Who Was the Star in a Hollywood Movie About HeLa Cells?

In recent years, HeLa cells have become a hot topic in both scientific and cultural circles. These cells, which were taken from a cancer patient named Henrietta Lacks without her consent in the 1950s, have been instrumental in numerous medical breakthroughs. But did you know that there was a Hollywood movie about HeLa cells?

The movie is called “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and it stars Oprah Winfrey as Deborah Lacks, Henrietta’s daughter. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Rebecca Skloot.

The Plot

The movie follows Skloot (played by Rose Byrne) as she investigates the story behind HeLa cells and attempts to learn more about Henrietta Lacks and her family. Along the way, she forms a bond with Deborah and helps her come to terms with her mother’s legacy.

The Cast

In addition to Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne, the movie features an impressive cast of actors. Renée Elise Goldsberry plays Henrietta Lacks in flashbacks, while Courtney B. Vance portrays Deborah’s brother Zakariyya. Other notable cast members include Reg E. Cathey, Leslie Uggams, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

  • Oprah Winfrey as Deborah Lacks
  • Rose Byrne as Rebecca Skloot
  • Renée Elise Goldsberry as Henrietta Lacks
  • Courtney B. Vance as Zakariyya Lacks
  • Reg E. Cathey as Sadie
  • Leslie Uggams as Barbara
  • Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Sonny Lacks

The Legacy of HeLa Cells

HeLa cells have been used in countless medical experiments since they were first taken from Henrietta Lacks in 1951. They have helped scientists develop vaccines for diseases like polio, and they have been instrumental in cancer research. However, the story of their origin is a complicated one that raises important ethical questions about medical consent and patient privacy.

The Importance of Consent

One of the main themes of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is the importance of informed consent in medical research. Henrietta Lacks never gave permission for her cells to be used in experiments, and her family was not informed about their use until decades later. This raises important questions about who owns our bodies and our genetic material.

The Role of HeLa Cells Today

Despite the controversy surrounding their origin, HeLa cells continue to be an important tool in medical research today. Scientists have used them to study everything from the effects of radiation on DNA to the development of new cancer treatments. However, there are still ethical questions surrounding their use, and efforts are being made to ensure that patients’ rights are respected when it comes to medical research.


“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is an important movie that sheds light on both the scientific breakthroughs made possible by HeLa cells and the ethical questions surrounding their use. Oprah Winfrey’s powerful performance as Deborah Lacks helps bring this story to life, and it serves as a reminder that even groundbreaking medical discoveries can have complicated origins.