Already a legend on the small screen, Oprah Winfrey decided to change it a bit and took the role of Deborah Lacks in the movie “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” written and directed by George C. Wolfe, premiering Saturday, on HBO.
The film follows the life of Henrietta Lacks and the legacy that changed modern medicine, adapted after the nonfiction book and bestseller “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” written by journalist Rebecca Skloot.
Henrietta, a doctor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, died of cervical cancer at age 31 in 1951 and left behind five small children, but managed to contribute through her discoveries to major breakthroughs, including the polio vaccine and in-vitro fertilization.
Still, she passed away in obscurity and her family has never been compensated for her contributions to medicine.
Speaking about Skloot’s book, Oprah said that she was blown away by the idea that she’d never heard of Henrietta Lacks, despite the fact that she lived in Baltimore.
The TV star added that it was fascinating to her that she was a reporter in that town for eight years and never heard Lacks’ name.
Inspired by the story, Winfrey teamed with HBO and “Six Feet Under” producer Alan Ball to adapt the book.
Initially, Skloot was very protective of the material, but she gave her O.K. based on the fact that she was impressed by HBO films, such as “Temple Grandin” and “You Don’t Know Jack”, which, in her opinion, handled complex science ethics stories.
Although Oprah put a lot of work on the movie, one member of the family, Henrietta’s eldest son, Lawrence Lacks, is unhappy with the film, saying that HBO exploited his mother’s memory. As a counter argument, Winfrey said that overall, the family is pleased.