You must be pitched so many projects. Tell me, what made you choose to sign on to this one?
George C. Wolfe: Well, because one, it’s kind of dumb to use the word “important.” Everybody says everything’s important. But this is the story of a woman who died when she was 31 and her cells have transformed modern medicine. I mean, you start there. Then you move on to her daughter who is ferociously determined to know her story, who does not have one memory of her mother. So it has this incredible emotional angle to it. Then you have just the fact that for 20 years, while this woman’s cells were saving people’s lives, her family knew nothing. So those elements combined make it so, you know, it’s like, do it now! You know what I mean? Don’t sleep. Don’t eat. Do it now!
How did you and Oprah join forces? How did that happen?
George C. Wolfe: Oprah and I have been talking about doing a show on Broadway together. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen. She was attached to this, as a producer, then spoke to me and said, “She might be in it.” Then I talked to her about what I thought it was about. Then she talked to me. And then we ended up working together. It was wonderful.
So you had a power meeting and made it happen?
George C. Wolfe: We had a meeting. I don’t know if it was a “power” meeting! It was a fun conversation just about the material and the story and why it needed to be told.
What about that Broadway play? What’s next?
George C. Wolfe: You need to talk to her! I think we should, exactly. I’m going to do Oprah Winfrey’s story. She’s going to direct me in that. How about that? How about that?
That I would pay a chance to see!
George C. Wolfe: Exactly. Exactly.
So what would be your message to viewers? What do you want viewers to walk away from this film thinking? Or is there an action item to it?
George C. Wolfe: I think you need to be- at the end of the film, there’s a statement that says, “They can use your cells, as long as they keep you anonymous.” To this day. So that’s one thing. Be aware. Everything’s about awareness. And also to know it is very important, be like Deborah. Don’t give up until you know your story. Know your story as deeply and as fully as you possibly can. Because it empowers you.
And the last thing. Oprah did a phenomenal job as Deborah. How would you rate her as an actress?
George C. Wolfe: She’s an extraordinary actress and she needs to do more, and more, and more, and more.
George C. Wolfe: With me and with everybody. I think she’s brilliant. I think she’s astonishingly brilliant.
Love it. Thank you so much.