Oprah Winfrey to Star in HBO Films' 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks'

Oprah Winfrey - H 2015
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey has signed on for a rare leading role.

She will headline HBO Films' forthcoming project The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the pay cabler announced Monday.

Based on Rebecca Skloot's nonfiction best-seller of the same name, the biopic tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. Without her consent, pieces of the tumor that killed her were removed and used for medical exploration and to build a billion-dollar research industry.

The news that Winfrey will headline the film comes six years after she first boarded the project as an executive producer alongside Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood). The two will executive produce with Peter Macdissi (Banshee), Carla Gardini (The Hundred-Foot Journey) and Lydia Dean Pilcher (You Don’t Know Jack). Skloot will co-executive produce the film, which hails from Your Face Goes Here Entertainment, Harpo Films and Cine Mosaic Production.

George C. Wolfe (Lackawanna Blues, Angels in America) wrote the screenplay and will direct the telepic, which begins production this summer.

Additionally, Lacks’ sons, David Lacks, Jr. and Zakariyya Rahman, and granddaughter Jeri Lacks will serve as consultants.

Winfrey's star turn comes ahead of her recurring role on her cable channel OWN's upcoming megachurch drama Greenleaf — her first recurring scripted series role in more than two decades. In addition to her many roles in front of the camera and behind the scenes at OWN, Winfrey has appeared in supporting roles in Selma and Lee Daniels' The Butler. She was nominated for an Oscar for her role in The Color Purple and won an Emmy for her work as an executive producer on the TV film Tuesdays With Morrie.