Henry Green was asked what it felt like getting shot. He echoed the question, then quickly answered. “It feels,” he said, “like God punching you in the stomach.”
Green has been asked about that shooting many times before. Now he will revisit it in an independent film, produced by a New Haven-based indie director, that begins shooting later this year. Tentative title:I Am Shakespeare: The Henry Green Story
“I had an opportunity to look the kid right in the eyes before he shot me,” Green recalled about the day he had a 9 millimeter gun barrel pointed at him. At the time he was a charismatic actor just out of a New Haven high school. “I didn’t see a perpetrator. I didn’t see a criminal. I didn’t see a juvenile delinquent. I saw a lost kid—and I was a lost kid.”
The empathy that Green feels today for the young man who shot him in cold blood five years ago during an attempted robbery and left him to die on a slab of Newhallville concrete, is part of a remarkable story of physical and psychological transformation. He battled demons of anger, resentment and post-traumatic stress, after defying the prognosis of doctors who originally said he would not live beyond two days.
The bullet had grazed Green’s femoral artery requiring bypass surgery, 42 units of blood—more than enough to replenish his entire blood supply three times over. He had flat-lined three times and subsequently lay in a coma for two months. In 2012, Green received a rare intestinal transplant, part of the long road to recovery.
Green, 23, and a graduate of Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, recalled that his recovery was “nothing short of a miracle.” Also miraculous is Green’s capacity to find bits of humor in his experience, particularly in the moments after the shooting.
“I remember thinking, ‘It’s Friday. I was going to have a great weekend. I had to get shot on a Friday?’” Green said he called the ambulance himself: “No one in Newhallville calls the ambulance. No one was going to call the police.”
As he lay waiting for the ambulance, Green also had time to think serious thoughts: “I wondered how many other teenagers bled on this spot, on this street, on Shelton Avenue.”
To those who have seen him performing on stage in New Haven-area musicals, or masterfully performing a dual role in a French farce or in plays by William Shakespeare, Green is anything but a lost kid. He is strong, talented and handsome with a radiant smile. His trajectory to stardom was not a question of how, but how soon.
Independent filmmaker Stephen Dest, who recently directed the award-winning My Brother Jack in New Haven, was one of Green’s early mentors, directing Green on stage in the years before the shooting. A former New Haven public school teacher, Dest said he worked with many talented students who, like Green, “had to deal with unbelievably difficult domestic and neighborhood challenges.” By age age 10, Green had witnessed a drive-by shooting just outside his home at Quinnipiac Terrace that left a man dead and the street sprayed with bullets.
Green takes pride in the degree to which he successfully navigated challenging onstage roles, as in the Dest production of Romeo and Juliet, while also navigating and embracing the rough-and-tumble straits of street life in “The Ville.” “I was the only dude I knew of that could chill with a group of the hardest gangbangers, and then go do a musical, and still get respect for it,” he said.
Green acknowledged that many of the skills he learned for the stage also proved an asset on the street: “I learned really early on, really young, that the most powerful thing you can do is to capture the attention of the mob, capture the attention of a group of people.” Through his acting, Green learned to read body language and subtle cues and how to control responses in his friends just as he commanded audience response from the stage.
Early on, Dest recognized Green’s potential both as an actor and as a person. Dest recently reunited with Green to bring his compelling story to the big screen in what will be Dest’s second, full-length feature film made in New Haven. I Am Shakespeare: The Henry Green Story will begin shooting later this year in New Haven, according to Dest.
Dest said he sees a “life-imitating-art” quality to the Green story, especially where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and its issues of class, are concerned.
At first approach, Green was reticent about signing on to the project. His life had finally begun to settle down. He soon concluded that the story could help others who may share some of the predicaments he has experienced. Green said he carries some guilt because of the chances he has had, first in being blessed with the talent to act, but still “taking a wrong turn,” and then in surviving the shooting against all odds-a second chance that many of his friends and acquaintances did not get.
Currently enrolled in an online college program, Green said he has developed a passion for speaking to kids. He has shared his story with young people in New Haven public schools to help them understand the root causes of violence and how they can avoid many of his mistakes. Using music, spoken word, and short sketches, Green, his brother Solomon and several friends deliver a program that resonates with young people, many of whom have experienced violence on city streets.
“We are trying to reach those who are stuck in this life and cannot see a vision for themselves, and also those who cannot see a vision for them” said Green.
Dest said that one of his biggest challenges as a director, may be to simply not get in the way of this very true story.
To follow the film’s progress, visit and “like” the “I am Shakespeare” page on Facebook. Click here to see a photo-shoot of Dest and Green during a work session at NH Free Public Library, by I Love New Haven’s Chris Randall, on Facebook.