By Janaya Greene
HBO released a trailer for their film, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on March 15 and it looks to have a promising future. The film is based on a novel detailing how Deborah Lacks, daughter of Henrietta Lacks, searches to learn about her mother’s life and how her mother’s cancerous cells contributed to modern medicine, without the elder Lacks’ knowledge. Rebecca Skloot, a science writer whose nonfiction book brought Henrietta Lacks’ untold story to the masses, wrote The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Oprah Winfrey bought the rights to the film adaptation of Skloot’s book in 2010, the same year it was published, but the production of the film had been in limbo since then. Just last year, HBO announced Oprah Winfrey would star in the film, and last Wednesday the network announced The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will premiere on April 22.
As explained in the book, some members of the Lacks family have expressed feeling exploited by more than just John Hopkins hospital. Family members have mentioned reporters, scholars and more reaching out to them for their advantages without offering help the family, whom still have large financial struggles. The production of this HBO film is no different. According to the Baltimore Sun, the late Lacks’ oldest son, Lawrence believes the film exploits Henrietta’s legacy while other family members, like David Lacks Sr. endorsed the movie, and the book it’s based on. Deborah Lacks, who has mentioned the irony of her mom contributing significantly to medical science while she and her family members could not afford health insurance, died in her sleep in 2009. There’s been no mention of if HBO will give the Lacks family any funds from the film.
In addition to Winfrey playing Deborah Lacks, according to IMDB, the television film will star Renée Elise Goldsberry, Courtney B. Vance, Rose Byrne, Lisa Arrindell, Ninja N. Devoe and more. The book-to-film adaptation was filmed at Tyler Perry Studios. Watch the trailer below.