The film 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 (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.
Byrne will play Rebecca 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, Henrietta’s charismatic, complicated daughter, played by Winfrey. Rebecca’s quest resulted in the NY Times best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated Byrne’s most recent film credits include X-Men: Apocalypse and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. She previously starred opposite Glenn Close in FX’s Damages. She has also formed a Sydney-based production company called The Dollhouse Collective, whose mission statement is to focus on being champions of change, risk takers, friends and passionate storytellers. Byrne is repped by CAA and RGM.
Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which took more than a decade to research and write, instantly hit the New York Times bestseller list upon publication, and remained there for more than four years.
Veteran Broadway director-producer George C. Wolfe (HBO’s Lackawanna Blues; Tony winner for Angels In America) wrote the adaptation and will direct. Winfrey and Carla Gardini executive produce through Harpo Films, Alan Ball and Peter MacDissi exec produce through Your Face Goes Here Entertainment and Lydia Dean Pilcher exec produces through Cine Mosaic Productions. Skloot is co-executive producer. Henrietta Lacks’ sons David Lacks, Jr. and Zakariyya Rahman; her granddaughter Jeri Lacks; and her grandchildren Alfred Carter, Jr. and LaTonya Carter are consultants on the project.