Amanda for Vogue Hong Kong

VOGUE – I didn’t ever picture myself holding an Emmy,” responds Amanda Seyfried as I congratulate her on her latest achievements. But I’ve pictured you holding one, I think to myself. After all, she is Amanda Seyfried: the naive Karen in Mean Girls, the sunny Sophie in Mamma Mia!, the hopeful Cosette in Les Misérables, and, of course, the frighteningly ambitious Elizabeth in The Dropout — in whose shoes she won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

For those unaware, the actress’ character in The Dropout is based on real-life Stanford University dropout Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of the billion-dollar biotech Ponzi scheme Theranos. During her meteoric rise in Silicon Valley, Holmes used to wear black turtlenecks to emulate Apple mastermind Steve Jobs and even switched out her natural voice for a raspier baritone to assert dominance — a process Seyfried reimagines in a scene.

“Here at Theranos, we are developing new technology.” She stares intently into the mirror and desperately clears her throat to start again, the corners of her lips slightly pursed as she tries to deepen her voice with every word. “This is…” she croaks, “an inspiring step…forward.” Her blinking stops. You can see the blood vessels in her eyes as the camera pans to her face. “Forward.” Her throaty voice steadies as she continues, her gaze piercing through the lens. “Forward,” she repeats assertively. “Forward.”

Holmes used every means at her disposal to convince the public that she was powerful, and Seyfried did the same to become a convincing Holmes. “I had to watch and read everything I had on her: her deposition tapes, famous interviews and the footage of her at the height of her success”, reveals Seyfried. “I had to try and go inside her head with massive help from Liz Meriwether’s script. The whole point of making the show was to fall in line with Elizabeth for a little while like a curious friend.”

With the interest and compassion of a curious friend, Seyfried digs deep. Under her portrayal, Holmes is no longer only the two-dimensional criminal mastermind news headlines paint her to be. She is a multi-faceted, perplexing woman who, while having been ravenous for success her whole life, is sadly not as smart as she thinks. Seyfried, in piecing together her version of Holmes on screen, makes us teeter between empathy and schadenfreude — a testament to her versatility as an actress and her innate ability to grasp, embrace and illustrate the nuances that make us human.

While Seyfried shone as Holmes in front of the camera, she glowed just as brightly behind it by staying true to her vivacious, radiant self. “One of the most obscure scenes ever written was based on a Theranos Halloween party’s bouncy castle,” she recalls. “I found myself at the end of one day bouncing maniacally in a wizard costume with Shaun Brown, Michaela Watkins, and Dylan Minnette!” Seyfried’s fellow cast members would’ve witnessed her transform, within seconds, from someone who “carried around a folding table to each set with a giant box of watercolour markers and sketchbooks for everyone to share” into a corrupted CEO. The stark contrast attests to Seyfried’s raw talent. Even so, the actress is humble. Extremely humble. And that’s what truly leaves a mark.

“It’s still surreal that my peers in the industry wrote my name on their [Emmy] ballots,” Seyfried admits. “I am immensely proud of The Dropout and my work in it, but I still find myself catching the trophy in my periphery in awe of what it means.”

“The business is always changing, but the one thing that still holds true is that if you’re good at what you do, you work hard at what you do, and you’re kind and respectful while doing it — you’ll always get to work.”

On the set of her Vogue Hong Kong June cover shoot, Seyfried sheds her black Holmes turtleneck for the latest designs from Chloe and Bulgari. She meets the lens with the same fascinating gaze of her character, but this time, it is softer, steadier — the gaze of a seasoned actress who is owning her spotlight.

“Beauty is such an interesting idea, and I used to think it was defined by the level of attractiveness to other people,” Seyfried muses as she recalls all the years she’s spent in front of a camera. “Then I connected it to confidence. Now I realise beauty is internally generated by self-knowledge and compassion and a willingness to trust and accept your power.”

Seyfried’s powers do not only lie in acting. She is also an animal whisperer — something we are sure that Bruno the horse, Seyfried’s Vogue Hong Kong cover co-star, would agree with. This was no surprise, as Seyfried lives on a farm in upstate New York with her family, surrounded by her furry and feathered friends.

“Farm life naturally grounds you — it’s effortless. The constant bird, frog, chicken, duck, and donkey noises are like muscle relaxants”, Seyfried shares. “Getting out of the house in the morning to feed all the animals is the secret to feeling grounded for me. It’s dirty, sometimes wet and cold, buggy, and no one cares who you are or how you’re dressed. They just want to eat, and that simplicity is life-affirming.”

Aside from her Australian Shepherd Finn, who she thanked in her Emmys speech (this dog has made it in life), Seyfried also has a soft spot for her donkey Gus — a little secret that took some time to admit. “I don’t have a favourite animal.” she starts strong, perhaps a little too strong, before letting it slip, “Yes, I do.” She tries again, “I could never choose a favourite animal…” but gives in eventually, “It’s Gus the donkey. I can tell you who’s the best cuddler, and that’s Gus.” That’s only fair, for pretending not to be enamoured of a good cuddler is impossible — even for a world-class actress like Seyfried.

When she’s not cuddling with Gus, Seyfried is probably letting her imagination soar with her children in a playhouse from Make It Cute, a brand she built together with her childhood best friends using “the inspiration that comes out of motherhood”. On other days, you can find her busy working to support war-inflicted young lives through Inara (International Network for Aid, Relief and Assistance), a charity of which she is a board member. If not, well, she’s probably crocheting. Her favourite masterpieces are a “puffy rainbow ‘knit-collage’ yarn jacket” and a bag she made on the set of The Crowded Room, her upcoming horror series with Tom Holland.

“I love the era [The Crowded Room] is set in, and Tom and I were able to explore every inch of the relationship between our characters on a set that felt very safe,” Seyfried shares. “My favourite memory was celebrating Finn’s birthday on set with a cake in the shape of his head (see Instagram). He was, and always is, the set dog, so he knew more people than I did.”

Seyfried is also set to star as Thelma in the musical adaptation of Thelma & Louise, where she will take the stage once again with her honey-like vocals. “Singing is so physical and can really enhance the emotion behind the scene in a way spoken words can’t,” Seyfried states from her experience filming Les Misérables, where she brought her character to life through live singing. “I learned that there was so much more to learn about my voice and its potential. I haven’t stopped training since.”
No matter what she brings us next, though, there is no doubt we will be in for a treat. The actress affirms, “There’s so much to look forward to!” After all, she is Amanda Seyfried.
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