Brow Beat

Oprah Winfrey Will Star in HBO’s Adaptation of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Oprah Winfrey.

Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez/AFP/Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey doesn’t take many acting jobs, busy as she is maintaining a media empire. When she does take on a role, however, she tends to knock it out of the park. And from the looks of it, her next such gig is well worth some excitement. Winfrey will star in (and executive-produce) HBO Films’ The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. She will play Henrietta Lacks’ daughter, Deborah, the character through whom the story is told. Broadway’s George C. Wolfe, meanwhile, will write and direct.

The film is an adaptation of Rebecca Skloots’ best-selling 2010 nonfiction book of the same name, which told the story of Lacks, a black American woman who, while being treated for cervical cancer in 1951, became an unwitting source for the first “immortal cell line.” Her cells greatly benefited biological research in the years after Lacks’ death, even as their use raised issues of medical ethics and racial politics.

Winfrey made her Academy Award–nominated acting debut in The Color Purple and most recently received plaudits for her roles in 2014’s Selma and Lee Daniels’ The Butler in 2013. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks looks to be another apt showcase for Winfrey’s underutilized dramatic chops.