Harry Shum Jr. talks with Hypable about Valentine’s stint as Magnus Bane in Shadowhunters season 2, episode 12.
How do you play a man trapped in body he absolutely despises?
Shadowhunters offers viewers a chance to see Valentine inside of Magnus Bane’s body. “Filthy” is a term Valentine has often used when referring to any Downworlder. Now that he is stuck performing Azazel’s bidding as a warlock, Valentine must find a way to navigate the relationships this particular warlock spent centuries developing.
That includes his most recent one with Alec. While the roles certainly call for a bit of miming, the process of letting another character play in the sandbox you constructed, is no easy task.
Harry Shum Jr. talks to Hypable about Valentine’s stroll in Magnus’ body, what lies ahead for Magnus and Alec, and a piece of fan art that he wants to see play out!
‘Shadowhunters’ Harry Shum Jr. Interview
Valentine and Magnus have limited screen time together. What was the preparation process like for the role reversal?
Harry Shum Jr.: We had access to each other, but we didn’t want to do that. Tapes were what were provided for us to be able to look at how they talk to people. But it wasn’t about spending time with each other and trying to mimic each other.
It was about making sure that we captured the essence of each other’s characters. From there, within the scenes that we had to play with, we wanted to deliver them in a way where it was very situational. It was very specific. It wasn’t, “Well, I’m going to play Valentine and then I’m going to put that on top of all the scenes.” It was specific.
For instance, Magnus in Valentine’s body talking the Azazel is very different than how he is going to attempt to talk to Alec or talk to other characters who are going to come in. Also, he’s observing how the characters are reacting. It’s Valentine in Magnus’ body, trying to figure out Magnus – who he actually is – to convince [the people he is interacting with] enough to move on to the next level.
He doesn’t really know Magnus that well, either. As you layer that on top a bit, there is a little bit of humor about it. But as an audience member I hope that they’re watching and they know that it’s him, but also anticipate what is he going to do next.
One of the best moments, for me personally, was watching when Jace comes to Magnus’ apartment and you have that recognition – it felt so much like Valentine seeing Jace coming to him. It was truly fantastic.
Oh, that’s great to hear.
Magnus has just been horrifically tortured. Give us a sense of where Magnus is at the end of this episode.
What that [torture] does to someone’s psyche — especially coming from someone like Magnus who as dealt with instability in a mental capacity — it’s a mixture of emotions. And [in the past] he’s dealt with issues of questioning whether to even stay on this planet. I think for him it brings up a lot of this history and trauma that he’s been trying to stay away from.
Then there’s the trauma of being tortured. That alone is something that is already hard to get over. But the fact that it’s bringing up something that has affected him in this mental state is something that is going to take a while to get over. And it will really affect his relationships with people — especially Alec.
The stories from Magnus’ past are endless. So much so, Cassandra Clare enlisted other writers to craft some of them in the The Bane Chronicles. If you could explore any part of Magnus’ past, whether you created it, or you’re pulling it out of the books — what would it be?
I just saw something that was really interesting. It was a piece of fan art that came out that – first of all some of these [fans] are incredible, incredible artists. The things they conjure up whether it’s from their minds or the books or from the show, wow – B there was one thing that would be so fun. It was a picture of him in the 80s with Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson.
It’s his days exploring how he got into high society, how he was friends with these celebrities and influential people. That’s a fun part to explore outside of the world ending and defeating the evil doers — The fun he had. He had an interesting life and outlook, and he had to hide that he was a warlock. He’s an eccentric and unique being that fits in with all these artists that are eccentric themselves. I think that’s a really fun thing to explore and to navigate through that would be a really, really fun thing.
I can’t talk to anyone from the Shadowhunters cast without talking about the fans – what is the feeling of carrying this relationship of Alec and Magnus through to these fans. Especially, as the love for them grows.
The responsibility that I feel and making sure it’s as truthful as possible. We always want to make sure that we’re not falling into cushions. We want to service them as strong characters who are figuring things out. Whether it’s a first time — not even just the first time of having a relationship, not just for Alec — but being with someone who is the polar opposite. Also, [they exist] in a complicated world on both sides. That’s to me the unique part.
But then treating them also like any normal relationship and figuring out how they are going to get through this together. How they are going to deal with certain things that arise that they disagree with? And hopefully they’ll overcome that. That to me is what we always strive for with what the writers come up with. I feel like that’s our job. And the writers have been bringing some really interesting situations for the two characters to play out and that’s great.
Describe 2B in one word.
Shadowhunters season 2, episode 12, “You Are Not Your Own,” airs tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET on Freeform.