Harry Shum Jr. is a triple threat: He dances, he acts, and though we initially weren’t so sure, the boy can sing. But in this third season of Glee, his character (once known as “Other Asian” — you can thank Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester for that) hasn’t been relegated to just spicing up dance numbers. Nope! Mike Chang has been front and center with an emotional storyline about going against his father’s wishes and pursuing his dream.
Not surprisingly, Harry can relate. We talked to the ab-tastic Glee actor about his own path to stardom (past and present — spin-off, anyone?), the future of Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) and Mike’s relationship — and what we can expect in upcoming Season 3 episodes.
Wetpaint Entertainment: This has been a great season for Mike. How will we see the storyline between Mike and his father develop?
Harry Shum Jr.: Mike's dad is very stubborn, along with Mike Chang Jr., but keeping his family together is more important to him than anything else. That's the way he was raised. Tina will help Mike regardless of his father's disapproval and try and get his father to understand. Needless to say we will see his dad make another visit to McKinley High.
Do you relate to what Mike is going through?
I do relate to Mike in some aspects. My parents weren't half as strict as Mike's are. They, of course, wanted me to pursue a traditional career because that’s all they knew and weren't exposed to many careers growing up. They never pressured me but did instill in me a good work ethic to always work hard and it'll pay off.
How did your family react to you wanting to be a professional dancer?
It was never a dream of mine to become a professional dancer. I sort of stumbled into it while auditioning on a whim for several artists. Things weren't exactly working out until I booked my first tour with this teen sensation "Kaci," who was big in the UK. I got my first paycheck — which wasn't much — and realized that this could be a career option I could pursue. My family still thought it was a hobby and kept reminding me that school was still an option for me until they saw how passionate I was. Over time, they became more supportive and started to brag to their friends about me.
How do you see Mike and Tina’s relationship developing, especially considering he’s about to graduate and she is still a junior? What makes them work as a couple?
Mike and Tina have the strongest relationship on the show, but it will be put to the test when graduation comes closer. I'm sure the writers have an idea of what the outcome will be but they won't tell us. They both balance each other out with the whole opposites attract thing. One's a goth and the other is a dancer/jock.
What else can we look forward to in upcoming episodes?
I'm excited for Chord [Overstreet]’s return [in Season 3, Episode 8, "Hold On to Sixteen"]. The first scene of his return to the show is hilarious. We get to do a Jackson medley for sectionals which Mike and Tina sing on and Matt Morrison
[Will] directs the Christmas episode. Lots of good stuff coming up!
You were introduced as the kid who couldn’t sing, but this season you’ve shown off amazing vocal talent. Were you always a singer or was this something you worked on since starting on Glee?
Liking to sing and being able to sing are two totally different things. Luckily, I was able to bridge that gap after I started getting into vocal training shortly after this last tour. I'm still learning a lot and by no means do I consider myself a "good" singer but I can say that it feels oh so good to finally be able to sing on the show.
There has been talk about a spin-off that would include Mike. How would you feel about that?
First time I've heard about that. Sounds like a cool idea. Would the title be, Mike Chang: The College Years?
(Editor’s note: We’d tune in!)
What are the challenges of playing a high school student, when you are no longer 16?
Not hard. Half my brain still operates like a 16 year old and the other half operates like a 46 year old. So it balances out.
Do you want to get back to doing more dancing, unrelated to Glee?
I will always dance, even if it’s just off screen. But if the right project and story calls for it, then I would love to. I want to be able to bring back the magic that Old Hollywood musicals had and re-imagine them into an original story today.
What is your workout regimen because your abs are like, Whoa!
I like to keep my workout simple. No weights. Various push-ups, Wide grip, close grip, and alternating pull-ups. I'm always finding new ab workouts and I change it up so my body doesn't get bored. Also dancing is a great workout in itself.
Do you remember when you first heard you were going to be on Glee? What was your reaction?
‘What's Glee?’... The show didn't air yet when I booked it.
Do you see yourself wanting to do movies in the near future or after Glee? Rom-coms? Action? Is there an actor you would love to work with, and why?
Yes! Films were my babysitter growing up and it had a big factor in the way I viewed the world. I would love to do some great indie films and stretch into some kick ass action film. I'd love to work with Joseph Gordon-Levitt on a project. He is an all around talented entertainer and I think if we collaborated it could be really cool.
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