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‘The Dropout’ showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether says she put off writing the final show: ‘I was really scared’

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Write a program like this abandonment, which follows the rise and fall of Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes, hasn’t been easy, says showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether. Not only has the research into the story been extensive given its scientific nature, but COVID-19 also delayed the project for three years, with Holmes’ trial beginning while Meriwether was working on the script.

“It was definitely a lot of research, but if you’re talking to someone who’s done a true story, I think there’s a point where you have to put [things] Also, you learn a lot and then you have to think about what you want to say. It’s always about what actually happened and how the narrative can be compressed and how it can be more effective,” says Meriwether. THR. “Everything was new to me. It was hard, but so much fun.”

Meriwether spoke THR He talks about why he designed the project, now nominated for six Emmy Awards, including star Amanda Seyfried’s first nomination, and the challenges they faced during production.

Where were you when you heard about the Emmy nominations for the series?

I was at a cafe in my neighborhood [with my husband and my son] And we just dropped off our daughter at camp. … I just looked at my phone and everyone was texting me. But we were very casually sitting next to each other. [Everybody Loves Raymond creator] Phil Rosenthal in a cafe. I never met him and he was like, “What’s going on?”

How did you get involved with the program?

I read a part vanity fair about [Holmes] This was written by Nick Bilton and I thought it was an amazing, crazy story. But then I did nothing. After a few years, Searchlight said it made a decision [ABC News] podcast [of the same name] They had Hulu and Kate McKinnon and wanted to know if I wanted to come in and meet them. At the time, there was a documentary and a book and a lot of reports about it, and I was wondering if we needed a limited series. So I listened to the podcast and there were so many amazing stories about her perspective and experience of the story, and I felt like it was part of the story that needed to be told and it wasn’t being told. The podcast really made me understand that; It was just these really fun and interesting ideas in her mind. I met them and so we were supposed to start filming in March 2020. That didn’t happen and now we’re here, which is amazing.

What kind of research is needed to create a program like this?

We do a lot of research. The podcast was an amazing resource and so I flew to New York and sat [host] Rebecca Jarvis and the other podcasters spent two days in a hotel room downloading the entire podcast experience. And then there was about 10 hours of deposition tape that we had, which was very helpful for Amanda, because deposition footage is just one person scene. only [Holmes] for 10 hours. We had all these records from the statement, the report, the book, the documentary, and we also did our interviews with some people like Edmond Ku, Phyllis Gardner, Avi Tevanian and a few other people. [who knew Holmes]. We had to talk to a scientific consultant to find out about chemistry and engineering. And all of this happens while we’re constantly communicating with lawyers and making sure we’re thinking about the story we’re telling and knowing that most of the people involved are still alive. Time [the script] Everything was done, we were filming, then the trial began! It was a lot of new information. In the middle of filming, we received hundreds and hundreds of pages of transcripts of text messages between Sunny [Balwani, Theranos COO] and Elizabeth. They were shaped like tables and [it was] I stayed up late reading these text messages to each other to see if there was anything very different from what we had already filmed.

How long did the preparation take?

Because of COVID, I ended up writing for about a year, which for me, coming from the net and the relentless pace of a sitcom, was a very strange experience: being alone with scripts and having time. Write, but also have time to think. The net [TV] I was saying it too fast without thinking, and then it was like, “Oh my God, I’m a year old.” Obviously Kate McKinnon’s schedule didn’t work out and so [we had] To put everything back together after the breakup. It took three years from start to finish.

How did you find a balance between what actually happened and creative freedom?

It was really a challenge. When I made a creative decision, I tried to make sure I could back it up… with a research base. For example, the anecdote on the podcast that Anna Arriola, who was one of the employees at Theranos, saw Elizabeth Holmes in her car early in the morning dancing hip-hop in her car… From that anecdote, we built it. The idea that he dances hip-hop as a kind of release. That’s what our character does on the show. I have no idea if this actually happens.

The soundtrack plays a very important role in your show. Why was the choice of song so important to you?

The story lasted so many years that I wanted it to have momentum and cover a lot of time, but I felt like it was really growing and had momentum, so every episode didn’t feel like you were starting over. It became clear that the fastest way to do that would be to just play the song from that year, because it’s such an emotional thing. I feel like you hear a song from a year ago and it takes you back to that time in your life, and it’s a quick way to orient the audience. And it was fun.

What were the challenges for you?

I was really scared to write the ending. I kept procrastinating. I put it off for so long and Hulu was like, “You have to write that ending!” I was really struggling, like, “How can I break this story while it’s still happening?” In closing, we originally created this on Burning Man because she took this trip to Burning Man with her new fiancé Billy, and it was posted all over Instagram, and it was an interesting spot for a date. – Indescribable rebirth. But then it was a blessing in a weird guise because with COVID we weren’t really going to Burning Man. We had to rethink that whole ending, and it became her going to Uber, which totally worked. Sunny’s relationship slowly built up from episode to episode and so I felt like “we, the audience, are in a big fight with each other”. But I really avoided writing a big battle drama because I’m a comedy writer. I thought, “How do I write such a dramatic scene without sounding melodramatic?” It was a challenge for me.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in the separate August issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

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