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[Warning: Spoilers ahead!]
On next week’s Glee, viewers will be introduced to Mike Chang’s (Harry Shum Jr.) parents when Tamlyn Tomita and Keong Sim check in after New Directions’ “booty camp” trainer brings home an A-, otherwise known as an “Asian F.”
While Mike may have all the right moves on the dance floor, his parents won’t take too kindly to the grade, Shum tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The story arc of him choosing between his grades and not getting that A- and the arts and trying to maintain and balance all that in his life is going to be a difficult task,” he says.
THR caught up with Shum to discuss what role his parents will have when it comes to his extracurricular activities, relationship with Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) and what college Mike ultimately will wind up with.
THR: What kind of relationship does Mike have with his parents?
Shum: As long as he gets good grades and does well in school, they’re not truly involved. They tolerate what he does, but as soon as something goes a little wrong with his education, then they step right in and definitely become a little stricter. Especially when you see the way Mike dresses, he is not too conservative in terms of his style; he’s not totally traditional. You get the sense that there is a little liberal exists, there’s going to be some conflict with his parents.
THR: The teaser that we saw for next week’s episode, Mike gets an “Asian F” when he gets an A-. Is that going to be a big source of concern among the Chang household?
Shum: (Laughs.) It definitely is. That’s a big reason why we meet his parents and why they step in. Everything starts piling on: They see that he gets an A-, which in an Asian household, that’s a huge deal, you don’t do that in that household. He was brought up not to do that. He obviously has a lot of extracurricular activities, with the glee club, and now the “booty camp” – which takes up a lot of his time — and also whether he might audition for West Side Story. That’s a lot, along with the football team, even though you haven’t actually seen him play. [Editor’s note: The scenes were cut due to time constraints.]
THR: How is what’s going on with school and his A- going to affect how his parents feel about his relationship with Tina?
Shum: Outside of him being in a relationship, they feel when you’re in high school and you have a relationship and school isn’t going really well, you always have to find something to blame — and that’s an easy target for the blame. Tina is definitely a different breed of character as far as the way she dresses and her hobbies. In Asian household, that’s probably not seen as a good influence, that definitely takes a big part of the relationship between Mike and his parents.
THR: How is he going to respond? Are they going to give him an ultimatum: “Something needs to go — and it’s her”?
Shum: With parents, that’s the only way sometimes that they can get across to their kids is by giving them an ultimatum. With Mike, when you get “Asian F,” it can affect glee club — you can only do so much before you run yourself too thin. They do give him an ultimatum of choosing between school and education and extracurricular activities as a whole.
THR: Is Mike’s membership in New Directions going to be threatened?
Shum: It’s a huge possibility, yes.
THR: Will Mike bring Tina home to meet his parents?
Shum: With Tina, it’s going to be more of a relationship based on Mike and Tina and how they’re interacting more so than how his parents interacting with the relationship. The main focus is going to be his grades and having him chose between the arts and a standard education where they want to model him in a traditional career as a doctor or have him lead a safe life when it comes to choosing a profession. We’ll see a lot of interaction with Mike and Tina but it remains to be seen if she’ll meet his parents.
THR: Will Mike continue to stand up for his relationship with Tina even though his parents may not approve?
Shum: Mike is a loyal guy and his relationship with Tina is one of the strongest relationships on the show. His parents are a new element that affects a lot of people’s decision, it’s your parents and it’s going to be whether he listens to that or not and goes with his full heart or bows to what his parents feel is right.
THR: In the premiere, Mike noted that his parents want him to go to a traditional college. Will Mike’s desire to go to a performing arts university factor into the ultimatum his parents give him?
Shum: It’s going to be, “I can only support you if you do this.” That comes with the ultimatum: If you’re not complying with what we want you to do then it’s going to be a big problem of whether we support you or not. Financially it comes into play as well.
THR: Will Mike find other ways to pay for college, the way Finn has taken to working in Burt’s body shop?
Shum: I don’t think we’ve gotten that far into what his plans are. It’s more of an internal struggle of what he’s actually going to do.
THR: Mike’s a senior, Tina’s a junior: How does Tina fit into his future plans?
Shum: There’s many different ways it could go. With Tina being a junior, that affects a lot of the relationship, it gives a sense of we’re going to enjoy senior year but who knows what’s going to happen after that.
THR: Is attending a New York arts school something Mike is considering?
Shum: In the first episode, his parents want him to go to either Harvard or Stanford. Obviously he wants to go to some sort of arts school, you see Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) want to go to New York and go to a musical theater school. I think he wants to be in the arts in general and anything outside of going to a traditional school is going to make him happy.
THR: Rachel and Kurt are both now considering NYADA. IsMike going to try to hop on that train with them?
Shum: We haven’t gotten that far but it’s a possibility. It’d be more interesting if he outside of it. That’s a Kurt and Rachel story and I think it would be interesting if there he was accepted to that and there was a dance department. What they did with the tap dancing was amazing.
THR: What are you most looking forward to this season?
Shum: The West Side Story musical is amazing and we’re going to be doing a lot of songs from that. We’re also doing something from the Dreamgirls catalog, which will be really fun that I’ll be singing on.
THR: Will Mike audition for West Side Story?
Shum: Pretty much everyone is going to audition. If you’re part of glee club that’s your thing. What’s meaningful about it is that you get to see portions of the play as opposed to just rehearsing for it or just auditioning for it. I think that’s a really cool element that hasn’t been done on the show.
Glee’s “Asian F” episode airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. on Fox. Are you looking forward to learning more about Mike Chang? Check out a trailer for next week’s episode below.
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