Michaela Watkins found the inspiration for The Dropout's Linda Tanner at a Theranos rally. The actress, who plays Theranos' in-house lawyer in the Hulu series starring Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes, didn't have a real-life counterpart on which to base her character, unlike her co-stars, but told PopCulture.com she zeroed in immediately on who Linda was while watching a documentary about the rise and fall of Theranos.
"I caught a glimpse of this person – [Theranos] would do these big rallies at work all the time, I think they were playing something like 'Pump Up the Volume' – and I saw this woman dancing and I just thought, 'This lady is all the way in,'" Watkins told PopCulture. "And I was like, 'I know who my character is. This woman who's at a company rally dancing to 'Pump Up the Volume' like the whitest lady you ever did see – that's my character.'"
Linda is "fully drinking the Kool-Aid" for Holmes, Watkins noted, which is one of the most fascinating parts of Holmes' entire story. "I feel like we need to sort of understand who helped make Elizabeth Holmes Elizabeth Holmes," she explained. "I mean, it didn't happen in a total bubble." Holmes' "weird charismatic power" over people is fascinating to Watkins, but her unfounded success "didn't happen in a vacuum."
"She was surrounded by people who were sort of saying, 'This is who she is,' even though she wasn't yet," Watkins told PopCulture. "It's sort of amazing that there's such a small handful of people that were like, 'Eh. ...I think she's full of crap, actually.'" It's that "bravery" of the people who actually spoke out against Holmes that makes The Dropout such a fascinating story, she continued. "What would have happened to people [if they didn't speak out]?" Watkins asked. "It's really scary."
"I'm sad that [Holmes] didn't make the biggest innovation in health of our time," she continued. "I wish she did. It would be great for everybody – it'd be great for women in Silicon Valley, it'd be great for tech, it'd be great for so many things. It didn't happen, but the story behind why it didn't happen is almost unbelievable." The Dropout is available to stream now on Hulu.