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Dad-to-be Harry Shum Jr. tells PEOPLE his movie Crazy Rich Asians "is not just about self-worth, but family, and what it means to have this connection"

By Jen Juneau and Deirdre Durkan
February 04, 2019 01:40 PM
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Harry Shum Jr. can’t wait to pass down his family traditions to his daughter on the way.

The Shadowhunters star opens up to PEOPLE in an exclusive interview about how he’s excited to see his first child with pregnant wife Shelby Rabara — who will be born in the Chinese zodiac’s Year of the Pig, just like her mom — make her first dumplings.

“We’re going to see how her little fingers will make dumplings and what age she can do that herself!” says Shum, 36, while promoting his recent partnership with Panda Express for their House of Good Fortune exclusive Lunar New Year celebration.

“That was always a fun thing for kids to do. There are so many traditions. I hope to continue the tradition to decorate the whole house with red lanterns and locks turned upside down for good luck.”

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“When my mom makes dumplings, she is an expert — I’m just trying to keep food inside the dough,” jokes the Glee alum. “I’m hoping to pass it on so my wife and I can be expert-level dumpling makers and be able to pass that down to our kids.”

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2018 Teen Choice Awards - Arrivals, Inglewood, USA - 12 Aug 2018
Harry Shum Jr. and wife Shelby Rabara
| Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Crazy-Rich-Asians
The cast of Crazy Rich Asians
| Credit: Benjamin Askinas

Another thing he hopes his baby girl inherits from her parents? Some positive traits from the female characters in his film Crazy Rich Asians.

“The humor of Peik Lin Goh to keep the household laughing, but I think Astrid’s character is really beautiful and has such a place in her heart, from empathy,” Shum says of Awkwafina and Gemma Chan’s portrayals, respectively.

“Culturally, that is really important, and has a huge role in making sure the family is the primary goal and bringing it together,” he adds. “I think that movie is not just about self-worth, but family, and what it means to have this connection, especially when it is spread all over the world.”

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Shum tells PEOPLE he was “excited” when he found out his baby on the way will be a daughter, and that learning the sex “was beautiful, regardless of whether it was a boy or girl.”

And how did Rabara let her husband know they were going to be parents? “She rolled over in bed and said, ‘I’m expecting!’ ” jokes Shum. “No, I’m kidding — it was a beautiful moment.”

In seriousness, he adds, “I think the fact that so many people have kids and are parents [makes it seem not unique], but it feels so special that I didn’t process [it] until it actually happened.”