Oprah to Star in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for HBO
Posted on May 3, 2016 at 2:04 pm
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is being adapted for HBO, with Oprah Winfrey in the lead role of Lacks’ daughter.
There was something special about the poor, uneducated Henrietta Lacks, something she could never have suspected. From the description of the book, by Rebecca Smoot:
She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.
Her family knew nothing about this and of course was not paid for the use of her cells. Winfrey’s casting as the daughter suggests the focus will be more on the family and the ethical questions than the science, but I hope both will be covered.