Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

‘Glee’ star visits WU

Harry Shum Jr. speaks about his life experiences in May Auditorium on Saturday afternoon. Shum stars as Mike Chang on Fox’s “Glee.”Matt Mitgang | Student Life

Harry Shum Jr. speaks about his life experiences in May Auditorium on Saturday afternoon. Shum stars as Mike Chang on Fox’s “Glee.”

More than 250 students gathered in May Auditorium on Saturday to see Harry Shum Jr., who plays Mike Chang on Glee, dance and speak.

Shum started the event by performing a short dance routine set to a musical medley including segments of “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus and “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. Afterward, he briefly spoke about his life, answered questions, took pictures and signed autographs.

The Stereotypes and WashU Hip Hop Union (WUHHU) dance group filled in gaps in the program with performances.

During his speech, Shum shared the details of his upbringing with the audience.

He was born in Costa Rica, and later moved to San Francisco and then to Central Beach, California.

Although he felt out of place for being Chinese in Costa Rica, he noted that the last relocation was the most difficult for him.

“I’ve always been in an environment where I’m a different guy, [but] that’s when I really struggled with my identity,” Shum Jr. said.

It wasn’t until he tried improvisation in junior high that he began branching out to the speech and debate teams, and then to drama and musical theater. He didn’t start dancing until he was in high school.

“I’d never danced before, except maybe to Michael Jackson, and my friend said, ‘I dare you to try out for the dance team,’” Shum Jr. said.

Although Shum Jr. noted that it is difficult for directors to consider casting him in non-stereotypical roles, he says that the industry is becoming increasingly more open.

“Being Asian American and trying to have anyone see you in more than one way is hard,” Shum Jr. said. “There’s a struggle—there’s always a struggle. It’s what people are doing behind the scenes that lets us move forward.”

Shum Jr. also shared his experiences on “Glee.” He talked about auditioning for the show and later, about being cast as a regular.

“I didn’t know my fate for the show; I was still auditioning for things,” Shum Jr. said. “The first season, I was literally nonexistent or in the background, doing some facial expressions. It wasn’t until I came on the tour and had this crazy reaction from the audience, and the producers were like, ‘Wow, how do they know him?’”

While Shum Jr. said that he can relate to Mike Chang’s compassion for other characters in the show, he considers himself much calmer than his TV alter ego.

According to Shum Jr., Glee has been the best project he has ever worked on, despite its fast pace.

“The hardest part’s been scheduling, finding the balance between life and work,” Shum Jr. said. “It’s constantly moving. It’s nonstop. When we’re not shooting, we’re doing a concert on tour.”

He said that the “Glee” cast is very tight-knit, and the most memorable moments on set happen when cast members are still on set after shoots that last more than 12 hours.

“Yesterday, we filmed until 2 in the morning,” Shum Jr. said. “It’s when it reaches the hour of midnight, everyone just goes crazy…Mark [Salling] is doing things with his fingers, Dianna [Agron] is dancing in the corner, Lea [Michele] is like mah-mah-mah-mah-mah.”

After answering questions, Shum Jr. signed posters and photos and took pictures with students in attendance. All of the photos taken will be uploaded to the event’s Facebook page.

“It’s going to be my profile picture until I die,” freshman Danielle Wu said.

The Chinese Students Association (CSA) organized the event, in collaboration with the Asian American Association (AAA) and WUHHU.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878