Oprah Winfrey, queen of Earth, is starring in an HBO movie about Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose cells were controversially used to make major discoveries in medical research. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks—adapted from Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 New York Times bestseller—will play out from the perspective of Lacks’ daughter Deborah, played by Oprah.

Describing the film as a longtime “passion project” for Oprah, Deadline says the story focuses on Deborah’s “search to learn about the mother she never knew and to understand how the unauthorized harvesting of Lacks’ cancerous cells in 1951 led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs.”

Via Skhloot’s site:

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.

Shooting begins this summer, with filmmaker George C. Wolfe (of HBO’s Lackawanna Blues) directing. Henrietta Lacks’ sons David Lacks, Jr. and Zakariyya Rahman and granddaughter Jeri Lacks are also involved in consulting.


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