NOC– It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of Glee alum Harry Shum Jr. here at the NOC. Ever since Mike Chang graduated from McKinley High, he has built quite the career — even though we might be sad that he wasn’t cast as Iron Fist. From starring in Netflix’s Crouching Tiger sequel to headlining YouTube Red’s Single by 30, Shum has gone on to become one of the busiest young Asian American actors in Hollywood. His highest profile role yet has been as Magnus Bane on Shadowhunters, the hit adaptation of The Mortal Instruments book series. The show’s second season winter finale airs tonight at 8pm on FreeForm.
Recently, I had the chance to chat with Harry and talk about what it’s like to represent so many communities — Asian American, LGBTQ, Warlock — on genre television.
KEITH: Thanks for taking some time to talk with us! I’ve been a huge fan of yours for some time. I’ve fancast you in everything, including Iron Fist.
HARRY: Wow. I appreciate that!
I mean, you’re one of the few legit Asian American stars on TV. What’s it like to be such a high-profile representative of the community?
I never look at it as, like, I’m representing a whole community, but at the same time I think it’s great that a community can look at a character like [Magnus Bane] on a TV show and be able to find ways to be proud of it. For me that’s really important.
We focus a lot on genre stuff here at The Nerds of Color. So for a show like Shadowhunters to be so diverse and inclusive is really important. Was that intentional?
It’s more about how do I make this reflect real life? Not just situations and events, but just the human side of what people go through. What I love about the show is that it never mentions “oh, he’s Asian,” not that they don’t want to, but it doesn’t matter. And the fact is the stories behind him can be so rich and different from what we’ve seen before because someone of that background has never been on television. I think it’s a cool part about it, you know?
For sure. I always thought advocating for diversity is as much about creating interesting characters as it is about opportunity for actors.
The fact that the writers can go “oh my god, look at this character we can write about!” We have these stories now. To me that is really exciting. It’s also been exciting to see on the other side of the spectrum of Asian America and the community and the warlock community. It’s really cool for people to find things they can be proud of. Just like, even on your website, you just want good stories and representation. I remember when I was five or six and watching Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies. As much as we want to see people who look like us, it’s important for us to have a diverse slate of films and television shows so that we can have cool stories.
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.
Clary faces a world of trouble in the winter finale of Freeform’s hit original series Shadowhunters, on Monday, March 6th.
Valentine’s plan is in full effect and the Shadowhunters must act fast to save the Downworld in “By the Light of Dawn,” the winter finale of “Shadowhunters,” airing MONDAY, MARCH 6 (8:00 – 9:01 p.m. EST), on Freeform.
The New York Institute is under attack as Valentine’s plan for The Soul Sword is getting dangerously close to coming to fruition. The Shadowhunters must act fast to save their loved ones and the rest of the Downworld.
Meanwhile, some of the Downworlders have their own plan to stop Valentine and their target is Clary.
Home > Television Series > Shadowhunters > Season 2 > Stills > 2×10 – By The Light of Dawn
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…
Clary is sidelined by Iris’ blood oath, while the Downworld begins to fall apart, in “Bound By Blood,” an all-new episode of “Shadowhunters,” airing MONDAY, FEBRUARY 27 (8:00 – 9:00 p.m. EST), on Freeform.
With word getting out that Clary is a key part of Valentine’s plan, the Downworlders are at odds on how to handle the issue. But when Iris activates her blood oath, Clary has more to worry about than hiding from Valentine and the Downworlders.
Meanwhile, Isabelle and Raphael get closer as Alec tries to figure out what’s going on with his sister.
Home > Television Series > Shadowhunters > Season 2 > Stills > 2×09 – Bound By Blood
Max’s Rune Ceremony brings everyone’s fears to the forefront in “Love Is A Devil,” an all-new episode of “Shadowhunters,” airing MONDAY, FEBRUARY 20 (8:00 – 9:00 p.m. EST), on Freeform.
Tasked with arranging his brother Max’s Rune Ceremony, Alec decides this would be the perfect opportunity for his family to get to know Magnus. But with tensions flying among the different Shadowhunters, Max’s big event quickly becomes an evening where they all must face their biggest fears.
Meanwhile, Simon makes a bold move as Isabelle finds an unlikely new ally.
Home > Television Series > Shadowhunters > Season 2 > Stills > 2×08 – Love Is a Devil
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.
Clary and Luke find themselves at odds over Cleo in “How Are Thou Fallen,” an all-new episode of “Shadowhunters,” airing MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13 (8:00 – 9:00 p.m. EST), on Freeform.
Luke’s sister shows up at the Jade Wolf claiming innocence about the recent attack. But with Luke not trusting a word Cleo says, he finds himself at odds with Clary who sees an opportunity to get to Valentine. Yet how far will Clary go to prove she is right about Cleo?
Meanwhile, Simon gets dating advice from a surprising source as Isabelle takes a dangerous path.
Home > Television Series > Shadowhunters > Season 2 > Stills > 2×07 – How Are Thou Fallen