Harry Shum Jr. on the Perks of Glee, Oprah and On-Set Dance Battles
Even for the cast members of Glee, who are coasting through an Golden Globe-winning freshman year, last week's appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show was special. But for Harry Shum, Jr., who plays Mike Chang, the episode was his introduction to America via Matthew Morrison, who when summoned to show off his dancing abilities, turned the attention onto 25-year-old co-star: "This guy is incredible, and I'm so happy there is a show called Glee that can showcase the talents of someone who just breathes dance." For those who were unfamiliar until last week, Shum, Jr. starred in the iconic iPod "silhouette" campaign, appeared in two Step Up movies and co-choreographed a number during this year's Academy Awards.
In anticipation of the show's mid-season premiere tonight, Harry Shum Jr. phoned Movieline to discuss his whirlwind week performing for the Obamas and Oprah, his days dancing for Beyoncé and the unlikely companion he found on the set of Glee
Congratulations on the success of the show. You guys have had a huge week.
Thank you, I know.
What's been the highlight so far?
I think this week so far, everything. We got to all be together and be with two of the most influential people in the world and not only meet them but be part of their events -- with Oprah's Glee Spectacular show, and then meeting Obama of course.
Let's talk about the White House first. Did you get to meet the entire First Family?
Yeah and we got to meet the dog, Bo, who was really cool. He's a beautiful dog. We got to meet the President, the First Lady and the kids. We got a tour of the White House.
We got to check out what goes on inside, which is really cool.
And you taped Oprah just a few days earlier. Let's talk about the dance battle between you and Matthew Morrison (video below). Was that planned?
There was a little hint of that happening but I didn't expect that. I really appreciated what Matt said about me -- that was so nice -- and that he included me in the segment. It was unexpected.
So you didn't know that he was going to call you out from the audience?
I knew he was going to do something. Beforehand, he said, "You should be ready to dance just in case." I said, "OK" but I didn't know what was happening so it was semi-spur of the moment.
I don't know if you had a chance to watch the episode but the best part of the dance battle was seeing the reaction shots of Oprah. She could not believe that someone was spinning around on the floor right in front of her.
[Laughs] I don't think she expected all that. I think she probably expected a couple of step-touches, but Matt really showed off his skills which was awesome to see.
Are there ever any spontaneous dance-offs on the set of Glee?
Definitely! Especially between Matt and I. We go back and forth. He used to do break dancing when he was younger, and he has a lot of skill that he never really gets to use on the show. So we get to do that every once in a while, but I'm glad we got to do it on the best show ever, Oprah.
You're an accomplished dancer but some of the other cast members did not have as much dance experience when they started on Glee. Which of your co-stars has come the farthest in terms of their dancing abilities?
I think Cory [Monteith]. I don't think he had ever danced in his life and then he was cast in this show and he had to learn all of this choreography. But he has learned a lot and is moving a lot faster and is able to pick up moves. I'm really proud of how much he has grown as a dancer.
You're also a choreographer. Have you choreographed anything for the show yet?
No , I haven't. I have the most respect for [Glee choreographer] Zach Woodlee. He is one of my favorite -- and one of the most capable -- choreographers out there right now. He has to come up with six or seven numbers a week and I don't understand how he does it. I'll give him a little input sometimes if there is something that I want to do and he's always open to that which is really cool. Otherwise, I leave it to Zach. He is the mastermind behind Glee choreography.
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