The fascinating story of Henrietta Lacks‘ life and legacy is less than a month away from making its small-screen debut.
Ahead of the HBO biopic’s premiere, PEOPLE can exclusively reveal a First Look at the powerful character posters for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, an adaption of Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 critically acclaimed book of the same name.
The film tells the true story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cervical cancer cells were used without her consent to create the first immortal human cell line, HeLa, in 1951.
Oprah Winfrey plays protagonist Deborah Lacks, Henrietta’s daughter. (Winfrey, 63, has long been involved with the project and signed on as an executive producer when the book’s film rights were first acquired in 2010.)
Tony Award-winning Hamilton star Renée Elise Goldsberry will play Henrietta, though only in flashbacks — the story is told through Deborah’s eyes. It chronicles her search alongside journalist Skloot (Rose Byrne) to learn about the mother she never knew, exploring how the unlicensed harvesting of Henrietta’s cells led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs and changed medicine forever.
The biopic also stars Courtney B. Vance, who plays Sir Lord Keenan Kester Cofield, a slick Southern con artist who tries to insert himself into the Lacks’ legal matters.
Reg E. Cathey plays Zakariyya, Henrietta’s youngest son and Deborah’s brother. (In addition to Zakariyya, Henrietta’s son David Lacks, Jr. and granddaughter Jeri Lacks served as consultants on the HBO project.)
“The book connects the epic with the intimate, and that’s the movie’s ambition,” George C. Wolfe, who adapted and directed the movie, told Entertainment Weekly in December.
“This woman’s cells helped heal the planet, yet her children were suffering,” he continued. “They didn’t know their mother’s story, even though they were living in the shadows of Johns Hopkins. I found that dichotomy incredibly moving.”
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks premieres April 22 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.