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Oprah to Star in HBO Adaptation of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

Oprah Winfrey, inarguably the most important Oprah in the public eye, has just been announced as the leading role in HBO’s adaptation of the nonfiction phenomenon The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The movie has just been greenlit for production and will begin shooting this summer.

Henrietta Lacks tracks the legacy of an African-American woman whose cervical cancer cells, harvested without her knowledge while in treatment, became the first set of human cells to be able to reproduce in a lab. While these cells helped find treatments for polio, cancer, and AIDS, the ethical questions that arise make the reader contemplate the tradeoff that was made to advance science. Winfrey will be playing Deborah, Henrietta’s daughter that becomes friends with the book’s writer, Rebecca Skloot.

Adapting this book has been a longstanding passion project of hers, dating back to 2010, the same year the book was released. If Oprah wasn’t a strong enough personality to convince you to tune in, the project has a number of other heavy hitters behind it as well: Alan Ball (of Six Feet Under and True Blood fame) will executive produce and George C. Wolfe (Angels in America) has written and will direct the film.

The book, of course, has its own lauded legs to stand on. It took a staggering 10 years to research both the science and family lineage depicted in the book, and that work was justly rewarded. Critics praised it as one of the best books of the year, Skloot recieved a slew of literary awards, and the paperback stayed on New York Times’ bestseller list for four years.

Winfrey has proven herself to be a strong actress over the years, making impressions with supporting roles in Lee Daniels’ The ButlerSelma, and The Color Purple, the last of which garnered her an Oscar nomination. The casting of Rebecca Skloot, on the other hand, has been unofficially opened by the author herself on Twitter. The Internet did not disappoint, providing choices choices both brilliant (Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black) and absurd (Skloot herself, to which she said, “no chance”).

Featured image courtesy of Rex Features / A.M.P.A.S.