Trailer Watch: Oprah Demands Justice in “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

What you don’t understand is, we didn’t know nothin’ about nothin,” Deborah Lacks (Oprah Winfrey, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”) says in a new trailer for “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Her mother’s cells helped the medical community advance research in cloning, chemotherapy, and in vitro fertilization — but the African-American tobacco farmer’s cells were used without her consent. Henrietta Lacks (Renée Elise Goldsberry, “Hamilton”) changed history, yet as Deborah says, her own family wasn’t even aware of the story behind the legendary “HeLa” cells.

“Scientists had been trying to get cells to grow outside of the human body but they would always die — until Henrietta’s cells came along,” Skloot, played by Rose Byrne (“Spy”), explains in the spot. But the trailer is less concerned with the medical side of Henrietta’s story than its emotional impact on Deborah and the rest of her family. Based on Rebecca Skloot’s book of the same name, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is told from the perspective of Deborah.“I know I’m a part of you, and you’re a part of me,” she says in the trailer, seemingly speaking to her late mother.

Deborah agrees to cooperate with Skloot, who is writing a book on Henrietta, because she’s determined 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,” HBO’s official synopsis for the film details. “It’s a story of medical arrogance and triumph, race, poverty, and deep friendship between the unlikeliest of people.”

Directed by George C. Wolfe (“You’re Not You”), “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” premieres on HBO April 22

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