'The Dropout': William H. Macy on His Shocking Transformation for the Theranos Drama (Exclusive)

The actor talks to ET about playing one of Elizabeth Holmes' enemies in the Hulu true-crime series.

While Amanda Seyfried has garnered attention for her award-worthy portrayal of disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes on Hulu’s true-crime drama, The Dropout, she’s not the only one to alter her likeness onscreen. William H. Macy makes a shocking transformation as Richard Fuisz, an entrepreneur and former neighbor of Holmes' who gets sued by her health technology startup and later helps expose the company’s fraudulent claims.

“I thought the way Richard looked was important,” Macy tells ET’s Lauren Zima about wanting to make sure he looked as close to Fuisz as possible. 
In order to achieve the look, Macy spent hours with the hair and makeup team as they went to work on transforming him into the entrepreneur. “That bald cap was not easy to get on,” he says. “There’s new technology in the last couple of years, but it isn’t flawless… They used to be made of rubber. Now they are made of a silicone gel sort of thing, so it moves. And there’s new solvents so it dissolves the bald cap into your skin so it makes no line. It’s just great.” 

And after 12 hours of shooting, the 71-year-old actor says, “It looked just as good as it did at the end of the day as it did at the beginning.” 

According to Macy, audiences weren’t the only ones who had a surprising reaction to his appearance. “First of all, I saw my dad’s face, rest in peace. And second of all, I saw what I’m gonna look like in a couple of years and I didn’t like it,” the actor admits, before revealing that he sent photos of himself in full makeup to his wife, Felicity Huffman, and others. “I like to send it to a couple people without telling people who it was. It was fun.”


What was most important was that it allowed him to make bolder choices as the character. “When you have all that rubber on your face, it emboldens you to be both more flamboyant in your acting,” Macy says, “and at the same time, have the courage to do little because you’ve got all this rubber that’s leading the charge for you.” 

Of course, the scripts led by showrunner and executive producer ​​Elizabeth Meriwether also gave Macy plenty to work with, especially after he opted not to reach out to his real-life counterpart. “I didn’t think it was appropriate,” he says, given that the case was still at trial while the series was filming. 

“The script was genius, a page-turner,” he continues, comparing Holmes’ journey to a Greek tragedy. “To a certain extent, she was a victim in this thing. She went to Silicon Valley and said, ‘I have an idea for this device,’ and all the titans of power and government were begging her to take their money. Who would say no? But at a certain point, she went to the dark side because she couldn’t invent the device.”

And not only did her failure to live up to the promises made by Theranos, which at one point was valued at $10 billion, lead to a major fallout within the company but it also drew out enemies, including Fuisz, who wanted nothing more than to see it all come crashing down.  


“He thought that family looked down on him,” Macy says of Fuisz, referring to Holmes and her parents, Chris and Noel, played here by Michel Gill and Elizabeth Marvel. 

“When [Elizabeth] dropped out of Stanford and said, ‘I’m going to invent this medical device,’ he never forgave her for not knocking on his door and asking for advice because that’s what he did for a living. And he made a fortune doing it,” Macy says. “So, he was determined to bring her down.” 

As a result, his vindictive personality leads him to file patents related to Theranos’ blood-sampling technology before eventually teaming up with Stanford professor Phyllis Gardner to figure out the truth behind Holmes’ company. The two later caught the attention of Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, who was the first to publicly expose the mounting fraud within Holmes’ company.  

In the end, Holmes was found guilty of defrauding investors while her meteoric rise and fall became a media sensation, leading to a book, an HBO documentary, podcasts and now the scripted series chronicling her story.  

While the actor himself doesn’t want to pass judgment on Holmes (“There’s a morality or cautionary tale here,” he suggests), there is one thing he knows for sure. With Fuisz, “it was personal,” Macy concludes. 

The first three episodes of The Dropout are now streaming on Hulu, with new episodes debuting every Wednesday.