HBO and Oprah Winfrey’s long-in-the-works adaptation of the nonfiction book The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks has a premiere date of April 22. HBO’s TV movie has been planned since 2010, when Winfrey and producer Alan Ball (True Blood, Six Feet Under) announced plans for the adaptation.
Winfrey stars as Henrietta Lacks’ daughter, who tells the story of how mother’s cells ended up forming a critical foundation in medical research. Hamilton’s Renée Elise Goldsberry plays Henrietta, who, at age 31, went to the hospital for stomach pains, where sample cells of her cervix were taken without her knowledge and eventually found their way to a cancer researcher. These cells were discovered to be immortal, a solution to the problem plaguing medial research in the early ’50s, when research on cells was difficult to do because the cells would only stay alive for a few days. The result was a medial breakthrough, but despite the enormous contribution to medicine (and the enormous financial boon), Henrietta died that same year and her family was never informed that her cells populated labs all over the world. Rebecca Skloot’s book traces both the story of the cells—known as HeLa, after the first two letters of Henrietta Lacks’ name—and the story of the family, living in poverty in Maryland. Rose Byrne plays Skloot.