How ‘The Dropout’ Recasts Sunny Balwani as the Angry Brown Man

The new Hulu series generously gives founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes a back story while only villainizing her counterpart, who faces similar charges of fraud.

Sadaf Ahsan

March 24, 2022

How ‘The Dropout’ Recasts Sunny Balwani as the Angry Brown Man
Naveen Andrews and Amanda Seyfried in The Dropout (Hulu)

In an era rife with scammers — from the Tinder Swindler to Anna Delvey — none has received more attention than Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of now-defunct health tech company Theranos. She had raised hundreds of millions of dollars on the claim that Theranos had developed a revolutionary tool that could test for multiple diseases with just a few drops of blood.

As anyone who has followed the case knows — whether through journalist John Carreyrou’s book Bad Blood, the ABC podcast The Dropout, or Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley — Theranos’s technology was never able to deliver on its promise.

In January, Holmes was found guilty on four counts of fraud. Courts won’t sentence her until September, when she could face a potential 20 years in prison for each of those four counts. But just last week, her ex-boyfriend and former Theranos COO and president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani began his trial, and faces the same charges as his ex. 

The timing, then, of the eight-episode Hulu series The Dropout, starring Amanda Seyfried in an uncanny performance as Holmes and Naveen Andrews as a rather chilling Sunny is, well, perfect. The series, which premiered on March 3, is only the latest in a barrage of creative adaptations attempting to fill the many blanks in Holmes’s story. What this series offers is a vivid peek into the personal and professional relationship between the odd couple at its center — a relationship whose reality we will never truly know.