That insight has proved prophetic. Not only does the 13-year-old Roswell resident have a small role in the movie “42” about baseball trailblazer Jackie Robinson’s life, many critics are favorably mentioning his performance and saying the scene is one of the best in the film.
Robinson was the first black player in Major League Baseball. When he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, he broke the color barrier, and at the time many fans weren’t ready to accept that.
“Henry’s character is in the stands with his father at a Cincinnati Reds game and begins yelling racial slurs at Jackie when he sees his father and other fans doing the same,” said his mother, Jennifer Friedman. “It is a powerful scene that demonstrates how hatred and bigotry are learned behaviors.”
When he was filming the scene, Henry said he had to remind himself that he was just acting.
The actor portraying Robinson, Chadwick Boseman, asked his mother if it was hard for her son to yell the racial slurs that were in the script.
“He wanted to meet me so that he could tell me he understood I didn’t mean those terrible words. He was so nice and made me feel a lot better since I was yelling those words at him while he was on the field,” Henry said.
In the scene, Henry’s face shows emotions torn between loving his father and a beginning of an understanding of the racism going on around him. Published reviews mention this pivotal scene and indicate Henry’s performance perfectly captures the moment.
Ben Friedman, father to Henry and his brother Charlie, 10, is a singer/songwriter who plays in a band called Cigar Store Indians. He writes songs for television shows and also writes jingles. Additionally, he is a voice over talent and is currently working on the show Cafe Racer which is on Discovery Velocity.
Jennifer Friedman is a painter whose work can be seen at art festivals and a few metro Atlanta galleries, including Galerie Matilda on Canton Street.
When they received the script for the role and Henry saw that he would be required to make racial slurs, he was nervous about the audition, Jennifer Friedman said.
“Ben and I explained to him what an important movie it was and how his character would help make kids his age understand what Jackie Robinson faced as the first African American baseball player in the major leagues.
“It was very difficult to hear him yell those words while he was auditioning and shooting the scene and I cringed every time he said them.”
A seventh grader at Crabapple Middle School, Henry said he didn’t know very much about Jackie Robinson before the audition.
“I didn’t prepare very much for the role except to rehearse my lines. It was really cool when the director, Brian Helgeland, visited my trailer before I shot my scene and he gave me some pointers on how to play my character. He told me what to expect on the set and explained the context of the scene,” Henry said.
The first time Henry ever performed in public was playing maracas with his dad’s band at age 3.
“He happily played along with the band without any inhibitions or shyness. We could tell he was very comfortable on stage performing in front of a crowd,” his mom said.
He took classes and workshops at Red Door Playhouse in Roswell “and it was obvious that he had a natural talent for acting,” his mother said.