In a stroke of irony worthy of its Hollywood setting, a group of highly successful, award-winning actors will be the ones telling the decidedly unsuccessful, fraud-filled story of blood-testing startup Theranos.
Hulu’s “The Dropout,” which is slated to begin production this summer, has filled out its central cast of characters with an impressive roster of Emmy winners and Oscar nominees, Deadline reports.
The newly filled roles include a handful of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’ biggest detractors, who sounded some of the first alarms that the technology Holmes promised could test for hundreds of medical conditions on just a few drops of blood not only didn’t work but also didn’t exist at all.
“Roseanne” star Laurie Metcalf, for one, will play Phyllis Gardner, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the Stanford School of Medicine. When Holmes, as a Stanford undergraduate student, was brainstorming the technology upon which she would eventually build Theranos, she ran the idea past Gardner, who told her it was impossible, then watched with a wary eye as Holmes claimed to have made it happen anyways.
William H. Macy, of “Shameless” and “Fargo,” will star as Richard Fuisz. Fuisz was a close friend of the Holmes family who Holmes accused of stealing Theranos’ patented technology; he later went on to connect journalist John Carreyrou—who exposed Holmes’ fraudulent activities in The Wall Street Journal and his subsequent book “Bad Blood”—with Theranos’ former medical director, a key source in Carreyrou’s reports.
Holmes’ supporters are also represented in the group of new hires: Her parents, Noel and Chris Holmes, will be played by Elizabeth Marvel and Michael Gill, respectively. Bill Irwin will appear as Channing Robertson, another Stanford professor who, unlike Gardner, was immediately smitten with Holmes’ groundbreaking proposal and became one of her staunchest cheerleaders. And Michael Ironside will take on the role of Don Lucas, a venture capitalist who was one of the first to invest in Theranos.
Straddling the line between these two groups is Wade Maquelon, played by Josh Pais, who, as chief financial officer of Walgreens, was eager to partner up with Theranos to bring its blood-testing technology into the chain’s clinics, even amid his doubts of the startup’s ability to deliver.
Filling out the rest of the newly cast group are a pair of early Theranos employees, including Rakesh Madhava, played by Utkarsh Ambudkar. Meanwhile, Ian Gibbons, the company’s chief scientist who died by suicide the night before he was going to be called to testify in court about the blood testing tech, will be played by Stephen Fry, and his wife Rochelle will be played by Kate Burton.
These cast members will join Amanda Seyfried, who took over the role of Holmes from “Saturday Night Live” star Kate McKinnon earlier this year, and Naveen Andrews, as Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, president and COO of Theranos and Holmes’ long-time boyfriend.
The onscreen dramatization can’t come soon enough: In another ironic twist, amid the renewed buzz around the Theranos scandal, Holmes has become the focus of something of a tongue-in-cheek cult of personality. As CNBC reports, sales of shirts and face masks proclaiming that “Elizabeth Holmes is my #girlboss” and similar products are currently on the rise, boosted by joking social media posts.
Those sales will likely reach a fever pitch later this summer, as Holmes and Balwani’s long-delayed criminal trial finally begins on Aug. 31.
At that time, the pair will face almost a dozen counts of felony wire fraud. The charges stem from accusations that Holmes and Balwani deceived investors, physicians and patients with claims that its countertop Edison device could run hundreds of diagnostic tests on a tiny blood sample—when, in fact, the technology did not exist.
Holmes and Balwani face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of fraud.