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Performers Of The Month - February Winner: Outstanding Actor - Harry Shum Jr.

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February’s Most Outstanding Actor is Shadowhunters' Harry Shum Jr who gallantly portrays the immortal warlock, Magnus Bane. This is a character with a long and rich history stemming from the original book series but expanded for the television series. He’s a suave and debonair character who just so happens to have a soft spot in his heart for Alec Lightwood (Matthew Daddario). The casting for Magnus had to be spot on because he’s a very complex character with a lot of layers. After all, he’s immortal. The performer tasked with this part had to be able to exude the appearance of an old soul while also being very up on the times and relatable to the audience. Magnus can also come across as whimsical at times tacking on yet another quality the performer had to be able to pull off. The qualities required of this performer would appear to be to grand a list for any single person to possess. Thankfully, Harry Shum Jr. fits the bill for every aspect of this character. He’s also a triple threat performer. Not only is he an exceptional actor, but he can sing and dance as well. He is quite literally the complete package every casting director wants to see walk into their audition room.

He had been working in the business a long time and had built up quite an impressive resume before he landed on Glee and became a name that everyone knew, where he wowed viewers with his dancing and singing abilities on a continual basis. And yes, even though Mike Chang wasn’t known for being a singer, when they let Shum go he seriously rocked it. In everything he does he brings this magical energy to it, so it’s only appropriate that his next big role would be as a seasoned warlock.

Looking at his resume it would appear that each part he has taken has been leading him to this role. It fits him so well and he does justice to this multifaceted character. Magnus Bane is a character that is very much in control yet has a heart of gold. He has much power, but wields it with such diligence and thought that his every action comes across as fluid and calculated. Every time Shum delves into the depths of Magnus Bane, he brings to the surface an incredibly well rounded and soulful performance that one can’t help but watch in awe as he so masterfully harnesses the talent of his craft.

While Magnus is an exceptionally powerful warlock he isn’t immune to matters of the heart. He has fallen madly and deeply in love with Alec. Even though a good portion of the books never quite made it to the television series the love shared between these two characters luckily did. Magnus lived for centuries before he met Alec, but it is very possible that Alec is his one true love. They are soulmates who share a beautiful and real love fraught with fights and heartache at times. Love, however, is the glue that forever binds them. No matter what life throws at them, they always find a way back into each other’s arms. Their relationship shows that love is love and that is a message that can’t be declared or portrayed enough in television. Love shouldn’t be dictated by anything other than what lies in the hearts of the two people in the relationship. The book series, show, and performers all deserve major kudos for fighting to bring this beautiful and important message to life.

In the twenty-first century who would have thought that matters of the heart between two consenting adults, who just so happen to be of the same sex, would still be an issue for controversy. Yet, it is, and that’s exceptionally sad. What is important is that with each portrayal of a healthy LGBT couple the stigma goes away just a little bit more. Perhaps not anytime soon, but one day, seeing two guys or two girls or any other possible combination of two people kissing and being in love won’t be a topic worth mentioning. Yet, for now, it is perceived as being brave to take on LGBT characters. Harry Shum Jr and Matthew Daddario could easily be classified as brave and courageous, not just for their willingness to portray two guys in love, but because they are brave performers who courageously give their all in their every performance regardless of subject matter or scene partner.

While LGBT characters are becoming more frequent on television they are still in a very low minority. Gay characters in a relationship with another man even rarer. Two strong exceptionally capable men compose an even smaller percentage. The inspiring way that Shum and scene partner, Daddario, tackle the relationship as just normal is incredible. They have both worked in many other projects and shared more than a few onscreen kisses with women yet the way they kiss each other is absolutely no different from how they kiss a girl. They charge full force into this relationship, giving it their all. Shum is a powerful performer all in his own right, but pair him with Daddario and the two are quite literally magical.

That’s important to note because the February episodes that Shum won for heavily involved Daddario. Much like many other great acting duos they are strong apart but unstoppable together. They always perfectly translate that strength into their characters. Magnus and Alec’s heartfelt love for each other is powerful and always present. They, and they alone, make each other feel vulnerable. Like in How Are Thou Fallen (2x7) when Magnus worries that if they rush things he could lose Alec. The level of intense sincerity in Shum’s voice was inspiring. He makes it clearly evident in every single scene just how much Magnus adores Alec. More than that, as was revealed in the March episode, By The Light Of Dawn (2x10) he actually loves Alec. Even though that happened in March it is still worth a quick note given how big of a moment it was for Magnus.

Perhaps the best example of the vulnerability that lies just under the surface of this relationship happened in Iron Sisters (2x6), when Magnus learned that Alec had never been in a relationship before. Harry Shum Jr had a few different choices on how he could have played the dialogue he was given. The route he chose, a calm and steady line delivery, with a healthy dose of compassion was exactly what the moment demanded. And the way he has Magnus look at Alec with so much love says so much about Magnus’ deepest innermost thoughts about the man stealing his heart. He conveys as much love through his soulful eyes as he does through his words and they are always highlighted because of the beautiful makeup work on the show. His eyes become a big part of his character. When Magnus is looking at Alec with looks of admiration and love, the message is never lost because Shum says so much with his eyes.

Iron Sisters also presented an interesting challenge as Magnus and Alec hit a short but important bump in their relationship. They had to deal with the memories of Magnus’ seventeen thousand other ex’s which quite obviously, and understandably so, freaked out Alec. When the topic came up, Shum had to pull back his performance to a more guarded space after just moments earlier portraying a very open and honest moment. That’s a tricky feat and he pulled it out without a single blip. He took Magnus down a notch and showed him trying to figure out how to handle this monumental difference between him and Alec. It was a very raw and honest moment where Magnus clearly was afraid that this news could cost him the man he loves. Later in the episode, when Alec almost walked away, Shum didn’t have to speak a single word for the audience to see how deflated Magnus was. For all the power this character possesses it is a single being that touches his soul and makes his heart ache in the same way as any normal person. It all culminated in Alec bravely accepting everything from Magnus’ past and kissing him. The relief that filled Shum’s performance during that kiss was palpable.

While everything that happened in Iron Sisters was incredibly well acted, it was Love Is The Devil (2x8) and Bound By Blood (2x9) that gave Shum some of his most exceptional material to work with. Love Is The Devil truly was Magnus’ episode as he not only figured out the spell cast on his guests but also how to free them all. He even managed to save Alec from a tumble from the rooftop. Not to mention he did all of this while Alec’s mom, whom Magnus doesn’t always get along with, hovered around. Shum was absolutely incredible in this episode. He hit every magical, vulnerable, lovestruck, and badass warlock moment with an incredible amount of skill and heart. Every single scene he was in was noteworthy and skillfully executed, from presenting Max (Jake Fulton) with his birthday gift to fighting to save everyone from the spell. When Magnus is throwing around his magic, one must remember that Shum sees nothing while he’s acting. He’s dancing around in beautifully fluid movements that can only come from someone who has a great understanding of dance. He simply just glides through his fight sequences and it’s easy to believe him throwing around magic in this fantastical universe. Clearly, his gift with choreography must come in handy during these sequences and he uses that talent to its fullest extent to deliver scenes that just have a beautiful natural flow to them. He was the hero of the episode and Shum certainly did the show proud by making that episode the exceptional work of art it was.

He was just as important a part of Bound By Blood as Magnus worked to try to help save Clary (Katherine McNamara). The moment Jace (Dominic Sherwood) brought the spelled Clary to him Magnus went from having a light moment with Alec to full on concern. He fought hard to help save Clary yet the journey through the episode led Magnus and Alec to another pitfall in their relationship. Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment of everything Shum did in February was when Alec did actually walk away. There was this mix of anger and heartache that resonated from his eyes and his body language. The level of acting control that Magnus requires is already impressive, but this was on a whole other level.

Everything Harry Shum Jr. has done on Shadowhunters has been exceptionally well executed, but his work in February really allowed him to show off the many facets of his character. There are many reasons why he was given this fan honor and February held many examples of his finest work. Given how many incredible scenes he was in during the month there was no way to include them all in this article. Please feel free to use the comments to talk about all the moments this article didn’t have the space to cover.

PLEASE READ: Please keep comments on topic and just discussing the performances of the winner.

Special thanks to Donna Cromeans, freelance editor/proofreader (@DJRiter on Twitter) for editing this article.

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