Ever since The Dropout landed on Hulu, audiences have had lots of questions about Elizabeth Holmes’ voice—especially when it comes to actress Amanda Seyfried’s impression of the Theranos founder.
The Dropout, which stars Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes, tells the story of the former Theranos CEO’s meteoric rise—and equally intense fall from grace—after she is accused of defrauding medical professionals and companies out of millions. With Theranos, Holmes boasted a revolutionary technology that was capable of diagnosing a number of diseases, including cancer, with just a prick of blood. But this technology was an empty promise—and it seems that wasn’t the only thing fake about this company. There were things about Holmes herself that were entirely made up, including, of course, her infamous voice.
Holmes was known for her surprisingly deep voice in interviews, panels and discussions. But on occasion, the medical entrepreneur slipped up and returned to her natural speaking voice, which happened to be more high-pitched. These rare slip-ups led people in her circle and the media to question her authenticity—especially as the Theranos ruse was beginning to unravel in the 2010s. For Seyfried, who plays Holmes in the new Hulu series The Dropout, tapping into Holmes’ voice was an important part of her story; but she also knew there were obvious limitations when it came to mimicking it herself.
“I knew my voice was never going to be as deep as hers because I’m physically not capable of it,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in March 2022. “Besides, I promised I wasn’t going to give myself a hard time and try to completely mimic this other human being. It’d be impossible. And just not fun.” She added, “I was so worried that getting the voice 100 percent right would distract from the actual story, that it would become the focus.”
Still, Seyfried says she did her best to “try to capture the oddness” of Holmes’ voice—even if she didn’t nail it completely. “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 told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in March 2022, per Variety. “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.”
While Seyfriend doesn’t think she “nailed it 100%” for Hulu’s series on the disgraced Theranos founder, she does feel confident in having done what she “needed to do for the audience to come with us” along for the journey. “And that was really my only concern,” she continued. “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.”
Of course, you’ll have to listen to Elizabeth Holmes’ voice for yourself to compare. For extra details and videos about Elizabeth Holmes’ voice, just keep on reading below.
Why did Elizabeth Holmes change her voice?
For Holmes, using a deep voice was a way of presenting herself as a powerful woman in a space often occupied by men. Research has shown that women who speak with deeper voices are typically taken more seriously, viewed as more competent and trustworthy overall—so it’s no surprise that someone like Holmes might mask her true voice in an attempt to make connections in the medical industry.
According to family members who spoke to TMZ in 2019, Holmes’ voice isn’t fake. Apparently, most people in the Holmes family, including her grandmother, had deep voices. However, people have long speculated that Holmes was amping things up for the cameras and social situations—and sometimes, there appeared to be an occasional slip-up. In a 2005 interview with NPR, for example, Holmes’ voice goes through some noticeable shifts. You can hear the audio in this WNYC clip at the 11-minute mark, or check out the video below for examples.
While many have criticized Holmes’ voice as being another inauthentic element of her larger Theranos scheme, Amanda Seyfried—who plays the company founder in Hulu’s The Dropout—doesn’t fault Holmes for the decision. “If you’re trying to be taken seriously by all of these powerful men, what else do you do? We all take on traits, subconsciously most of the time, to fit in and survive,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in March 2022. “I caught myself doing some [of] her mannerisms just the other day. You can’t help it. We’re sensitive. We’re absorbent. We’re fucking humans.”
The Dropout is available to stream on Hulu. Here’s how to watch it for free.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
For more about Elizabeth Holmes, check out Wall Street Journal reporter John Careyrou’s 2018 book, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. The book—which The New York Times described as “chilling” and said “reads like a thriller”—tells the story of Elizabeth Holmes, a health tech entrepreneur who was seen as the Steve Jobs, and her company, Theranos, startup that raised more than $9 billion in funding and promised to revolutionize the medical industry through single-drop blood tests. The national bestseller follows Holmes as she allegedly defrauded investors and put patients at risk with misdiagnoses and unnecessary treatments through her defective technology. The book also investigates how Holmes and her partner, Sunny Balwani, worked to silence anyone who voiced their criticism—including Theranos’ own employees.
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