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
Daydream confirmed today (February 28th) on their official Twitter page that Harry Shum Jr. will be joining his Shadowhunters‘ castmates Matthew Daddario and Alberto Rosende at Daydream Con Shadow Edition in São Paulo, Brazil on May 27 & 28, 2017.
He will be there for Q&A panels, autograph sessions, meet & greets, and photo ops with the fans. It’s an amazing opportunity to meet him. You can miss it!
For the Brazilian fans, click on (…more) for all the info in Portuguese.
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: