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The Emmy-nominated actress is set to star opposite Oprah Winfrey in the pay cabler’s upcoming film The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.
Based on Rebecca Skloot’s nonfiction best-seller of the same name, the biopic tells the story of Henrietta Lacks (Winfrey), 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.
Byrne will play Skloot, who as a young journalist formed a close bond with Henrietta’s charismatic yet complicated daughter Deborah as part of her effort to tell the story of Henrietta and her “immortal” cells, which resulted in her best-selling book.
Winfrey will exec-produce with Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood), 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.
Since her five-season stint on Damages, the in-demand Byrne has mainly appeared on the big screen, starring in comedies such as Neighbors and Spy, as well as blockbusters like X-Men: Apocalypse.
The news comes a day after HBO netted 94 Emmy nominations, including multiple nominations for HBO Films’ Confirmation and All the Way.