Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne of Henrietta Lacks

by Luca Celada April 28, 2017

The case of Henrietta Lacks and the cancer cells harvested from her biopsy, which became the source of an “immortalized” cell line used by science research labs worldwide, sits squarely at the crossroads of science, ethics and racial identity in America. For all the scientific advances that came from using the cells unbeknownst to the patient or her family, the story, first told in depth by reporter Rebecca Skloot, is emblematic of the sometimes-equivocal ethics that bind scientific research. Especially given disturbing precedents like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment on unwitting African Americans in the thirties, the Lacks case is weighted by questions of racial identity and medical justice. All in all an enticing subject for Oprah Winfrey who stars as Lacks’ daughter Deborah, as well as produced the HBO film directed by George C. Wolfe which also stars Rose Byrne as Skloot. The HFPA’s Michelle Manelis and Aida Takla O’Reilly spoke to the actresses about the project.