Exclusive: Harry Shum Jr. Talks Playing a Bisexual Warlock on Shadowhunters

Harry Shum Jr.
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Harry Shum Jr. is taking a much-deserved break. The 34-year-old actor and dancer is making his way through Italy this spring with wife Shelby Rabara for the couple’s honeymoon.

In a call after leaving Florence, though, Shum is already gearing up for the second season of Shadowhunters, the TV adaption of the popular fantasy-novel series on Freeform. He’ll return to his role as Magnus Bane, the immortal warlock who falls for half-angel Alec (Matt Daddario) in the first season.

Writers will start on the second season in the coming week, which will premiere in 2017.

Shum thrills as Magnus, serving a style that is less camp and more authentic glamour.

“He’s basically a rock star,” he says. “Very David Bowie, very Perry Farrell, a little bit of Prince. He has the glitter, the makeup, the hair that reaches high to the heavens.  He wants to enjoy life, but at the same time, he’s very compassionate.”

Alive for over 400 years—“give or take a century”—Magnus is the high warlock of Brooklyn and loves to make Faustian deals for his magical services.

“He’s snarky, he’s witty, and he’s got this top layer that’s not affected by what happens because he’s seen so much,” he says. “I wanted to strip back those layers and really see what I could play with.”

Nothing seems to get under Magnus’s skin—until Alec Lightwood comes along.

Harry Shum Jr. and Matt Daddario

“I think Magnus gets bored really easy,” Shum says. “Alec still doesn’t know what his feelings are, and that really draws Magnus in. I think it’s a yin and yang—something Magnus has rarely, if ever, felt. With a girl or guy.”

Fans of the book series are very protective of Magnus and Alec, and the writers took great care. The episode when the two kiss was intentionally named “Malec”—the typical ‘ship name for the pair.

“Trust us, the fans were definitely on our minds throughout the season,” says Shum, laughing. “The writers didn’t speed through the relationship. They took their time. It allows for more to happen. Sometimes, you can go in the wrong direction. Even though it’s a fantasy show, you can lose your grounding. Thank God, the fans seem pretty happy right now.”

The next season, Shum hopes Magnus gets the chance to come out of his shell more and guide Alec through his coming out. But he’s also looking for more sparks to fly—literally.

“I would love to see Alec and Magnus fight together,” he says. “That would be so cool to see. Fighting together would be hilarious dialogue, some great effects and action. And of course, magic! You can never have too much magic.”

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