Shadowhunters Interview: Harry Shum Jr. Previews Magnus’ Out-Of-Body ExperienceShadowhunters Interview: Harry Shum Jr. Previews Magnus’ Out-Of-Body Experience
Interview with Harry Shum Jr. about the Shadowhunters episode "You Are Not Your Own" Shadowhunters Interview: Harry Shum Jr. Previews Magnus’ Out-Of-Body Experience

Tonight’s episode of Shadowhunters, airing at 8PM ET/PT on Freeform, shows Harry Shum Jr.’s Magnus Bane in a very different way, as he and the devious Valentine (Alan Van Sprang) have switched bodies!

The episode is called “You Are Not Your Own” and it is a strongly written and directed hour which provides great performances from both Shum and Van Sprang.

KSiteTV’s Craig Byrne was able to speak with Harry Shum Jr. by phone last week to talk about the June 12 Shadowhunters installment.

KSITETV’s CRAIG BYRNE: How did you and Alan Van Sprang prepare for playing each other’s characters?

HARRY SHUM JR.: We just talked about it, and we discussed, I think, more of what we didn’t want to happen, as opposed to what we wanted to happen. I trust him, and I think the directors and producers trusted us to take good care of this, and I think for us, the things that we didn’t want to fall into were the tropes of, like, “oh, body swapping, let’s impersonate each other” and wink at the camera for the audience. We wanted to play it as real as possible of what it would be, with these characters, especially how manipulative Valentine is, and how everyone is not going to trust him, because he would go to that extent with pretending to be someone else to get out of that situation. And while Magnus is a very particular character, he is known to be this flamboyant, eccentric warlock, so people don’t really think twice.

It’s like “he is kinda acting weird, but he is this magical warlock,” so we wanted to put those layers of not knowing each other too well, either. They weren’t, like, best friends that swapped bodies. They were people who hated each other, but didn’t know each other’s personal lives, or every movement, or every little nuance about [each other], so at least for Valentine in Magnus’ body, he’s trying to really play into what he thinks Magnus is or how he would function.

Did you personally study Alan’s body language to duplicate that in any way?

Yes. I watched a lot of tapes of his, and really made sure to at least get his presence and his stance, and even facial expressions that he makes, and that was really important for me, because we don’t share the same expressions. It’s very different with him also trying to hide it, noticing that I can’t act fully like myself, especially when he’s around Alec or any of the Shadowhunters that would suspect something was wrong.

Was it odd to you to see someone else delivering Magnus’ lines?

It was an out of body experience, definitely, and it was really fun. I would say it was one of the most fun [experiences] I’ve had on set, because first, Alan is a rock star. He’s just an incredible actor, and I’m so glad that at least I got to have a nice scene with him, which I don’t think you ever really see Magnus and Valentine together. So, seeing him do the Magnus movements when he’s conjuring magic … it was really, really fun to watch, and I hope I got to do that for him as well.

How does Valentine feel about being stuck in Magnus’ body?

If he can release his body by killing Magnus right there and then, by killing himself and somehow everything comes out and goes into another body, he would. But he can’t do that; he’s going to have to figure this out on his own. I think this is literally his worst nightmare, but with him being some sort of a warrior and being so consistent of getting what he needs and he wants, he will do anything, even becoming a warlock to fulfill his duty to purify, kind of like the Shadowhunters.

Is it true that it’s more fun to play the bad guy?

I would say so. Yes. There’s something … we all want to be looked at as the good person, always, right? I think there’s a little bit of mischievous side to everyone, and in this case, it’s actually evil, or in the mind of believing something so much that you’ll do anything you can to get there. In the outside world, it is perceived as being evil.

It’s a manipulation that is fun to play. You’re trying to convince someone of something that you know they know it’s wrong. So, to me, that is an interesting take, and it is really fun to play.

Looking to the future: Will we meet Catarina in Season 2B?

I’ll say you can’t avoid meeting some of Magnus’ friends, especially the ones that he has gone to battle with. So, we’ll see.

Shadowhunters has been a show that’s gotten such a huge fan following, and you have an episode coming up with The Vampire Diaries’ Paul Wesley directing. Did you all talk about the whole phenomenon thing, and what was it like to have him on set?

He’s been in the genre for so long, so I think the next step [for him] was to be in the director’s chair, and seeing it play out in so many different scenarios and ways. I know it’s refreshing for the show to have an eye like his to be in the director’s chair, so I’m really looking forward to seeing the episode.

Shadowhunters is new tonight (June 12) on Freeform! Take a look at some preview images from “You Are Not Your Own” below.

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SHADOWHUNTERS - "You Are Not Your Own" - After several Shadowhunters are killed, The Institute turns to controversial methods to prevent a Downworlder uprising in “You Are Not Your Own,” an all-new episode of “Shadowhunters,” airing Monday, June 12 (8:00 - 9:00 PM EDT) on Freeform and on the Freeform app. (Freeform/John Medland)KATHERINE MCNAMARA

Craig Byrne, Editor-In-Chief

KSiteTV Editor-In-Chief Craig Byrne has been writing about TV on the internet since 1995. He is also the author of several published books, including Smallville: The Visual Guide and the show’s Official Companions for Seasons 4-7.