Harry Shum: "I Usually Don't Just Lift Up My Shirt "

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The most surprising thing about meeting Glee's Harry Shum is how soft-spoken and well, small isn't the right word exactly, as he's actually taller than co-star Darren Criss. But Shum doesn't seem to take up much space, and while some of that certainly has to do with his slender frame, it's more about the fact that he doesn't suck up all the oxygen when he enters a room the way some celebrities do. Indeed, unlike some actors, Shum isn't boastful or egocentric, and he certainly didn't seem to be trying to attract attention to himself on the crowded walkway at Gladstones in Malibu, which on an August evening earlier this month was packed with stars from the Fox network for that network's TCA party.

But clearly that low profile strategy is working just fine for the 29-year-old actor.

After all, when he appears inside the resturant after doing the red carpet, a long line of journalists who wanted to talk with him quickly gathered. For more proof that Shum's "take it slow" approach works, consider that his character Mike Chang spent most of the first season of Glee in the background where he was frequently referred to as "Other Asian" when he was noticed by viewers at all. A character like that could have easily vanished, and it's likely few would have noticed or cared. And yet in the second season, Mike emerged to become one of the show's most popular characters, literally dancing circles around everyone else and dating fellow Glee club member Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz).

And then there are those famous abs of his, which Shum has shown off to frequent and effective use. 

AfterElton.com chatted with Shum about those abs of his, the gay fan base they've attracted, dealing with the fame bestowed by Glee and much more.

AfterElton: When did you first start to realize that you were achieving gay-fave status?
Harry Shum: [laughs] I think the first episode of the second season definitely helped that out. What surprised me is trending on Twitter and you see that, the fan reactions. So I think from there you started seeing a growing fan base. In everything… the gay community the Asian community and even just Gleein general.

AE: Do you blush when everyone keeps talking about Harry Shum’s abs?
HS: [laughs] Yeah. A little bit. [laughs] I’m still not, not quite used to it yet. We don’t talk about that... and even when I have to do that in character it’s just like, “Okay, I’m in character, so I don’t want to look like that guy who just wants to lift his shirt up constantly.” Because I don’t usually do that. [laughs]

AE: What are we going to see with you this season?
HS: I think we’re going to see a little more character development for Mike Chang. He’s still a serious character… definitely from first season as a growth into second season. I’m hoping to see a growth in the third season, which we hear that, we’re going to see Mike Chang’s parents and hopefully get to see a little bit of the home life.

AE: Was being in the background and watching what happened with the rest of the cast during the first season a good preparation for what happened to you last season?
HS: Yeah, for most of the first season I was a fly on the wall and I was watching how every character developed. And [I watched] also how they interacted with each other and it made me realize… even in certain points when the director didn’t give me certain things and I said like, “Okay, well I’m going to try and make friends with this guy.” And it has slowly developed into something. Like with the whole Artie... and things would happen with Sam and even the whole Jenna thing. You kind of saw a little hint of that in the first season, and obviously second season they began dating.

AE: How do you handle all the attention? Does it ever get overwhelming?
HS: No, I’m still very… it’s always a humbling experience and I never let it get to my head. I always forget that people do recognize me so when they do recognize me, I’m like “Oh, that’s cool!” [laughs] So I’m always in that mind frame. It’s fun. I love talking and I love talking to people and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.

AE: What was the experience of the 3D concert film like for you?
HS: Well, we did 45 shows in six weeks so we got pretty good at it. [laughs] By the time we filmed it, we felt pretty comfortable to actually bring the cameras in and that’s what we’re used to. When the cameras came in we were like, “Okay, this is what we’re used to compared to having thousands of people screaming at you and making sure you don’t mess up. If you mess up, you don’t want to relive it forever, but it was incredible.

AE: Did you do anything where you said “This is going to look cool in 3D?”
HS: I did. I had some experience. I filmed the movie called Step Up 3D, and I got to do some stuff into the camera. I know that’s not what 3D is all about. It’s about the depth and being there and making the feeling, but I tried to throw some stuff in there.

AE: You've probably been asked this, but have you been told yet if you’re a senior?
HS: Um, I’m not sure yet. We’re going to find out I think in the first episode. I haven’t even had time to read the first script that came in yesterday, so when I get back home I’m reading that sucker.

AE: We still don’t see that many Asian characters on TV. Do you feel like you’re kind of representing in a way that Chris Colfer wound up representing gay teens?
HS: In a way I do. I don’t really feel the pressure. Asian Americans have come up to me and said thank you for representing Asian Americans on television. So for that I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. I keep it in mind, and I just want to create a character to be a character that portrays things outside what you normally see and have seen on television.

AE: So what do you think when you see stuff in the script like “Asian camp?”
HS: Well, I think it’s a balance, balance of a guy who’s on the football team, he’s a jock, who is singing and dancing who [laughs] has his shirt off most of the time. So it’s really interesting and you’re going to have that because no one is safe on Glee. Everyone is going to get it at some point, so I accept that balance.

AE: Can we expect them again to get your shirt off this season?
HS: [laughs] I will be 100% sure that that might happen.

AE: Thanks, Harry.
HS: Thank you so much.

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