EXCLUSIVE: Exactly one year after Fox Searchlight launched a television division, the company has landed its first series order. I have learned that Hulu is closing a deal for The Dropout, a limited series starring and executive produced by Kate McKinnon based on ABC News/ABC Radio’s podcast about the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos.
Emmy-winning Saturday Night Live star McKinnon will play the disgraced wunderkind entrepreneur Holmes and will executive produce the limited drama series, whose length is expected to be between 6-10 episodes.
She executive produces with The Dropout podcast host /creator Rebecca Jarvis, who is ABC News chief business, technology and economics correspondent. The podcast’s producers Taylor Dunn and Victoria Thompson also serve as executive producers on the series.
The project marks a collaboration among three companies under the recently expanded Disney umbrella following the $71.3 billion acquisition of key Fox assets, including Fox Searchlight and 21st Century Fox’s 30% stake in Hulu. Fox Searchlight, ABC News and ABC Radio are now corporate siblings at Disney, which also owns a controlling 60% interest in Hulu.
The Dropout launched as a podcast in late January and was turned into a two-hour documentary that aired on ABC News’ 20/20 in March.
According to the podcast’s description, “the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is an unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong. How did the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lose it all in the blink of an eye? How did the woman once heralded as ‘the next Steve Jobs’ find herself facing criminal charges — to which she pleaded not guilty — and up to 20 years in jail? How did her technology, meant to revolutionize healthcare, potentially put millions of patients at risk? And how did so many smart people get it so wrong along the way?”
Holmes, a chemical engineering prodigy, dropped out of Stanford to launch a healthcare technology company promising to revolutionize blood testing, which became Theranos. The high-flying tech startup was eventually exposed as “massive fraud,” and last year, a federal grand jury indicted Holmes and former Theranos chief operating officer on nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for distributing blood tests with falsified results to consumers.
Unveiled on April 11, 2018 by Fox Searchlight Pictures Presidents Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula, Fox Searchlight TV has been beefing up its executive ranks and expanding its development slate, which includes projects with Alex Garland, Simon Beaufoy, Darren Aronofsky, Mike Cahill, Bret McKenzie, Sarah Adina Smith, Lenny Abrahamson, Catherine Hardwicke, Broken Lizard, Tamara Jenkins, Yorgos Lanthimos, Keira Knightley and Chris Rock.
Limited series has been an important arena for Hulu, starting with 11.22.63 and last year’s The Looming Tower. The streaming service’s recently released The Act has been a breakout hit, with two more high-profile limited series in the wings, Catch-22 and Veronica Mars.
McKinnon is one of the most popular cast members of NBC’s Saturday Night Live where she has been since 2012. She has earned five consecutive Emmy nominations for her work on the sketch comedy program, winning in 2016 and 2017. On the feature side, McKinnon will next be seen in Danny Boyle’s Yesterday. She is repped by UTA and Artists First.
Jarvis is repped by UTA and Ziffren Brittenham.