'Shadowhunters:' Fan-favourite warlock Harry Shum Jr.'s crazy Hollywood journey began with a high school dare
Harry's character, Magnus, is over four centuries old. But all that, his striking amber eyes and the fact that he's part demon, isn't what sets him, or Harry, apart
The name Harry Shum Jr. might remind almost everybody of something akin to the term 'steamy Malec romance', but that's not all about the 'Shadowhunters' actor. The Freeform's fantasy show has acquired one of the strongest fandoms all in just three years of its running. And while the show was abruptly canceled after three very successful seasons, those very fans are now fighting and campaigning to help their favorite show find a new home before its series finale, that is set to arrive in January 2019. For those wondering what exactly fans are so passionate about, the answer comes in the form of the unique, yet diversified cast of the show — of which Harry is a massive part.
Harry's character, Magnus, is the High Warlock of Brooklyn and over four centuries old. But all of that, and his striking amber eyes, along with the fact that he's part demon, isn't what sets him apart.
Magnus is also an Asian man of the LGBTQ community, and as fans would have us believe, it is the inclusion of racially and sexually diverse characters like him, that has helped the show gain such massive levels of popularity, because people from every corner and community of the world have found a representative in the cast of the show.
Yet, all of that aside, there is also Harry's personal expertise that he infuses with the character description that has elevated the role to such great critical acclaim. And once you know all of this, it becomes almost hard to believe that this very man — with all the talent he packs in that extremely attractive frame — was one of the background characters in some of the highest budget projects in the entertainment industry. For those having a hard time registering — think of a certain Mike Chang from 'Glee'!
Born in San Jone, Costa Rica, Harry and his family moved to San Francisco, California, when he was just six. "I feel I have the best of so many worlds," he had shared with Asiance, about his upbringing, which he deems allowed him the chance to be multilingual. "I speak Cantonese and Spanish. Spanish is actually my first language before I learned Cantonese and English." And you could say that fitting a certain racial profile could have thus led him to have been typecast, but that's not the case.
Harry's initiation into entertainment happened all the way back in high school when he was simply dared to join the school's dance team by a friend. Something in his gut told him to indulge and this sparked his passion for the art form.
Soon, he dropped university to pursue a career in the field, and that brings back memories of his role of Mike from the young-adult comedy 'Glee'. But while he played the role for eight long years, for the most part of the first season, he was known as 'the other Asian guy'.
In the second season, he elevated to some lines and performances, and also a character with a romantic plotline, and it was only in the third season of the show that he was made a series regular. Yet suddenly, post the third season, it was announced that he was a recurring guest star on the show, and while that agitated fans a bit, it wasn't all bad news.
You see, while all this time Harry was being looked at as an actor, he had also established himself as a dancer on the show — which eventually led him to his big Hollywood break with the extremely popular 'Step Up' franchise.
In 2010, he appeared in 'Step Up 3-D' as Cable — a character that was mostly on the sidelines for the preceding movie, 'Step Up: The Streets'. Once again, while he made a mark as a firmly grounded actor, his forte in dancing wasn't lost on people. Soon after, he was both choreographing and acting in action short films, and even nabbed a role in 'Mortal Kombat: Legacy'. What's better? In 2014, he even went on to star in a major role in the crime drama film 'Revenge of the Green Dragons', which was executive produced by Martin Scorsese himself.
But none of that could compare to the popularity and recognition he was yet to garner from his portrayal of the infamously beloved Magnus Bane. In 2016, Harry — who had been dubbed mostly as the Asian dude from other multicast projects — scored a lead role in the Freeform series based on Cassandra Clare's bestselling young adult novel 'The Mortal Instruments'. His portrayal of a bisexual man of color earned him massive critical acclaim, and also helped 'Shadowhunters' win the 2017 GLAAD media award for an 'Outstanding Drama Series'.
The on-screen romance between Magnus and Alec (Matthew Daddario) appealed to most and was adored by many more, thus helping Harry to also bag the Bisexual Representation Award (BiRA) for 'Best Bisexual Representation of a Supporting Character' in both 2017 and 2018, and finally letting him take home 'The Male TV Star of 2018' in the E! People's Choice Awards for his portrayal of Magnus in 'Shadowhunters'.
The accolades didn't stop at that. In 2018, Harry played Charlie Wu in Jon M. Chu's 'Crazy Rich Asians' and is also expected to star in the sequel to that, where he will have a significant romance to play out too.
And speaking of romances, while Harry was busy bagging roles in some of the most popular films and choreographing projects all over, he also charmed his way into the heart of Filipino-American dancer Shelby Rabara. The two dated for six long years before getting engaged in 2013 and tying the knot two years later in 2015. As of now, they are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their baby girl!
So by the looks of it, everything worked out perfectly with the 'other Asian' from 'Glee'. Having pretty much revolutionized the way characters of the LGBTQ community are portrayed on screen, it's no wonder that Harry holds such a dear corner in the hearts of so many. Teens Choice Awards, SAG Awards, People's Choice Awards — name it and he has everything, and his journey just truly goes on to prove that there is no typecasting talent.