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Oprah Unearths History In Our First Look At HBO’s “Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks”

The dark side of the story behind the cancer cells that changed humanity gets told.

Oprah Unearths History In Our First Look At HBO’s “Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks”

WHAT: The first teaser for HBO’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which premieres April 22.

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WHO: Oprah Winfrey stars alongside Rose Byrne, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Reg E. Cathey, and Courtney B. Vance in George C. Wolfe’s film.

WHY WE CARE: The untold stories of the contributions of African-American women to modern science have been getting told lately–and the $135 million box office for Hidden Figures proves that there’s an audience for them, too. HBO’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks covers a similar time period–although it’s the ’50s instead of the ’60s–and a similarly vital role in a scientific breakthrough. In this story, though, it’s not about a woman being under-utilized, but rather inappropriately used, as Henrietta Lacks, a cancer patient, had her cell line used without her knowledge or consent. The film doesn’t just focus on what happened to Lacks, though–it stars Oprah as Lacks’ daughter, whose quest for the truth about her mother decades later opened up a complex discussion of the ethics of biomedical research. Ultimately, though, casting Oprah, Goldsberry, and Cathey as the Lacks family serves as a reminder that that discussion involved real people, and real losses, and that’s likely to make The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks one to watch.

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.

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