GLEE's Harry Shum Jr. Discusses New Competition Show FAKE OFF!
Everyone’s favorite GLEE dancer Harry Shum Jr. is returning to the silver screen as one of three judges in a new competition series entitled FAKE OFF. “Faking” is the combination of theatre, acrobatics, black light, and illusion. Teams competing in FAKE OFF will present reimagined pop culture moments to see who’s got the skills to be named America’s Fake-Off Champions. “Fake Off” will be premiering on Monday, October 27th at 10 PM on truTV.
Shum took some time out of his busy schedule to chat exclusively with BroadwayWorld about FAKE OFF, the importance of the show for all audiences, and his background in performance. Read the full interview below!
Tell me a little bit about “Fake Off.”
“Fake Off” is a new kind of show. It’s a performance show that incorporates many types of performances, and it’s a competition, too. It basically takes a certain scene and then the teams recreate it into an original performance.
What is it like working on a show with such a unique concept?
I think it’s great. It’s unique and new in the sense that we see lighting, and we see dancing and twists. It utilizes technology as well. And I think what’s cool about it is that people from the internet and all over the world have come together to create acts. I think that’s really fun and that’s why I got involved…because I’m a lover of movement in general. And all these things represent that.
Do you have a favorite act that you’ve seen so far?
I have several favorites. One of them used a sort of projection screen and an object that was shaking left and right and shifted back and forth that was used to enhance their performance. And I loved that they used that because it takes you to a whole different world. And there’s other people that are using black light. They put on these really extravagant performances that tell these incredible stories. There’s a wide variety of acts, which is why I really enjoy that you need to have technology to do it. It makes people see how creative they can be.
What has it been like working with your fellow judges Michael Curry and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas?
Michael Curry is a genius. He’s the designer for “The Lion King” and he’s done a lot of “Cirque du Soleil.” He understands how to put on a great performance. And he knows how to tell a story, so he brings an extra piece to that. And growing up, I always had Chilli, watching TLC. Funnily enough, I actually auditioned for TLC, and I didn’t make it, so I give her a little crap for that. But being a performer who’s been on tour gives her a different outlook on what’s she’s looking for.
What do you think is unique about your perspective on this competition as a dancer/choreographer?
I look at the technical aspects, but I overlook that if there’s a great story being told and I’m moved by that. People always ask me, what’s the difference between acting and dancing? And I always tell them, when I dance, I’m acting through physical movement, and when I’m acting, I’m dancing by emotion. And I think when you’re up there, whether you’re dancing or not, when you’re up there, you have to express something. I look at the overall theme and see how the movement with their bodies helps them achieve that. I look at that, and I think back on the greats, you know…Fred Astaire, Bob Fosse, Charlie Chaplin. He’s not labeled as a dancer, but I think he’s a dancer. He has rhythm. So I look at all of that, but you can’t only judge it like that because it’s not a dance show.
The competition features teams focusing on re-imaginings of moments of pop culture that have been deemed “iconic.” What do you think are some of the challenges of doing that rather than doing something original?
I think it gives them a direction. Some of the themes are western, or certain decades, or cartoons. It’s pretty broad. They get to choose what direction they want to go in with that. You know, there’s a lot you can do with cartoons. There’s so many places you can go with that. So it does become original and they really take it to a different level. I think the audience will really find it to be a show that the whole family can watch, and they’ll all understand it.
What is it like to now be on the judging side of a competition?
Auditioning is pretty much a competition. You have these people on the other side of the table that are looking for something specific and you want to gift that. I think the different thing about this show is that you can’t just judge it. You have the audience voting aspect. And you have judges that come from all different fields.
You have a background in appearing in ongoing shows. (“Legion of Extraordinary Dancers,” “Glee”). How does working on this series compare to the work you’ve done in the past?
It’s very different. With other things, I’ve been acting. And with this, I’m not critiquing, but I’m giving advice. Given my background, whether it be on GLEE or LXD or any movies and TV shows and tours that I’ve done, it gives me a purpose on this show because I’m able to give my experience and share my experience. We give them advice that, if they move on, will probably come up again, and we all give them negative and positive feedback. So I really think it’s a learning experience. Even for us, because we learn a lot watching people who maybe didn’t do so well one week and do great the next week.
What would you like perspective audiences to know about this show?
The reason I got involved with this show is because I want to make sure that people don’t forget about the art of movement. You know, there’s a lot of singing competitions, and sometimes strictly dance shows. And I’m so glad they’re out there, but I’m so glad that now there’s a show that expresses so many different types of art that haven’t been seen in a long time but have been around for hundreds of years.