Even since before they were cast as Magnus and Alec, Harry Shum Jr. and Matthew Daddario have been embracing of their queer fans and shown their support for the LBGTQ+ community. This is no doubt one of the main reasons why their depiction of Malec resonates so much with fans – the effort and care they put into their characters and their relationship transcends the screen. Join us as we take a look at just some of the reasons why Matt and Harry are the allies we want in our corner.
They are both incredibly open towards the LGBTQ+ community
Matt and Harry may have gotten a lot of attention from the queer community since news broke that they got cast as Alec and Magnus, but that was by far not the start of their supportive behavior towards LGBTQ+ related matters. They have both played LGBTQ+ characters in the past – Matt in the 2013 movie Delivery Man and Harry in White Frog from 2012. Before that, Harry was on Glee. While his character Mike Chang was not stated to be queer, the show itself had a significant impact on the LGBTQ+ community and paved the way for other LGBTQ+ inclusive shows.
In our exclusive interview, Jim Halterman from TV Guide Magazine distinctly remembers Harry already being open towards the community back when he was still working on the show: “When I heard that Harry got cast, I knew he would be really cool to talk about this.” The same thing goes for Matthew Daddario, as Jim Halterman went on saying he’d felt like Harry and Matt “really have embraced these characters, and have embraced everything about them, and you see that in every interview. It’s really nice to see, they’re not afraid to talk about it.”
They strive to make Magnus and Alec’s relationship honest and real
One of the main reasons why Shadowhunters and the relationship between Magnus and Alec have become so popular with fans and media alike is how real Magnus and Alec’s connection feels. At the heart of it all, they are two men in love, not a Shadowhunter and a Downworlder or a part angel and half demon – and Matt and Harry bring that out beautifully. Neither Matt or Harry nor the show’s creators and producers have ever wanted to portray Magnus and Alec’s connection merely for the sake of it. They’ve always been adamant about creating something that’s real and heartfelt. Promoting the show’s second season at AOL Build in January 2017, Matt said: “The key for me – being authentic is really, really important. And I don’t want there to be a situation we arrive at where you are taking advantage of a community or trying to just sort of portray something so that people will be like ‘Oh here, look what we’re doing, we’re being progressive’ or something like that.” He continued, saying “We want to actually do something that […] is meaningful and is in fact impactful, and is honest.”
Matt and Harry’s dedication to Magnus and Alec as individuals and as a pairing has been present ever since day one. Talking to Empire about how the relationship between Magnus and Alec is one of the cornerstones of the show, Harry said: “The show is all about the relationships; that’s what really holds it all together. (…) People just want to connect and see two people connect at the same time.” Moving the discussion forward, Matt went on: “We took a lot of time to work on scenes with Magnus and Alec; we spent a lot of time reviewing those and trying to make sure they’re being honest and we’re not shoving something forward. There’s no scene with the stereotypical, ‘Look at this!’ It’s handled really subtly and that’s kind of nice, especially for this kind of relationship.”
This was also discussed when the cast went to Brazil to promote the show. In a group interview, Matt talked about how some of the nicest things he sees on social media are about how Magnus and Alec’s relationship has helped fans. Touching on the amount of time and earnest work he and Harry put into the portrayal of the relationship, he talked about how much they don’t want to do anything wrong, and said “I hope that it will continue to be something they can look forward to, something that is meaningful to them. I think we did a good job.”
Furthermore, Matt and Harry talked about this at their very first GLAAD Awards in 2016 shortly after “Malec” aired. Speaking to Jim Halterman, Matt said: “You know what’s really great is, a lot of people who I’ve seen respond [to Malec] are not so excited about the fact that it’s a gay relationship, they just really like the relationship, which I think really shows something. There’s something really meaningful there.” Harry agreed, continuing: “You want to broaden– you don’t want to stereotype roles that you see on television and film so I think it’s great that people are accepting. You know what’s really cool that I did see with a lot of the kid fans, or teen fans I would say, they watch it with their parents. And to see them kind of get into the relationships and the different dynamics, I think that’s huge growth. It’s so cool to see it make a family show in a weird way.”
A year later, on the red carpet of the 2017 GLAAD Awards, Matt talked about this once more. Speaking about why Alec’s character matters and if he feels a sense of responsibility in portraying him truthfully, he said: “Yes, tremendous sense of responsibility. Because we spent a lot of time, Harry and I, working on it to make sure that we weren’t doing anything that was maybe false. We didn’t want to do false. That was very, very important. Honesty in the character and believability, truth to the character and something that people can relate to and look at and say ‘Oh, maybe that’s me’ even though we are a Warlock and a Shadowhunter. I mean, very you know… unreal creatures, but very real, real people. Honest people.”
They are rooting for the underdogs and recognize the importance of proper representation
From an outsider’s point of view, Magnus and Alec really make an unusual couple: a centuries old, bisexual Warlock that has seen (and lived through) it all, and a young gay soldier descended from a long line of angel-blooded demon hunters. As Harry said during their acceptance speech at the GLAAD Awards back in April 2017, it’s highly unlikely that this combination has ever existed on TV before. This was one of the traits that made Magnus so interesting to him – that he represents something unusual, something that people are not used to, since there’s so few characters like Magnus on TV. In an interview with Windy City Times he stated that: “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.”
According to a 2017 papermag.com article, the entire concept of Shadowhunters seems to be built around that idea. Prior to starting filming season 1, the showrunners submitted their ideas for plotlines and characters to GLAAD, in order to find out whether the LGBTQ+ characters, especially Magnus as a bisexual character, would be portrayed appropriately. Representing the community with care and respect is also something that is of the utmost importance to Matthew Daddario. Talking to Jim Halterman, he said that “it’s definitely important to us that kids, people, look at us [and] these characters and it affects them in a positive way. The worst thing in the world would be if what comes out of this is like ‘Wow, that’s just not real’ […]. I mean, that would be borderline devastating.”
Although representation of queer characters on TV has long stretched beyond the occasional gay best friend, there is still a lot of work to do. Especially when it comes to bisexual men on mainstream TV, who are still severely underrepresented, as GLAAD’s “Where we are on TV” report states. Therefore, it’s even more refreshing that Harry not only portrays Magnus so well, but also makes sure that people don’t get Magnus’ sexuality wrong – we will never forget the time when he corrected an interviewer who mistook Magnus for a gay character.
But at the same time, both Magnus and Alec are so much more than just their respective sexualities, which is something that Matthew values a lot about the show, as he mentioned in an interview with newnownext.com: “One thing I really like about it is that Alec is not being defined purely as ‘You know, this is the gay character’. Alec is also many things, and Magnus is many things, and their relationship is just sort of celebrated as a relationship of love.”
When it comes to supporting the queer community, they are much more than just all talk
While portraying Magnus and Alec is Harry and Matthew’s job, they have both taken the responsibility of depicting them to heart and are passionate about creating a lasting impact. They’ve both been vocal supporters of GLAAD in the past. At the GLAAD Awards last year, they donned the light blue & GLAAD pin, which unifies marginalized communities and their allies in the fight for equality. “It’s the unifying aspect of all the marginalized communities, and I think this is a really great and very meaningful idea. It’s really wonderful that everybody looks at it instead of trying to separate and looking at people as different, you say ‘If you’re marginalized, we work together’, and that’s really great,” Matt said when asked about the pin. Harry elaborated on this, saying: “And […] that is powerful, right. I mean all the communities that are going through kind of these issues where they’re underrepresented and not just in TV and film but just in the media alone. I think this is such a powerful thing, so I’m hoping that this really takes off and people are really coming together for this.” Concluding the interview, they both called for mutual understanding and shared knowledge between communities.
Also supporting GLAAD, Matt and Harry have been active participants of the organization’s Spirit Day. Spirit Day is an annual event in which people all around the world wear purple to show their solidarity with LGBTQ+ youth and participate in the organization’s anti-bullying campaign – the largest, most viral one in the world. Matthew and Harry participated in both 2016 and 2017, proudly wearing this beautiful color and standing united with LGBTQ+ youth of all backgrounds. In their videos spreading the message on Shadowhunters’ social platforms, they called on people to #ChooseKindness and reminding queer teenagers that they “should be both proud and confident”.
Encouraging young people is a matter close to both Matthew and Harry’s hearts. Promoting the show at New York Comic Con in 2015, they were asked to give advice to fans in Alec’s situation struggling with their own identity. Matthew’s short but powerful “Your feelings are not wrong” still resonates with us to this day, and Harry’s heartfelt “Be yourself. We’re living in a world where it is a lot more open and people are more open to seeing things that they’re not used to and to me that’s a powerful thing” sums up the message they both try to send to their fans.
In portraying their characters, Matt and Harry are committed to giving a realistic, honest portrayal to the LGBTQ+ community, but also about changing people’s minds on a larger scale. Speaking to The Nerds of Color, Harry touched on this subject: “It’s been incredible to hear how it’s affected a lot of people, whether they’re in the community or not, and I think that says a lot. Obviously, it’s important for the [LGBTQ] community itself, but I think what is more important at the same time is the community outside looking at it like ‘oh, this is so cool!’ I think it’s the whole Ellen effect, right? Most of America loves Ellen, and she’s openly gay and it doesn’t matter. And I think that is so cool and powerful.” Elaborating, Harry went on: “So to have people championing our relationship, to see that they just love these two characters together. They love each other. That’s it! I think it’s really great what the show is doing.”
Returning to this subject, Harry, Matt and Isaiah talked about broadening people’s minds at San Diego Comic Con last year. “There’s always a struggle of like, do you want to just completely… like, do you completely normalize it in the world, do you make it so there is no conflict about it whatsoever? The conflict of [Magnus and Alec’s] relationship stems as much from the difference of their worlds, because of their cultural backgrounds in this case, their social places (…) There’s a lot of elements at play.” Continuing Matt’s line of thought, Harry explained: “I think what’s nice is, outside of people in the community is the people outside of that community just [thinking] ‘I like this relationship’. To me, that is a big step forward because it’s a big step forward for representation, but also for people [to go] ‘Oh yeah, I like that’ and to not be a part of that, and I think that’s a huge step as well that we never talk about.”
Recalling a fond memory, Matt also said: “Someone told me recently that they were scared of coming out, but then their mother loved the Malec relationship the most on the show, and that made them feel comfortable doing it. I really like that.” Elaborating, Matt continued: “I don’t know why that strikes a chord with me. There’s something about that, to make it so that it changes people’s minds.” Matt and Harry not only realize the importance of the characters they’re portraying, but they’re determined to be part of a change that is anything but temporary, cementing it for future generations, and years to come.
They put their everything into portraying Magnus and Alec and care about them
Over the past two seasons of Shadowhunters, the storyline of Magnus and Alec made us go through the entire spectrum of human emotions. They made us laugh, cry, be upset and more often than not, left us wanting to either yell at them or give them a big hug (depending on the scene). To a big part, this is thanks to the performances by Matt and Harry. They put an insane amount of work and dedication into making these characters come to life and always keep in mind that there are fans out there who see themselves in these characters or identify with them. Although that can be quite scary at times, as Matt said in an interview with KSiteTV back when they were shooting season 1: “You’re entering into a world of people who identify with these characters and this world and suddenly we’re here to play these characters on screen. So it really is a lot. But we’ve been working extremely hard to make sure that we honor these characters and the fans along the way.”
What’s so great about Harry and Matt besides their acting is that they care so much about how their work resonates with people, especially with young members of the LGBTQ+ community. This is even more remarkable since it doesn’t necessarily have to be their concern. As actors, their work is long done before people even get to see it – so they could just move on to the next episode or project without spending a second thinking of how their work affects people. Luckily, neither of them choose to do that. It seems to be quite the opposite, actually. Neither of them take their roles and the fame that came with it for granted, and they value the fans’ opinions a lot, especially when it comes to matters related to the queer community and queer youth. As Matt once said in an interview with Jim Halterman, they keep track of what people say online about the show and how it resonates with the fandom and value the opinions that come through: “When we see somebody say something like, ‘Malec was extremely important to me and we want to thank you so much for what you’ve done, and for you bringing these characters to life and being honest with these characters,’ that’s tremendously meaningful to us and that drives us in a lot of ways to spend the amount of effort and time that we have on these characters and making it real.” We love that they chose to make that effort and take the extra step, especially since they didn’t have to.
They’re not afraid to bring their everything to their portrayals and still strive for more
Ever since Shadowhunters started, Matt hasn’t made a secret out of his support for Magnus and Alec – captaining the ship long before jumping on it with his infamous pun tweet when episode 1×12, “Malec”, aired. And his co-stars couldn’t agree more. Speaking to fans at the evening party of the “The Hunters of Shadow” convention in June 2017, Jade Hassouné declared Matt and Harry to be the biggest Malec shippers. We’d say we’re surprised, but we were raised not to lie.
At the same party, Jade also talked about Magnus and Alec’s intimate scenes in 2×18, “Awake, Arise, or Be Forever Fallen”. With other actors, there’s sometimes a clear difference between when they portray straight and queer relationships. With Matt and Harry, though, that difference is nonexistent. They know how much it means to fans to see characters on screen that they can identify with. Knowing this, they don’t shy away from intimate Malec scenes, rather portraying them with the same dedication they would any other scene, pouring themselves into them. The importance of 2×18 was not lost on them, and together with director Amanda M. Row, they created magic, paying attention to every movement and uttered word. Speaking to fans about this, Jade said Matt and Harry wanted to show even more than 2×18 covered, reminding us once again just what an amazing job the casting directors did when they found these two.
When we were lucky enough to get to interview Joshua Butler, the director of the Season 2 winter finale and he touched on Matt and Harry’s relentless hard work and dedication to their characters as well. “Both Harry and Matt are very sweet and kind people, plus they’re both very serious about their craft. They want to make everything they do the best it can be,” he said. Talking about working with them, he elaborated: “It is a very collaborative process working with Matt and Harry. They have a lot of ideas when we start to rehearse and it is my job to discuss and refine and set a strategy for how we approach their scenes.” Matt and Harry’s commitment to their characters has left a permanent impression on Butler, with him naming them some of the best actors he’s worked with, praising their job in portraying Magnus and Alec: “I’ve been blessed and lucky to work with so many talented actors in my career thus far, and Harry and Matt are two of the best out there. They differentiate themselves by the bravery and boldness of their portrayal of Malec. They really do justice to an epic interracial gay romance that is breaking down barriers in film and television and will – mark my words – be remembered as historic and world-changing.”
And come on… they won an award for it.
Over the past few years, Matt and Harry have proven time and time again what amazing allies for the queer community they are – whether it be by just portraying Magnus and Alec (or other queer characters) or by actually making use of their own popularity to advocate in favor of LGBTQ+ youth.
In April 2017, their support was officially recognized with the GLAAD Media Award for “Outstanding Drama Series”. Okay, that award may have been given to the Shadowhunters cast and crew as a whole; but by playing one of the most popular couples on the show with so much dedication and care, Matt and Harry certainly did their part to make sure that the GLAAD Award went to their own show and not one of the other nominees.
SpoilerTV talked about their win and the following acceptance speech in an article saying that “both seemed exceptionally proud of the work they do and of the relationship between their characters. They each seem genuinely overjoyed at the honor. The show’s dedication to this storyline has been impressive, but the performances delivered by Daddario and Shum are what have made this couple so endearing. It’s their chemistry and heartfelt performances that keep their fans coming back for more.”
We loved seeing their work getting the recognition and attention it deserves – nothing quite says “these actors do amazing work” like pictures of said actors with a shiny award in their hands. The vibrant smiles on their faces expressing their love and endless gratitude for the fans supporting them is a sight we’ll never tire of seeing.
There is no doubt that Shadowhunters’ casting directors – and we – struck gold when they found Matt and Harry. Ever since they started bringing Magnus and Alec to life, they have created pure magic together, and with season 3 almost around the corner we can’t wait to be blessed with more of that in the future.
Oh… it looks like the whole team took part in creating this article!