A groundbreaking scientific discovery, a daughter's boundless love for her mother, and justice for a woman whose cells have been saving lives since 1951 are the driving forces behind HBO's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The original film, based on a nonfiction bestseller of the same name written by Rebecca Skloot, stars Oprah Winfrey as Henrietta's daughter. It is clear from the first Henrietta Lacks trailer that Winfrey's role is a powerful one that is sure to leave viewers riveted. As Deborah Lacks, Winfrey is tapping into a well of emotion as a daughter who never truly knew her mother, but who is driven by love to discover the contribution her mother never knew she made to science upon her death.
The real Henrietta Lacks died in 1951 of cancer. At the time of her death, cells from her tumor were taken without her consent, or the consent of her family, and cultured into the HeLa line. For years, her family had no idea her cells were leading to advancements in cancer treatment, the creation of polio vaccines, and more. Thanks to Skloot and Lacks' family, her story was finally told in full in 2010 when Skloot's book was published, and now HBO is ensuring it reaches an even larger audience thanks to the film adaptation.
As Henrietta's youngest daughter, Deborah, Winfrey will make you absolutely ache with her longing to understand her mother's life and death. At one point in the trailer, Deborah says,
"My whole life what I cared about is knowing about my mother. I am tired of wanting to know and hiding."
While Winfrey may be best known as a philanthropist and powerful producer, her skills as an actor have always been riveting. From her Oscar-nominated film debut in The Color Purple to her 2013 role in The Butler, Winfrey pours her heart and soul into every character she embodies. The role of Deborah is no different.
There is an earnest, doggedness to Deborah's refusal to stop searching for answers that will give you chills. Joined by Rose Byrne as Skloot, Winfrey is clearly passionate about telling the story of an African-American woman whose contribution to science was invaluable. It is clear that for Winfrey and Deborah, ensuring everyone knows Henrietta Lacks' name is about achieving a sense of justice for a woman whose scientific contribution saved countless lives.
Henrietta descended from slaves and slave owners, and her story is a rich, honest look at what it was like to be a black woman in America during the waning years of the Jim Crow era. While her life was brief, it was also powerful, and it led her daughter on a journey of discovery. Seeing Winfrey breathe life into that journey onscreen will ensure, at long last, Henrietta's family will never again have to worry about the world forgetting her legacy of saving lives still continues long after her death.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks premieres April 22 on HBO.