, turned 38 last month while out on bail while living in a luxury Silicon Valley estate.

The eight-episode series, which began airing March 10, draws on some of the evidence that emerged during that trial, particularly texts between Holmes and his former lover and business partner, Sunny Balwani. Other elements had already been presented in the book, “Bad Blood”, by former Wall Street Journal journalist John Carreyrou, whose 2015 articles exposed the flaws in Theranos technology and the HBO documentary by 2019, “The Inventor”.

But the Hulu series brings the Holmes saga to life like no other while telling the stories of a cast of characters who have been charmed, reviled and otherwise affected by his quest to become a billionaire and possibly change the world in the making. road, a bit like her. idol, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether told The Associated Press that she’s taken “some poetic license, but in a thoughtful way” as she breathes even more drama into the saga.

The series uses the real names of everyone involved with one notable exception, former Theranos lab director Adam Rosendorff, who spent five days on the witness stand during the trial, mostly with one of Holmes’ lawyers, Lance Wade. Meriwether cited unspecified legal reasons for identifying Rosendorff’s character as Mark Roessler on the show, though anyone familiar with Holmes’ story will realize who he really is.

Others featured in “The Dropout” who have been factored into the lawsuit include former Theranos employee and key whistleblower Erika Cheung and former Walgreens CEO Wade Miquelon, who have both been called to the bar by federal prosecutors; Carreyrou, who came to court on six of the seven days Holmes testified, ensuring he had a seat within his direct line of sight; and Holmes’ mother, Noel (who came to court every day holding her daughter’s hand as she entered and left), and her father, Chris, who only came for closing arguments and the jury’s deliberations that led to the verdict.

The series also sheds light on the roles of people we heard about during the trial but didn’t speak up. That includes fellow whistleblower, Tyler Shultz, and his grandfather, Theranos board member and former US Secretary of State George Shultz, who died last year before the trial began. In this series, Tyler Shultz is portrayed as a brave hero, while his grandfather comes across as an aging statesman better suited to negotiating with world leaders than seeing through Holmes’ charms.

Another character whose name came up during the trial but whose full story was not fully told was Ian Gibbons, a chemist who joined Theranos shortly after Holmes founded the company in 2003. Gibbons died in 2013 after taking an overdose of pills. before he was supposed to testify in a patent lawsuit brought against Holmes, who is depicted on the show hailing his demise as a victory.

The series also featured Oracle founder and Silicon Valley icon Larry Ellison as playing a pivotal role in the Holmes saga that went beyond his role as the first Theranos investor. “The Dropout” depicts Ellison delivering a sermon that transforms Holmes from a giddy young girl prone to dancing to pop music and blurting out “Great!” into a ruthless entrepreneur determined to do whatever it takes to “get the [expletive] money!” (Meriwether acknowledged that she didn’t know if anything like that scene actually happened, but defended it as a fair portrayal of Ellison as Holmes’ mentor.)

And then there is Balwani, who was banned from attending his trial after he alleged that his sexual and emotional abuse of him may have contributed to any misconduct at the company. The specter of Balwani loomed large throughout the trial, including the afternoon Holmes laid out his abuse allegations during two hours of sometimes tearful testimony.

Naveen Andrews portrays Balwani, 56, so well in ‘The Dropout’ that he is likely to ramp up interest in his criminal trial, which is due to begin with jury selection on March 9.

But the series ultimately belongs to Amanda Seyfried, who manages to capture both the magnetism and the goosebumps of Holmes. In an interview, Seyfried traced her performance back to the kinship she felt while studying Holmes and realized they shared common interests growing up, including a love of dancing. “I didn’t expect to feel such camaraderie from the jump,” she said.

At times, Seyfried passes Holmes off as an almost sympathetic figure who may have been misrepresented by his family and Balwani. But at other times, Seyfried chills as she practices to deepen her once girlish voice in front of a mirror, or perfects the stare that Holmes regularly imparted to people throughout the trial.

It’s a tale that will hopefully help discourage the sequels of other blindly ambitious entrepreneurs into Silicon Valley’s cauldron of creativity and charlatans.

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