HBO released the trailer for their biopic, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks starring Rose Byrne, Courtney B. Vance, Oprah Winfrey and Renée Elise Goldsberry.
The film tells that story of Henrietta Lacks, a Baltimore-based black woman treated from cervical cancer whose cells changed the history of modern science. Called HeLa cells, they were unknowingly taken by John Hopkins’ biologist George Otto Gey and later used to create the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, AIDS research and gene mapping.
According to The New York Times, since the 1950s, scientists have grown 20 tons of Henrietta’s cells and there are almost 11,000 patents involving HeLa cells.
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The film is based off the book of journalist, Rebecca Skloot who is played by Byrne. Skloot wrote two articles on the Lacks family before publishing a book in 2010 that documented their story in context of race, poverty and science.
In the film, Oprah plays Deborah Lacks, the daughter of Henrietta, who with the rest of the family was kept in the dark about their mother’s contribution to the world before being approached by Skloot.
“For years, it seemed like a dream about my mother,” says Deborah. “Could this be true?”
The film captures the dynamic of Skloot and the Lacks family as they seek to build trust in order to tell this monumental story.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks premieres April 22 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.