Born in Costa Rica to parents of Chinese descent, Harry Shum Jr.’s upbringing is as versatile as the roles he plays on screen. At age 34, the budding professional has already made an impressive mark in the industry starting out as the renowned silhouetted dancer on iPod commercials to martial arts fighting in Netflix’s remake of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword Of Destiny.
Now the actor, widely known as Mike Chang on Fox’s Glee, is using his dancing prowess in a different manner: as the unique Magnus Bane on Freeform’s Shadowhunters. AsAmNews had the chance to phone chat with Harry in between his shooting schedule to further discuss his role on the supernatural series and the positive change he is witnessing within Hollywood and its audiences.
“What I’ve noticed is their appreciation for backstory,” Harry commented when asked about fan reaction to his season two character development.
“It’s cool to see the fans talk about how relatable [Magnus] is. He’s a half demon, half human, but in a lot of ways we all have our own demons as much as we have human qualities. The parallels are really interesting.”
While Magnus – the flamboyant warlock from Brooklyn – uses magic and movement to fight off evil in the supernatural dimension, the major attraction of his character is his bisexual orientation.
“The LGBTQ community is usually looked at in one way,” Harry explained. “But with Magnus, it’s cool to see a character whose sexuality is separate and doesn’t define what he can and can’t do.”
While progress on screen has certainly been the forefront of multiple conversations, for Harry, the fan reaction to his television character was one way of viewing this progress.
“It’s nice to see on Twitter that our audience, who range from 13 to 35 and beyond, are watching the show with their parents. They are rooting for a relationship that is not seen as much on television and for characters that look different. I think that is really cool, and I see that as progress.
“The idea is to keep pushing outside of the bubble and see different perspectives,” Harry continued.
“I do see people trying to figure out how to understand and also people who completely don’t understand. My job is to hopefully portray these characters as real as possible – whether in a sci-fi genre or not. And tell a good story where people are affected.”
While Harry has hit a high in his career, he didn’t always face success so easily, having to overcome battles and doubts throughout his acting path. Until today, his most rewarding moment is making his parents proud of his accomplishments. It’s safe to say that his journey is inspiring to many children who are pursuing the entertainment industry, especially of Asian American background.
When asked what words of encouragement he could offer, Harry stressed the importance of hard work.
“It’s said over and over, but for me, it’s hard work. Do your research. Look at the span of art out there – whether it’s acting, singing, or dancing. And try to figure out if this is really good work and how can I get to that place of doing good work. If it’s not, go back to the drawing board, then work a little harder.”
Catch Harry Shum Jr. as Magnus Bane on Shadowhunters’ mid-season finale, March 6 at 8/7 p.m. central.
Now that Malec have taken a big step in their relationship (yes, they slept together) on Shadowhunters, Magnus (Harry Shum Jr) and Alec (Matthew Daddario) have bigger things to worry about moving forward. Besides continuing the fight with the Shadowhunters against Valentine (Alan van Sprang) and saving the Downworlders, Magnus also is frantically wanting to find his spell book, which was taken from him in last week’s episode and could cause a lot of trouble if it lands in the wrong hands.
TV Insider talked to Shum about just how dangerous it is for Magnus to be missing his book as well as when we might see more romantic moments with Alec.
How dire is it going to get now that Magnus has lost his book of spells?
It’s a really, really bad thing. Counter spells can reverse everything! All the good that has been done, all the warlock policies, all the magic that has been done, at least with the help of the Downworlders, and even on the outside aspect of the Shadowhunters. I think it’s really, really bad. It’s very, very bad.
Is it going to be awhile before they find it or does it get picked back up in the next episode?
You would love to hear that answer, wouldn’t you? [laughs] The thing is Valentine is always two steps ahead so whatever everyone else is thinking, he’s always finding ways to get ahead, especially with the Soul Sword and having this mortal instrument that would destroy so many Downworlders, if not all of them. That’s something that obviously is in dire need of Magnus and now the Downworlders to try and stop. I think, for the Shadowhunters, it would be a smart thing to not let a border or wall in between the Shadowhunters and Downworlders because as you saw in last week’s episode, when they work together, they also have the strength of what Downworlders can bring.
NBC News – His character on “Glee” has been referred to as “the other Asian” in more than one episode and given minimal screen time throughout the show, but Harry Shum Jr.’s life couldn’t be more of a contrast.
Since his breakout role as the quiet, but eager, dancer Mike Chang on “Glee,” which ended in 2015, Shum has appeared in YouTube videos (most recently in the YouTube Red series “Single by 30” from Wong Fu Productions), films (such as Netflix’s original feature “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny”), and earned a main role in the Freeform show “Shadowhunters.”
Born in Costa Rica to a mother from Hong Kong and a father from Guangzhou, China, and raised in the small town of Arroyo Grande, California, Shum discovered his passion for dancing in high school when he joined the dance team on a dare. He began his professional career as a backup dancer on tours for major stars including Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Mariah Carey, and eventually went on to appear in popular dance movies like “Stomp the Yard” and the “Step Up” franchise before taking on more acting roles.
Shum spoke with NBC Asian America about growing up in Costa Rica, advocating for the arts in schools, and the importance of representation in Hollywood — not just in acting, but also in the writers’ room and director’s chair.
If you had to drop everything right now to be a backup dancer again, which celebrity would you want to accompany on tour?
Aerosmith. I’ve toured with a lot of major pop stars, so I think it’d be interesting to see up-close what the rockers do. I would love to just jam to their music on stage and find interesting, new ways to dance to it.
How has your multicultural upbringing affected your life and identity today?
To be honest, it’s only just now that I’ve started to understand how beneficial it was to grow up in a household of mixed cultural identities.
I think learning about the beauty of cultures at young age has allowed me to find the beauty of cultures I don’t know about now. And as an actor, my background has helped me to be able to easily adopt different perspectives, so I’m always silently thanking my parents for randomly moving to Costa Rica.
I’m still very much tied to that country — I was married there, I still cook Latin Chinese fusion, and I love their attitude towards life. The term “pura vida” is used a lot there, which translates to “pure life,” and that’s as good as it gets.
Magnus Bane is an incredibly complex character, but what about the actor behind the scenes? Watch the video below to find out his favorite book, his most embarrassing moment, and the one thing he would wish for if he could have anything in the world…
Harry made an appearance on the show “Good Day L.A.” to talk about his work on ‘Shadowhunters’, Dancing, and some more. Watch now:
OUT – In fantasy drama Shadowhunters, warlock Magnus Bane and half-angel warrior Alec faced their toughest opponent yet—a first date.
The Freeform show, adapted from the popular book series by Cassandra Clare, features a rich supernatural world of magic, shapeshifters, and an apocalyptic struggle pitting good and evil—and even families—against each other.
But series fans live for the relationships between characters, none more so than Magnus (Harry Shum Jr.) and Alec (Matthew Daddario), or “Malec,” as the shippers call them. While the two men ended season one with an explosive kiss, season two hasn’t given much time to developing the relationship. Until now.
Last week, the pair finally went on a long-promised first date that was sweet, awkward, and totally relatable—if you’ve lived a few centuries and dated a couple thousand people, that is.
We talked to both actors ahead of Monday’s episode, which promises more Malec moments. Also, catch a glimpse of the two cozying up in exclusive photos for Out.
Out: How has your character evolved from season one to season two?
Harry Shum Jr.: For Magnus, we’ve only seen a little portion of his life on screen. Here’s a guy who’s lived for centuries, who has been through so much, but you only get to see like a speck of what he goes through. Really, he thought he wasn’t going to have any new experiences. But when Alec starts to come into his life, he has hope for love again.
Matthew Daddario: In the first season, Alec was this really closed-off young man. He was too tough for his own good; he tried to hide from who he is. He focused on helping others to help himself not think about himself. Now, he’s being forced to acknowledge he can’t continue being this way, and he’s becoming a more open, emotionally available person.
Recently, ComicBook.com had a chance to speak with Harry Shum Jr. about his work on Shadowhunters as Magnus Bane. The eccentric, sagely warlock is an absolute favorite amongst fans. Shum brought tons of fans to his team last year given his LGBTQ-friendly approach to Bane’s relationship with Alec Lightwood. Now, fans can look forward to the pair’s affair next season as Shum says plenty of exploration will go down.
“I’m really thankful that the fans,” Shum said. “What’s been really fun for season two for me is how the writers…have been able to look deeper into his past and find out why he is the way he is and also what fears that he really has, and what caused those fears.”
“That’s gonna be really fun to explore because that also plays into relationships and the relationship with Alec and the way he talks to younger Downworlders and being a mentor and kind of like a father figure the father figure he didn’t really have, so we get to see lot of that exploration.”
Shum then turned his attention to Magnus’ relationship with Alec saying, “As far as Malec, I think it’s incredible that we get to have a strong LGBTQ relationship. We want to make sure that it’s this grounded and everything that they do is completely earned. We fight hard and try as hard as we can to service this relationship in the best way possible to the audiences that I know it means so much to. It’s incredibly important to us and the writers and everyone that’s part of the show.”
If you are not familiar with Magnus and his complex past, then you should know the character is the High Warlock of Brooklyn in The Mortal Instruments universe. The character is hundreds of years old, and Magnus has had a slew of relationships during his long life. However, none of his trysts have been as involved as the one Magnus has with Alec. The warlock’s boyfriend is one of the story’s primary Shadowhunters who help defends the human realm from dangerous Downworlders who’d love nothing more than to kill them. In the novels, Magnus’ relationship is a defining storyline for both Alec and him, so fans are interested to see how Shadowhunters will continue to flesh out the romance.
Shadowhunters Season 2 is set to air on January 2, 2017 on Freeform.
COMICBOOK – It’s no secret: plenty of Hollywood’s top talent wants to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The blockbusting franchise kicked off back in 2008 with Robert Downey Jr. suiting up as Iron Man, and the MCU has only continued to grow. In the past years, Marvel Studios has brought their expansive universe to television as well thanks to shows like Agents of SHIELD and Netflix’s Daredevil.
(…) During the interview, another star from Shadowhunters also signaled their interest in the superhero genre. Harry Shum Jr. said the genre has become increasingly complex over the years and that he’d like to tackle any role that came across him.
“You know the thing that fascinates me about comic books? Even when I was a kid, I don’t think it really fully materialized with me until I got older and understood the social commentary of how we can explore these things using superhuman powers that we all kind of have; It’s just kind of extended and pushed upon to supernatural abilities,” Shum explained.
“For me that’s what’s so fun to see in some of these movies that are coming out… They’re really just talking about these social injustices and issues that was started in the comic books… For me, that’s a big thumbs up and hell yes.”
Shadowhunters Season 2 is set to air on January 2, 2017 on Freeform.
Shadowhunters cast (Harry Shum Jr, Isaiah Mustafa, Dominic Sherwood and Katherine McNamara) stopped by Shine On Media during the press day for the second season of the show and answered questions fans sent via Twitter. You can see our question being answered at 0:32. Watch below:
PS: Special thanks to our lovely Harry and Isaiah for this awesome shout-out to us! We feel really grateful for this.