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Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne Make the Story of the HeLa Cell Known in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Teaser

"You're famous, just nobody knows you"

Not enough people know about Henrietta Lacks, and HBO Films is going to help remedy that with  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Lacks was an African-American woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. When examining her tumor, scientists found the HeLa immortal cell line that allowed for scientific breakthroughs in the polio vaccine, cloning, and more. Here’s a great TED-Ed video that gives you a quick lesson about Henrietta Lacks’ life and the science of the HeLa cell, in additional to the wildly unethical use of her cells without her family’s knowledge or consent. While people made entire careers off of the HeLa cell, her family didn’t know until the 1970s. The synopsis reads, “It’s a story of medical arrogance and triumph, race, poverty, and deep friendship between the unlikeliest of people.”

The adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s nonfiction book of the same name follows the discovery of this fact by Lacks family after Skloot informs them. “There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t benefited from your mother’s cells,” we hear in the teaser. Rose Byrne will play Skloot, and Hamilton‘s Renée Elise Goldsberry will play Henrietta. In addition to playing Lacks’ daughter Deborah, Oprah Winfrey is executive producing the film.

Skloot has tweeted about her excitement for the film, which also brought on members of Lacks’ family as consultants. From the scenes in the trailer, it looks like the film will dive into the ways that scientific research has, in much of American history, hurt and even targeted black bodies. After all, while this history goes much further back, the HeLa samples were taken in around the same time period as cases like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and the Ionia State Hospital’s infamous psychiatric hospital.

The film will air April 22nd at 8pm on HBO. Are you going to check it out?

(via Women and Hollywood, Image via screencap)

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