Francesca Gregorini knows that in order to reach your dreams, you have to chase them.
As a director on the Hulu limited series The Dropout, Gregorini got to explore the life of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried), helming two episodes that take place at pivotal moments when Holmes is at the top of her fictional world and just about to start falling.
The Dropout has a total of six Primetime Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for Seyfried. Another one of the nominations went to Michael Showalter, who also directed several episodes of the show.
Gregorini directed two episodes – “Flower of Life” and “Iron Sisters,” – the latter of which earned her the Emmy nomination and features a Kubrickesque party scene full of Elizabeth Holmes masks, the most uncomfortable serenade you’ll ever see, incredible dance moves, and scenes of Holmes fumbling while trying to film a commercial with famous director Errol Morris.
Those commercial scenes were some of her favorites to direct, as it allowed her to get deep into the psyche of Holmes.
“They're not the actual commercial, they're sort of the outtakes, when she's messing up and trying to think of an answer. And it's just such an opportunity to start seeing the cracks within Elizabeth,” Gregorini says. “And then of course, Sunny (Balwani, Holmes’ boyfriend and business partner played by Naveen Andrews) comes into the side and tries to manage the situation. And then in the end, she pulled it off. And you see the commercial at the end, and it is quote-unquote inspiring, what she's saying. It's just that there's such rot at the center of it.”
None of this would’ve happened if Gregorini didn’t actively go after her dreams.
“I'd listened to the podcast, and then at some point in the trades I read that they were going to be making a limited series. And as soon as I saw that article, I was on speed dial to my agents, Ellen and Christina, and I was just like, ‘Get me this job,’" she says. “I just was so fascinated by Elizabeth Holmes and her whole trajectory that I was already obsessed with it before I even knew it was going to be a potential job.”
But her proactive approach to her career didn’t end there. She also was the one who submitted herself for Emmy consideration, leading directly to her nomination.
“I was like, I think I've done great work, and I want to be considered. And so I think the messaging is you've got to be proactive. You've got to step up. If it's your passion and it's something you love, in whatever walk of life, you need to... I sound like a Nike ad. You need to do it.”
Gregorini, a “proud gay woman,” is the only woman nominated in the Outstanding Directing for a Limited or Anthology Series category.
“I'm excited to be nominated amongst the boys, but also it speaks to a larger issue that I think we have been making progress on over time,” she says. “It seems like we take two steps forward, one step back. So I'm happy to be a small drop in the bucket of a step forward, but we need to open those doors wider and wider.”
Now she wants to hold that door open for other women to come in. “I take it very seriously when I get a job,” she says. “I know I need to do my very, very best work because there's a lot of responsibility in me doing well because it can open doors for people behind me, and I'm very cognizant of that.”
Gregorini will be attending the Emmys with her longtime best friend Princess Tatiana von Fürstenberg. The 74th annual Emmy Awards will take place September 12.