Glee Star Harry Shum, Jr.’s Connection To Steve Jobs: He Starred In The Original iPod Commercials

The latest tribute to Steve Jobs comes from an unexpected source: Harry Shum, Jr. (who plays Mike Chang on Glee) revealed that he got his start by dancing for Apple’s iconic ads—the ones where all you see are dancers’ silhouettes as they groove to their bright white iPods. Harry even got the chance to meet Steve, who died yesterday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

You should definitely check out the entire post on Harry’s Tumblr, but we’ve excerpted parts. What’s really fun is seeing how at the time he didn’t realize the impact the ads would have:

I was asked to do a test commercial shoot for an Apple product which didn’t mean much to me at the time. Some music player that holds all your songs. Sounded cool to me and I never gave up an opportunity to work especially with the possibility of it turning into a national commercial. Coolest job I did in that time. Just for the fact that I was chosen for my dancing and just my dancing alone. It was a silhouette of me so looks and race didn’t play into it unlike most of the jobs I would audition for. That job is where I essentially got comfortable freestyling in front of people let alone an intimidating 70 pound camera. I would do hundreds of takes with scrapes and bruises on my knees forming by the minute. Even then I always had the energy to go “one more time” because I just felt that I was part of something innovative.

The experience had two major effects: Harry started getting more jobs based on his dancing, and he gained an appreciation for all of Apple’s products. (He said that at the time of Steve Jobs’ passing, he did own/had owned Macs, iPhones, iPods, and the Apple TV. In fact, the Twitter feed his friend pulled up was on his iPhone.) A few years later, he had the chance to be in the same room as Steve Jobs himself. This anecdote is interesting just to see which projects actors don’t get.

One year, I got a call from my agent asking if I was able to go to San Francisco to perform and open up for Steve Jobs before he hit the stage to announce the new iPod. It was last minute and I would have to leave in a couple of hours. I dropped everything and headed to the airport. I was extremely excited not only for performing at WWDC but the chance to meet Steve Jobs and just shake his hand. I thought the nerd in me was going to explode with excitement until I got a call from my agent telling me to turn around because they decided to axe the performance. I was heartbroken.

He did finally get the chance to shake hands with the Apple CEO at the 2009 Oscars, in part because Harry’s group the LXD (League of Extraordinary Dancers) performed at the show.

I felt confident in going up to him and just saying hi since we have that seven degrees of “iPod” connection. With each step towards him, my hands kept getting sweatier and a nervous sensation came over me. Holy crap, I was getting star struck! As I approached him, I interrupted a conversation he was having with Disney’s Bob Iger. I told him about how I did the iPod ads and have always wanted to meet him. I was speaking at 100 mphs and not sure if I was making coherent sentences. He just smiled at me and said, “That’s great! Thank you for all your hard work you put into it. Those were great ads.”

Steve leaves behind a wife and four children, but he’ll always be remembered through his innovative technology as well as fun, simple-but-effective ads like this one. According to TooFab, this is Harry’s commercial; he’s the guy with the yellow background.

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