Childhood & Early Life
Harry Shum Jr. was born on April 28, 1982, in Puerto Limón, Costa Rica, into a rich Chinese business family. His mother is from Hong Kong, while his father is from Guangzhou, China. He was born as the youngest of the three children in the family. Harry learned Spanish as he grew up. He learned English and Chinese much later in life.
When Harry was 6 years old, his family moved to San Francisco, California. There, Harry got acquainted with a totally different lifestyle. Harry has admitted that he has not spoken a word of Spanish since he landed in California and that he missed Costa Rica badly for his first few years in the US.
Harry attended various schools in the San Luis Obispo region and was finally enrolled at the ‘Arroyo Grande High School.’ As a kid, Harry was mostly interested in acting and playing football. Dance did not fascinate him much. However, an incident that followed changed everything. He was dared by some of his friends in high school to audition for the school’s dance team.
Although Harry did not make it to the team, he found the passion that he wanted to follow in the future. He started taking dance classes. After graduating from high school in 2000, he joined the ‘San Francisco State University.’ His parents did not support his decision to become a dancer.
Not willing to give up on his dreams, Harry dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment world. Upon landing in Los Angeles, he was offered work as a dancer on the ‘BET’ comic show ‘Comic View.’ He then won a dance competition to appear in one of the early commercials of ‘iPod Nano.’ In 2003, he made his acting debut.
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Harry played a minor role in an episode of the series ‘Boston Public’ in 2003. The next year, he made his big-screen debut as a dancer in the film ‘You Got Served.’ He then played minor roles in the series ‘Zoey 101’ and ‘Viva Laughlin’ and in the film ‘Stomp the Yard.’
In 2008, he bagged the small role of ‘Cable’ in the film ‘Step Up 2: The Streets’ and then played a similar role in the film ‘Center Stage: Turn it Up.’ In 2008, he appeared as ‘Zack’ in an episode of ‘Rita Rocks,’ titled ‘Flirting with Disaster.’ It was the biggest role of his acting career at that time and helped him get noticed by key industry people. His dance skills were appreciated, too, and this brought him a lot of audition calls.
In 2008, he landed a small role in the ‘MTV’ made-for-television musical drama film ‘The American Mall.’ The film was made by the team behind the highly successful ‘High School Musical’ film series. However, 'The American Mall’ was not too successful. The same year, he appeared on three episodes of the comedy–drama series ‘Greek.’
2009 was a big year for Harry, as that year, he was selected to play one of the key roles in the series ‘Glee.’ The musical comedy–drama series premiered in May 2009 and narrated the story of a high-school glee club. Harry portrayed ‘Mike Chang,’ one of the key members of the club. After making his first appearance in the fourth episode of the first season of the series, Harry became a regular cast member.
Harry remained associated with the show till its last season, and played Mike in 76 episodes. By the time the series ended, it had already become one of the most successful contemporary musical series of all time. Harry received several nominations for his performance in the series and earned a ‘Screen Actors Guild Award,’ too, as part of the entire cast of the series.
He earned an admirer in Wesley Chan of ‘Wong Fu Productions’ and appeared in several of their short films. In 2010, he appeared as ‘Cable’ in the dance film ‘Step Up 3D,’ and in the same year, he played the role of ‘Harry’ in the film ‘Our Family Wedding.’
He has starred in a few web series too, the most notable among them being ‘The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers,’ which featured him as a dancer and choreographer. In 2011, Harry played the lead role in the short action film ‘3 Minutes.’ Later, he bagged a major role in the second season of the web series ‘Mortal Kombat: Legacy.’
In 2014, Harry was offered a major role in the film ‘Revenge of the Green Dragons.’ The film was produced by legendary director Martin Scorsese. Harry played ‘Paul Wong’ in the film. Despite earning rave reviews in various film festivals, the film turned out to be a critical and commercial debacle.
Harry then appeared as ‘Magnus Bane’ in the supernatural drama series ‘Shadowhunters.’ The series, which was based on the novel series ‘The Mortal Instruments,’ was appreciated by viewers but received average critical response.
In 2016, he appeared in the ‘Netflix’ American–Chinese martial arts film ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny.’ The film received very low ratings and did not even come close to the reception that its prequel, ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,’ had received earlier. The same year, he appeared in eight episodes of the web series ‘Single by 30.’
Harry will be seen as ‘Charlie Wu’ in the upcoming 2018 film ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’