Legion Of Super-Heroes’ Harry Shum Jr. Explains Why He’d Like To Play A Villain In A Live-Action Superhero Movie Following His Time As Brainiac 5

Harry Shum Jr.'s version of Brainiac 5 in Legion of Super-Heroes
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation)

Given how popular superhero movies are these days, assuming you’re a big name in Hollywood, it seems like it’s only a matter of time until you play a role within that genre. For Everything Everywhere All at Once and Grey’s Anatomy star Harry Shum Jr. (who is still attached to the Crazy Rich Asians spinoff), that time came when he selected to voice Brainiac 5 in Legion of Super-Heroes, the animated, direct-to-video DC movie that follows Green Lantern: Beware My Power in the Tomorrowverse continuity. Although Brainiac 5 is traditionally depicted as a heroic character, Shum informed CinemaBlend that if the opportunity came for him to perform in a live-action superhero movie, he’d rather play a villain.

Legion of Super-Heroes is Brainiac 5’s latest appearance outside of the comics, following a couple years after Jesse Rath’s time as the character in Supergirl, and other notable projects featuring him including the Legion of Super-Heroes animated series, Justice League Unlimited, Smallville and Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. Harry Shum Jr. made it clear in my interview with him that he had a good experience playing Brainiac 5, but when I inquired about if he had any interest in doing a live-action superhero movie, and if so, as a hero or villain, the actor answered:

I like villains. I think the villains have the best backstory and really challenge not just the hero in the story, but also challenge the people watching it. Especially someone who writes a good, meaty villain really makes you think twice about if you should even classify that person as a villain because you start to think, obviously with Heath Ledger’s Joker coming to mind, you start to think, ‘Well, who’s right and who’s wrong?’ To me, that’s when I would jump at the opportunity for a live-action [superhero movie], and I don’t want to play for the sake of being evil or being a superhero thing. To me, that doesn’t really interest me. What really interests me is questioning things that we put in the parameters and space of superheroes and villains, which I think there’s a lot of great characters in the DC universe that do that.

Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning (and unpredictable) performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight is an excellent example to use when you’re going over why you’d prefer being cast in a superhero movie as a villain more than a hero. As Harry Shum Jr. stated, ultimately he’s not interested in being a superhero movie just for the sake of it, nor does he want to play a character who’s evil without any depth. He wants whatever antagonistic character who will get the audience thinking about, and perhaps even empathizing with, their actions. From Shum’s perspective, DC has numerous characters who fit this mold for him.

Needless to say if Harry Shum Jr. scores such a role in a superhero movie, we’ll let you know. For now, we’re just days away from seeing his version of Brainiac 5 crossing paths with Meg Donnelly’s Supergirl, who’s taken to the 31st century to attend Legion Academy after having troubled getting used to life on Earth in the present day. Legion of Super-Heroes is directed by Jeff Wamester, who was particularly “excited” to tackle this team, and Josie Campbell wrote the script. Shum and Donnelly’s co-stars include Darren Criss as Superman, Jensen Ackles as Batman, Matt Bomer as The Flash and Yuri Lowenthal (who you may recognize as the voice of He-Man) as Mon-El, among many others.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is releasing Legion of Super-Heroes on Digital, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Blu-ray on Tuesday, February 7. Break out your HBO Max subscription if you’d like to rewatch the previous Tomorrowverse movies ahead of time or delve into the DC Animated Movie Universe timeline.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.