While the television series Glee has several gay characters, Harry Shum Jr. does not play one of them.
But the actor who portrays high school student Mike Chang on the FOX series has a gay role in the new independent film White Frog which will screen next month at Outfest, the Los Angeles gay and lesbian film festival.
‘This is actually my first independent film. It was a great experience,’ Shum tells Frontiers Magazine in an interview published this week. ‘They are two different beasts. You have Glee and the pace is constantly moving and on to the next thing as quick as you can—it’s so hectic. Independent films you don’t have a big budget. But what’s fun is you can play around more and develop the character. That was an interesting experience for me. I loved playing a different character.’
Mike is a gay high school student dealing with enormous family pressures, but who is always trying to do the right thing. When he is killed in a biking accident, the lives of his loved ones are torn apart. It is Chaz’s legacy that helps to piece them back together in a more authentic way.
Shum thinks Glee fans will be drawn to the movie which is directed by Quentin Lee.
‘It’s definitely a different tone, but there are some Glee episodes that have been a little more dramatic,’ he says. ‘This is about a kid who is a fish out of water, a kid who is not really accepted by his family and the world and trying to find truth in himself. Glee fans can relate to that.’
Although Shum is not gay, he can identify with being an outsider and that has shaped him and his views about LGBT equality.
‘You start to realize we have more similarities than differences,’ he says. ‘In my eyes, life is simple; people make it complicated. I never looked at the differences too much. I grew up in Costa Rica where I was the only Chinese kid in a Latin country, then I moved to San Francisco where I only knew Spanish and lived with Chinese kids. I was in a different world.’