Featurettes To HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” Posted by Wilson Morales
April 21, 2017
Based on Rebecca Skloot’s best-seller, George C. Wolfe wrote the screenplay and directed the film. Winfrey also serves as an exec producer on the film, along with Alan Ball, Peter Macdissi, Carla Gardini and Lydia Dean Pilcher. Skloot will serve as a co-exec producer.
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” tells the true story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cells were used to create the first immortal human cell line. Told through the eyes of her daughter, Deborah Lacks, played by Winfrey, the film chronicles her search to learn about the mother she never knew and to understand how the unauthorized harvesting of Lacks’ cancerous cells in 1951 led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs, changing countless lives and the face of medicine forever.
Co-starring with Winfrey will be Rose Byrne will play Skloot, a young journalist who, in her efforts to tell the story of Henrietta Lacks and her “immortal” cells, forms a close bond with Deborah, and Tony Award winner and “Hamilton” actress Renée Elise Goldsberry, who plays the title character.
Other cast members include Courtney B. Vance, Leslie Uggams, Rocky Carroll, Rose Byrne, Reg E. Cathey, Reed Birney, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, John Douglas Thompson, Adriane Lenox, Kyanna Simone Simpson and Roger Robinson.
Henrietta Lacks’ sons Zakariyya Rahman and David Lacks, Jr. and granddaughter Jeri Lacksare serve as consultants on the HBO project.
Here’s the list of character breakdown:
— Oprah Winfrey as Deborah Lacks, Henrietta Lacks’ charismatic, complicated daughter.
— Rose Byrne as Rebecca Skloot, a young journalist who, in her effort to tell the story of Henrietta Lacks and her “immortal” cells, forms a close bond with Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah. Skloot’s quest resulted in her New York Times bestselling book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”
— Renée Elise Goldsberry as Henrietta Lacks, a young Baltimore woman whose cancer cells were taken without her knowledge in 1951. HeLa cells became one of the most important tools in modern medicine.
— Rocky Carroll as Sonny Lacks, Henrietta Lacks’ third child and Deborah’s older brother.
— Courtney B. Vance as Sir Lord Keenan Kester Cofield, a slick southern lawyer who tries to insert himself into the Lacks’ quest for knowledge and acknowledgment.
— Reg E. Cathey as Zakariyya, Henrietta Lacks’ youngest child and Deborah Lacks’ brother.
— Reed Birney as Dr. George Gey, who harvested HeLa cells from Henrietta Lacks.
— Leslie Uggams as Sadie, Henrietta Lacks’ best friend and cousin.
— John Benjamin Hickey as Bill Watson, Rebecca Skloot’s editor.
— Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Dr. Pattillo, a doctor and professor of gynecology from Morehouse School of Medicine, whom Rebecca Skloot must first impress in order to gain access to the Lacks family.
— Byron Jennings as Dr. Victor McKusick, a geneticist at Johns Hopkins.
— John Douglas Thompson, as Lawrence, Henrietta Lacks’ oldest son and Deborah’s older brother.
— Roger Robinson as Day Lacks, Henrietta Lacks’ widower and father to all their children.
— Adriane Lenox as Barbara, Lawrence’s wife, who pulled Deborah, Sonny and Zakariyya from their Aunt Ethel and Uncle Galen’s home and finished raising them.
— Gabriel Ebert as Dr. Christoph Lengauer, who first shows HeLa cells to the Lacks family.
— Peter Gerety as Paul Lurz, an administrator at Crownsville Hospital.
— John Beasley as Henrietta Lacks’ cousin, Cliff, from Clover, Va.
— Kyanna Simone Simpson as young Deborah Lacks, Henrietta Lacks’ daughter.
Conversations with the Cast
The Lacks Family Legacy
Life: The Mortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Death: The Impact of HeLa
Immortality: Oprah, Deborah and the Search for Henrietta