“Do the voice!”
Every time Amanda Seyfried walks into the lobby of her apartment building, it’s the same request from all her doormen. The actress and her husband just bought a place on Manhattan’s Upper West Side last fall. She’s barely there, and when she is, she’s rushing in and out. She’s just settling in—getting to know the neighbors, figuring out her favorite salad to order at the cafe across the street, meeting the building staff. But now, whenever those doormen, who are usually so stoic, see her coming in, they perk up. “Do the voice!” they shout. “Do the voice!”
Of course, they’re talking about The Dropout. They’re talking about that deep, no-way-it-can-be-real Elizabeth Holmes voice that Seyfried mimics so perfectly. Well, I ask, do you do the voice for them? She smiles.
“Yeah,” she says in the voice, low and deep, her mouth curled into a circle just the way Holmes’s does, her whole body shifting with a single word.
Seyfried has been a certified A-list movie star for nearly 20 years. But she’s somehow managed to stay just under the radar. That is somewhat by chance—she’s been in blockbuster movies, but alongside the kind of megastars who overshadow everyone else on the call sheet. Meryl Streep. Hugh Jackman. Cher. But a lot of it is by choice—she’s remained out of the tabloids and put down roots not in Los Angeles, but in a tiny town in upstate New York, where she owns nearly 30 acres of land and a farm, complete with chickens and goats. Even though she has this new apartment in Manhattan, the farm is still her homebase—where her kids will go to school.
But now, the 36-year-old is the face of The Dropout, appearing in nearly every scene in the series about the rise and explosive fall of Holmes, the tech darling who in January was found guilty of fraud and conspiring to defraud private investors in her blood-testing startup, Theranos. Seyfried is unnervingly good in it. Watching her encapsulate Holmes’s nervous energy, her merciless drive, that awkward dancing—it’s mesmerizing. It seems certain her name will be in the list of Best Actress Emmy nominees when they’re announced in July. Plus, it’s TV, not a movie, placing her in our homes week after week. So, it’s not just the doormen; everyone wants to talk to her about the show, about Elizabeth Holmes, about that voice. Thanks to The Dropout, the fame Seyfried has managed to outrun for nearly two decades is finally catching up with her. And you know what? She’s not running anymore.
“Fame is weird,” she says, her feet curled up underneath her in a booth, comfortable as can be as two couples in a table by the window sneak glances in our direction. “I’ve never been super famous. I’ve always been somewhat recognizable. It’s been the healthiest trajectory. [It’s] not a scary spike. I have my priorities. I know who I am. I know where I’m going. I know what it means. It means that I’m getting to do what I love.
“I’m actually not afraid of it now.”
When Seyfried arrives for our interview, she’s out of breath. She ran here, she explains as she slides into the booth. She’s exactly four minutes late, but she apologizes profusely. Our lunch was moved back a few hours because she had a webinar for the nonprofit she’s on the board of. She apologizes for that, too.
I tell her it’s fine. It worked out well because my son had a playdate that morning.
“Oh, playdates!” she says as she takes off her black puffy coat and brushes back her hair. One of her kids has a playdate tomorrow with a kid from the building.
“But then it’s like … getting to know the parents,” Seyfried says. Her pale eyes widen. She met the parents in the elevator when one recognized her from The Dropout. “They have so much information about me. And I don’t know anything, which is good—it’s like the old days. It’s just so one-sided. I never have a TV show out. It’s changed things. People suddenly come up to me. My daughter’s like, ‘Everybody’s so friendly!’”
Part of having a normal life has meant shielding her two children, 5 and 1, from the spotlight as much as possible. As we talk over lunch, she’s completely unguarded—surprisingly open and candid as she gushes about her kids and genuinely curious as she asks about mine. But when Seyfried talks about her headstrong toddler son, she asks me not to include his name. And when she shows me a video of her daughter on her phone, she asks that I not describe what she looks like.
In the video, the little girl looks right into the phone and sees her own face reflected back in the selfie camera. She makes a soulful plea for her grandmother to knit her a Rapunzel doll. As she watches herself, she begins to tear up.
“She's emotional; she's very sensitive,” Seyfried says, “and then when she’s watching herself, she gets affected by herself.”
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It reminds Seyfried of herself when she was little—when she was growing up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, spending hours staring at herself in the mirror pretending to be Claire Danes in Romeo and Juliet. She says she’d be happy if her daughter followed in her footsteps into an acting career one day.
Seyfried started modeling when she was 11, then moved into acting on soap operas. Her big break came with Mean Girls. She was an unknown, joining a cast of young stars that included Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. Lacey Chabert was fresh off the show Party of Five, and says Seyfried fit right in. The two sat together between takes in Chabert’s trailer and listened to music and orchestrated a Thanksgiving dinner for the cast.
“She has this really dry sense of humor and dry wit,” Chabert says about Seyfried, whom she’s stayed friends with. “The biggest challenge on set was to not laugh on camera, when we weren't supposed to be laughing.”
Chabert says not a day goes by that she isn’t recognized for Mean Girls—even now, 18 years later. Back when the movie came out, Seyfried says she was recognized every once in a while. Mostly boys asking her if it was raining—her character, Karen, could predict the weather with her breasts.
“I always felt really grossed out by that,” she says. “I was like 18 years old. It was just gross.”
Seyfried went from Mean Girls to Mamma Mia! Then, she did a run of romance dramas—Dear John, Letters to Juliet. In 2013, as her career was hitting a high, she bought a small, 1930s stone farm house in the Catskills, away from it all.
“I think being really famous [young] must really fucking suck,” she says in between bites of scrambled eggs and salad. “It must make you feel completely unsafe in the world. I see these younger actors who think they have to have security. They think they have to have an assistant. They think their whole world has changed. It can get stressful. I’ve seen it happen to my peers. So, I bought a farm. I was like, let’s go in the opposite way.”
She met her husband, actor Thomas Sadoski, a couple years after buying the farm when they performed together in her first Off-Broadway play, The Way We Get By. But Seyfried was in a relationship with the actor Justin Long, and Sadoski was married. They didn’t get together until a year later. The two quietly married in 2017 just days before they had their first child. Seyfried loved childbirth so much she trained to become a doula.
“I was like, This is the most amazing thing I've ever been a part of. I have to be there for women; childbirth is amazing,” she says. “I was talking to my doula a lot about what she did. I was like, That sounds like the best thing, and I just wanted to be there when people have a baby.”
In the end, there were too many requirements and certifications to do it officially. “I'm better at, like, taking pictures and massaging the back,” she says. And anyway, it wasn’t long after that when she got the offer from David Fincher to reintroduce the world to Marion Davies, the real-life starlet who had a relationship with media magnate William Randolph Hearst. Seyfried is barely in the 2020 Netflix movie Mank, but she steals the show. The part earned Seyfried her first Oscar nomination. It changed everything.
“I got the call about The Dropout the day I got nominated,” Seyfried says. “Not a coincidence. I knew where that was coming from and I was fucking grateful.”
At first, though, Seyfried almost said no. She was fighting Covid and the thought of leaving her kids to go film in Los Angeles sounded terrible. But she slept on it. She’d followed the Theranos saga, having listened to the ABC News podcast on which the show is based (also called The Dropout) in her Mank trailer. Kate McKinnon had initially been cast in the role but ended up dropping out when the pandemic delayed the project. For Seyfried, the chance to play Holmes was too good to pass up. The next day, she called back to say she’d take it.
“Amanda’s casting saved the project in this amazing way,” the show’s creator, Liz Meriwether, tells me. “She’s just one of those few actresses that I’ve always known could do comedy and drama. She’d done a ton of work before we even got to the first rehearsals. At the first rehearsal, she had that voice; she had those mannerisms.”
The final piece of the transformation came in the makeup chair: Holmes’ signature ruby lip and messy low bun. “The look was as essential as knowing how to do the voice,” Seyfried says. “I get it. [Holmes didn’t] want to waste time on how she looks. There's a certain appreciation or acceptance of how she looks. She accepts it and enhances it slightly and then goes about her day. I don't love wearing a lot of makeup [either].” For our lunch, Seyfried is bare-faced, but, like Holmes, it’s a red lip Seyfried throws on for rare date nights with Sadoski. She has “a fuck-ton” to choose from currently, because Lancome, the makeup brand for which she’s been an ambassador since 2019, just sent some over.
Back when she was hearing the Holmes story for the first time, Seyfried thought what we all thought about it. She thought it sounded crazy. But to step into Holmes’s shoes—or rather, black turtleneck—she had to put away those impressions to find the humanity in the character. She didn’t talk to Holmes during the filming, but I ask if she knows whether or not Holmes has watched the show.
“I’m not being told much because she’s smart… but …I was told she wasn't gonna watch it, that it was bad news, and that she didn't want any part of it,” Seyfried says, without elaborating on the back channels by which she was hearing this. “I don't know if it's totally true. Who knows? I’m a little skeptical of any information that comes my way.”
Seyfried has been asking Meriwether to write a season 2 of The Dropout—there’s still so much more she wants to explore of the Holmes story—but so far, Meriwether isn’t interested. Seyfried has plenty else to keep her occupied in the meantime. She cradles a cappuccino while we talk, rubbing her eyes from time to time. She flew in last night from Spain—her first international trip since before the pandemic. She was there shooting an ad for the watch brand she represents, Jaeger-LeCoultre. Then, this morning she had a call for International Network for Aid Relief and Assistance, or INARA, the nonprofit which sponsors care for conflict-impacted children. The group focuses on filling in the gaps in healthcare, so right now, they’re focusing on mental health care for Ukrainian youth. Seyfried got involved through her husband and is now on the board. After that, she had a call about the toy company she’s launching with two of her close friends from childhood. When I ask about the company, she hesitates for a moment.
“It feels so good to do stuff completely out of my comfort zone. I can't wait to start a company,” she says. Then she quickly adds, “I also don't want to fuck it up for us. I'm not going to be the face of it. I'm not a brand person. I'm an actor.”
She calls her friend to ask what she can say about it.
“Hey, sorry, I'm doing an interview for Marie Claire. I've been talking about the company,” she says. “Can I tell her the name of it?”
She listens as her friend talks.
“It's always so hard because you want it to be good, but like, you don't want to put too much hype on it. But also it's so fun. Like, I want to start promoting it. You know what I mean? Okay, thanks, sorry, okay, I gotta go.”
She hangs up.
They’re making playhouses, big enough for kids to stand in, but crafted from sustainable materials and aesthetically pleasing enough that parents won’t hate having them around. The company is called Make It Cute, and Seyfried and her friends are hoping to launch later this year.
We finish up our coffees and Seyfried asks if I want to come with her to her favorite knitting shop around the corner. She needs a 3.75 crochet hook to make a blanket for her friend’s baby. This is kind of her thing—she made a purple and gold blanket for Chabert when she had her daughter six years ago.
Crocheting is one way she relaxes—along with jumping rope, which she does in increments of 1,000 on her building’s rooftop. Tonight, she’ll be breaking in her new hook while she and Sadoski watch Dateline and Bad Vegan. Pretty soon, she starts filming The Crowded Room with Tom Holland. That role was an easy yes: “It was like, Shoots in New York? Yes. Play a psychologist? Shoot with Tom Holland? Directed by Kornel [Mundruczo]? Yeah, yeah.”
But she’s counting down until Tuesday, the day she gets to go home to the farm for a break before production starts.
She walks me to the subway and we say our goodbyes before she disappears into the thick city crowd, her face shielded with oversized sunglasses. A couple days later, she posts on Instagram a carousel of her beloved goats. With acres of nothing in all directions, it’s the one place where it doesn’t matter what part she’s playing, what she looks like, what she’s working on—where nobody’s asking her to do the voice.
This story appears in the May 2022 issue of Marie Claire.
Amanda wears a Dior dress and earrings, and Roger Vivier shoes to play Pop Quiz. On the cover, Amanda wears an Anne Klein blazer, Prada dress, Alina Abegg earrings, and Manolo Blahnik shoes.
Photographer: Victoria Will / Stylist: Elizabeth Stewart / Stylist Assistant: Eliza Yerry / Hair: DJ Quintero at The Wall Group / Makeup: Brigitte Reiss-Andersen at A-Frame Agency / Manicure: Tak Okamura at The Wall Group / Tailor: Cha Cha Zulic / Executive Producer: David Lipford, Dual Phocus
Kate Storey is a contributing editor at Marie Claire and writer-at-large at Esquire magazine, where she covers culture and politics. Kate's writing has appeared in ELLE, Harper's BAZAAR, Town & Country, and Cosmopolitan, and her first book comes out in summer 2023.
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