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While everyone paying attention to HBO right now is undoubtedly talking about last night’s giant Game of Thrones reveal that was quite non-scientific, subscribers will soon see the story of one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of all time. And that story will include a leading lady performance from none other than Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey will take on the main role in the HBO Films feature The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which will delve into the life, death and posthumous scientific input of the titular African American woman whose cervical tumor cells led to the development of the first immortal cell line, which totally changed biomedical research at the time. This is absolutely an important story for all kinds of reasons, and it’s no surprise that someone with the socially conscious mindset of Oprah Winfrey would want to get in on this.
In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Winfrey will play the role of daughter Deborah Lacks, and the movie will follow her attempts to understand the mother that she never got a chance to know, as well as her getting a firmer grasp on how such medical breakthroughs happened when her mother’s cancer cells weren’t even authorized to be taken from her body. You can bet that this will be an inspirational and challenging flick, and one that holds a mirror in front of race and class issues of the time. (Lacks died in 1951 at John Hopkins, apparently the nearest hospital that actually treated black patients.)
Based on the bestselling book by Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will be written and directed by George C. Wolfe, the Tony Award-winning creator of Angels in America. (He also wrote the screenplay for the stellar HBO adaptation.) Wolfe directed the HBO Films movie Lackawanna Blues and later helmed Nights in Rodanthe and You’re Not You. Alan Ball, creator of True Blood and Six Feet Under, will be executive producing alongside his Banshee producer Peter Macdissi, The Hundred-Foot Journey producer Carla Gardini and You Don’t Know Jack producer Lydia Dean Pilcher. Fun fact: Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball first announced they’d be teaming on a Henrietta Lacks project back in 2011, so that’s quite the development period.
While we’re still waiting on news of an Oprah Winfrey biopic getting the greenlight, the entertainer has not slowed down in the years after leaving her hit talk show. She is busy keeping her network OWN afloat with original series and movies, some of which she stars in herself, such as the upcoming drama Queen Sugar and Greenleaf. On the big screen, she was last seen in Selma, and she’ll also show up in the biopic Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?.
Production on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will take place this summer, with no news yet of when HBO will likely bring this encouraging story to viewers.