In the years that we’ve been SDN, Harry Shum Jr. has managed to elude us, that is, until The Hunters of Shadow Con 2 in Paris this summer. Needless to say, we were extremely excited to be able to speak to him after everything that we’ve put into this account, the man himself said this has been long overdue. We had burning questions about him, about Magnus especially after the shocking mid-season finale. After grilling us with a few burning questions of his own and carrying out his own interview, we finally got on with ours and here’s what he had to say!
SDN: We just wanted to start with asking you if you were aware of everything that was going on online with the hashtag Save Shadowhunters and if you had a message for the fans to encourage us to keep going with it.
Harry: Yeah it’s amazing to see the support., especially with the news that came out of nowhere. The beauty was seeing what the show meant to them and how it affected them and the beautiful story that came behind it. We have some of the most supportive and resilient fans and we’re so very thankful from the beginning to now. It’s been very humbling to see. We live in a bubble where we’re just shooting the show in Toronto. So it’s really good to see that.
SDN: So let’s start with the first question! One of the biggest surprises in the mid season was obviously Magnus losing his powers. Nobody expected that to happen. And so we’re sure that it won’t be easy for him to adapt to his life without his powers since he’s been living like this for so long. What do you think was the most difficult thing for him to get used to?
Harry: Um.. Cooking breakfast? (laughs) I think those little things. I think travelling from say, Brooklyn to Paris is a luxury. But I think the little things, to have something like coffee right away like with a snap, you know? I think the little things you see on the show to be able to pour himself a Martini and even learn– He knows how to do the most mundane things. But just going from having that luxury of being able to do things with a snap of your finger to going to being like “oh this is going to take 40 minutes of my day to do” it’s a little jarring. But immortality and all that, whether it be a good or bad thing, is something he needs to process and figure out. And also how people see him. Magic was part of his identity and now it’s stripped away. Not to say his personality and the way he is and how caring he is, is a big part of him but also not having magic is also like someone who has a skill whether it be a basketball player and it’s your life, right, and you can’t play basketball anymore so you have to readjust. Not to say that your life is over – but it’s just a lot of readjustment.
SDN: And like you said it’s like losing his eyebrows.
Harry: (laughs) Oh yeah it’s like losing his eyebrows like “oh gosh do I have to paint it on.?.”
SDN: It’s going to be hard and it’s going to be tough on him.
Harry: It’s going to be tough yeah. It’ll definitely be tough. Especially, it’s not even just 20 years – it’s centuries of something he’s been doing and has had so many memories. And the opposite side that we won’t know – until you guys see it – is whether it’s a good thing for him. It’s like maybe it was a burden. Maybe the magic as much as it was great from us, from an outside perspective, I also had a look at, maybe this is a good thing to not have magic and to just be mundane – which the word sounds so bad – but to be normal. Some people just want to be normal and blend in and I wonder if that’s something he wanted to feel for a bit. But we know Magnus, he doesn’t want to be that.
SDN: For sure. So we finally met Asmodeus and he doesn’t play. He’s really into his character. How was it for you to read the script for 310 and learn about Magnus’ childhood and how his father raised him? And now that his father took his magic and immortality, what can you tease about that relationship moving forward in 3B?
Harry: We’re going to see him again. We’re definitely going to see the father-son relationship – or well lack thereof. It’s going to be fun. The writers really explored the relationship and Magnus is going to be haunted, not just by having his power taken away and his identity, but he’s also going to be haunted by memories that we’re going to see unearth or stuff that he’s tried to suppress for so many years really come up to the surface. And Asmodeus is.. We’ll see if he plays a fatherly figure or if he plays someone more of an evil character. Cause we don’t know which way or route he’s going to take and that’s going to be the fun part to see.
SDN: As a dancer, you’ve always put so much thought into Magnus’ movements, particularly when he’s performing his magic. Is his grace and fluidity tied to his magic – do you think him losing it will affect that aspect of your portrayal of him?
Harry: Yeah I think with Magnus he does things that he doesn’t necessarily need to do. You know, like magic you’ve seen other warlocks, and I think that’s what separates from other warlocks other ones, they just push out and things come out but I always feel like he’s a little extra with his movements. But also, I think in order to channel more power to come out of it, it needs to come out from inside. I always bring it back to like qi and you need it conjure it up in order to push it out. So I think the movements are going to change. The way he walks it’s a little shoulder slumps and his steps are a lot slower, he’s not able to be as graceful as he was before. I don’t think he loses it because if he’s able to conjure up magic he’s going to get it back right away, but yeah it’s definitely going to change and I put a lot of thought into making sure that we see that change over time or even immediately when he loses his magic. But you guys haven’t seen it yet so it’s going to be fun.
SDN: We can expect that though so it’s going to be good. Keeping in the dancing Magnus thought, you’ve choreographed countless of things before, including Magnus’ dance moment in season 2. Is there any song you’ve heard and thought “Oh, this is such a Magnus song”, envisioning how he’d move to it?
Harry: Yeah, there’s a few. We also go back to always Big Bang and stuff like that, but I also feel like there’s a side of Magnus to explore that even the more modern music, it’d be interesting to see him dancing to Bruno Mars and obviously Beyonce. I think people would love love to see him dance to Beyonce especially with magic. I just think a dance with Magic would be interesting. There’s opportunities for us to see him do that. But now with no magic, we’re not going to. We’ll have to do the dance without magic. But I would say something with Beyonce for sure just because he had that line in season 1. I think it’d be fun to bring that back.
SDN: So Magnus has lost quite a lot in 3A; his title, the loyalty of the other warlocks and finally his magic and immortality – which were both a huge part of his identity. What kind of reaction to these hardships can we expect from him? Will he focus on getting any of it back or will he decide to let it go?
Harry: I think there’s a side of Magnus that’s bitter too. I think for him the reaction he might have is just bitterness and also passive aggressive like “oh okay, well I lost my magic, that sucks, this is my life now” and maybe also blaming himself. Eventually what’s going to happen is he’s going to start blaming other people. Because eventually, you can only blame yourself so much to the point you also got to think he’s dealt with mental health issues and he still has it. This is going to be a really difficult time for him, and luckily even having support system is important like having Alec, but I also think not having someone to relate to is really difficult. It’s like “well who else has gone through this?” is his feeling no matter how much support you get it whether it be your boyfriend, obviously his parents aren’t around to really give him that support so. I think that’s going to be a difficult part. Seeing him kind of go through that, hopefully not alone, but there is also no one that is able to relate with him. I think he’s an optimist but to the point where, [when] you live that long you’re a pessimist at the same time. I read a quote somewhere [that went] “if you become a pessimist, you’ve basically died” so I think for him, to know that he knows he has to really pull his way out of there and be hopeful to live this new life – because now he gets to be a mortal for once. I think there is a little bit [of] excitement in a way, especially with Alec and he gets to be a mortal with him; they had that conversation that didn’t go too well.
It was such a joy to be able to speak to him and go in depth on his thoughts about the fandom’s efforts and his character. We sincerely hope that this isn’t the last time that we get to sit down and talk to him as we have no doubt the future has plenty of things in store for him and his career and we will be right here chronicling everything for you guys! Thank you, Harry, for spending the time to talk to us!
Oh… it looks like the whole team took part in creating this article!