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TELEVISION Harry Shum Jr. talks motivation, 'Shadowhunters'
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-06-13

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On the Freeform ( formerly ABC Family ) show Shadowhunters—loosely based on Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments—the title beings protect regular humans from demons ( also called "Downworlders" ).

Glee alum Harry Shum Jr. plays Magnus Bane, a centuries-old bisexual warlock who is currently in a relationship with Alec, a fighter played by Matthew Daddario. Shum talked about the show, the couple Malec ( Magnus and Alec ) and a recent suspenseful episode where he switched bodies with another character.

Windy City Times: For those readers who may not be familiar with Shadowhunters, could you briefly summarize what the show's about?

Harry Shum Jr.: Yes. Shadowhunters starts off with an 18-year-old girl who gets thrown into the shadow world, where she realizes she's a shadowhunter—who has half angelic blood and half human. Basically, they protect humans from demons who come into our world. You meet vampires, warlocks and other [beings].

WCT: You play Magnus, who I believe is a 400-year-old warlock.

HSJ: Yes. He's plus or minus 400 years old, depending on his mood.

WCT: He doesn't look a day over 275.

HSJ: [Laughs] I know, right? Funny.

WCT: With this [June 12] episode—fittingly entitled "You Are Not Your Own"—you got to swap bodies with another character, which stretches your acting muscles, correct?

HSJ: Right. When you find out you're playing another character who's trying to be your character but doesn't know much about him, that's when you can have fun and you can sink your teeth into it.

WCT: At one point during the episode, you try to convince Alec that you are the other person.

HSJ: Yes—and that moment would be expected, right? They're seeing each other and, at a certain point, Alec would check on his boyfriend—especially since the last time they talked, things were a little off. There's a little danger and a little humor.

WCT: I also understand there's dancing involved this season.

HSJ: You will see Magnus dance in some capacity—and I don't want to reveal why or where. What I will say is that there's some reminiscing involved.

WCT: So you and Alec are basically the [same-sex] Brangelina of Shadowhunters? Where would you like to see that relationship go?

HSJ: [Laughs] I've never heard that. For me, it's about what interesting experiences can they share that make it different, make it new. Obviously, there will be twists and turns, but it's always defined in some way as a balance. Magnus is a warlock, and he does what he needs to do to protect his people—including providing that protection service for a fee and helping shadowhunters end this war. But I'd like for them to have adventures that allow them to grow.

WCT: You play a bisexual warlock here, you have been on Glee and, in the movie White Frog, you played a gay character. Does part of your motivation for roles involve representing the underrepresented?

HSJ: You know, I don't necessarily [think], "OK—I'll go for the underrepresented." But I guess I do gravitate toward that because I grew up that way, right? I was underrepresented—even in my household—so I root for the underdog. It's about getting the respect for being different; it's something I relate to. At the end of the day, it's about having the characters be understood.

Shadowhunters is on Monday nights on Freeform.


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