Is The Dropout based on a true story and how to watch the shocking Elizabeth Holmes drama?

If you're wondering is The Dropout based on a true story you're probably not alone as the Theranos founder's rise and fall continues in the show

Is The Dropout based on a true story? The Hulu show stars Amanda Seyfriend as Elizabeth Holmes
(Image credit: Hulu)

Is The Dropout based on a true story is the question likely on many fans’ minds right now as Elizabeth Holmes journey from Silicon Valley success story to suspect is brought to life on screen. 

From the moment we saw Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes, it was clear that Hulu’s The Dropout was going to be a seriously gripping watch. Fans of the intensity of Trigger Point ITV and who can’t help wondering what happened to Sarma Melngailis in Bad Vegan will no doubt be hooked by the story of health tech company Theranos’ downfall. 

Many viewers could've excitedly begun researching Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes after watching the very first episode. Whilst others might well still be wondering whether the surreal-sounding events that have unfolded on screen so far actually happened. 

But is The Dropout based on a true story and how can you watch the new show?

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

The Dropout starring Amanda Seyfried and Naveen Andrews

(Image credit: Hulu)

Is The Dropout based on a true story?

There’s nothing like discovering your favorite new show is based on real-life events to get viewers binge-watching and researching your way through the whole series. Whilst drama fans get excited about WeCrashed and delve into Inventing Anna’s true story, many will also be wondering—is The Dropout based on a true story too?

The answer is yes, it is! Just like so many prominent shows in recent months, The Dropout is based on the real life rise and fall from grace of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos. Perhaps more specifically, The Dropout is based on the true story of Elizabeth, as revealed on the eponymous podcast by Rebecca Jarvis and ABC Audio. 

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.

Hulu’s dramatic adaptation begins in 2003, when Elizabeth first founded her health technology company Theranos. Then just 19 years old, the podcast and show are named The Dropout as Elizabeth dropped out of Stanford in her Sophomore year to prioritize her business. 

The company went on to patent a blood-testing machine named Edison and it was claimed that it could theoretically run nearly 1,000 tests based on a single drop of blood, including detecting conditions such as cancer and diabetes.

The Dropout starring Elizabeth Holmes

(Image credit: Hulu)

Unsurprisingly with an invention that sounded so miraculous, just about everyone in California’s Silicon Valley was impressed. So much so that Elizabeth is understood to have raised over $700M for her venture and was eventually given a $10B valuation at the company's peak in 2014. 

Given Elizabeth’s age and the revolutionary new technology, she received plenty of attention from the media and tech experts. However, this high level of attention soon changed from adoration to suspicion when it emerged that Elizabeth’s new invention hadn’t been quite what it seemed.

Elizabeth Holmes at the Fortune Global Forum at the Fairmont Hotel

(Image credit: Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Fortune)

As reported by back in 2015, The Wall Street Journal began looking into Theranos and from here things rapidly went from bad to worse for Elizabeth. 

As seen in The Dropout, the reliability of the technology was perceived as questionable and the WSJ went on to allege that Theranos had been using machines made by other manufacturers for most of its blood testing instead. In 2018, Elizabeth accepted a $500,000 fine and Theranos was dissolved.

From Silicon Valley's prodigy, Elizabeth soon became a pariah, and when legal proceedings began—she became a suspect. Elizabeth and Theranos’ Chief Operating Officer (and her former boyfriend) Ramesh Balwani, known as Sunny, were both indicted on wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges.

Theranos founder and former CEO Elizabeth Holmes leaves the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building on December 17, 2021

(Image credit: Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The prosecutors claimed that Elizabeth knowingly misled patients about Theranos’ tests and also exaggerated the company’s performance. In January 2022 she was convicted of four counts of fraud. The Dropout premiered two months later and though it's not yet known if the final episodes could potentially explore Elizabeth's trial, it seems like fans could expect to at least see the full downfall of Theranos to come as the series finale approaches. 

The Dropout starring Amanda Seyfried and Naveen Andrews

(Image credit: Hulu)

So far in the show everything seems very reminiscent of Elizabeth Holmes’ real life, making The Dropout not only based on a true story, but also amongst those adaptations which follow the events that inspired it relatively closely. Of course, there will be dramatic license employed to make those already jaw-dropping moments all the more gripping. 

One such moment is when Elizabeth (played in the show by Amanda Seyfried) begins to lower her voice deliberately. Elizabeth Holmes’ voice has often attracted attention, though it’s not known whether she really did choose to speak in a lower register.

Either way, now the question, is The Dropout based on a true story, has been answered, there are plenty more details to enjoy as the series continues…

Who's in The Dropout cast on Hulu?

Perhaps the most prominent member of The Dropout cast is Amanda Seyfried, known for her brilliant performances in everything from Mamma Mia to teen movie Mean Girls. In Hulu's The Dropout she takes on the show’s leading role as Elizabeth Holmes herself and acts opposite Naveen Andrews, as Theranos' COO Sunny.

The Dropout starring William H Macy

(Image credit: Hulu)

They are joined in The Dropout cast by William H. Macy as inventor and entrepreneur Dr. Richard Fuisz, who helped journalists uncover the truth about Theranos. Whilst whistleblower Tyler Shultz is played by Dylan Minnette and Sam Waterston plays the company's board director, Tyler's grandpa, George Shultz. 

Even British icon Stephen Fry gets an exciting appearance as Dr Ian Gibbons, the chief scientist at Theranos and Lauri Metcalf appears as Stanford professor, Dr Phyllis Gardner.

How to watch The Dropout from anywhere in the world

If you're looking to immerse yourself in the rollercoaster experience that is Elizabeth Holmes' epic rise and fall then Hulu is the place to head. US-based viewers can enjoy each new installment on the streaming platform on Thursdays, with only two episodes to go before the all-important finale. 

And if you live in the UK but don't want to miss out on any of The Dropout's biggest moments then the new episodes are available to watch on the Disney+ Star Channel.

But if you’re on holiday abroad and can't watch The Dropout thanks to regional restrictions, luckily there’s an easy solution! You can continue watching using a handy bit of software called a VPN that changes your IP address so that you can access on-demand content or live TV just as if you were at home.

Our sister site, TechRadar, has tested all of the major VPN services and they rate ExpressVPN as the absolute best. They say, “It’s compatible with all of your devices, supports most streaming services, and ranks among the fastest. You can even install it on devices like an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Xbox, and PlayStation. So for a one-stop-shop, you can’t go wrong with Express.”


ExpressVPN service | Get 49% off and 3 months FREE  

Ranked among one of the fastest VPN providers, this risk-free service is also compatible with all of your devices. Enjoy access to almost any streaming service, and if you don't like it there's a 30-day money-back guarantee.

If you've never installed a VPN before, don't worry, it's quick and easy. Just follow these three steps:

  1. Download and install the VPN following ExpressVPN's easy-to-follow instructions.
  2. Once you've installed your VPN, open the app and select your server location as anywhere in the US.
  3. With your VPN installed and server location set to US, you can now watch The Dropout online. 

VPN disclaimer

(Image credit: Future)

As Hulu's The Dropout continues, there's plenty of time for fans to delve a little deeper into the real Elizabeth Holmes' life. And although the show is based on a true story, the prospect seeing the Theranos founder's downfall brought to life on screen is one fans will no doubt be eagerly anticipating...

Anna Rahmanan

Anna Rahmanan is a New York-based writer and editor who covers culture, entertainment, food, fashion and travel news. Anna’s words have appeared on Time Out New York, the Huffington Post, Fortune, Forbes, Us Weekly, Bon Appetit and Brooklyn Magazine, among other outlets.