Oprah's next star turn will be in the upcoming HBO Films effort, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Deadline reports that the mogul, who is producing the film with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Alan Ball, will star as Deborah Lacks, the daughter of the woman whose cancerous cells were illicitly harvested and eventually used as the foundation numerous medical breakthroughs in the years after her death.
Henrietta Lacks was the unwitting donor of the first immortal cell line
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, based on author Rebecca Skloot's bestselling book of the same name, has reportedly been a passion project of Winfrey's for years. It tells the story of Deborah Lacks as she sets out to learn more about her mother's impact on medicine. The elder Lacks, who died in 1951, became the unwitting donor of the first immortal human cell line — cultured cells that can be kept alive for long periods of time. Those cells (called HeLa cells) helped pave the way to a vaccine for polio and are essential for cancer and HIV research. However, it took decades before Lacks was recognized for her contribution to medical research and treatment.
The film is being called "a story of medical arrogance and triumph, race, poverty and deep friendship between the unlikeliest of people." As such, it's a big deal that Oprah has stepped into the lead role. To date, she has starred in several high-profile films drawing from black history, including Lee Daniel's The Butler and 2014's Selma. Filming is set to begin this summer.