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War, spy games, political intrigue, social commentary, and plenty of 1970s style — all wrapped up into one exciting limited series.


In July 2021, HBO announced it had ordered The Sympathizer as a series, with Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar signed on as co-showrunners.


The Sympathizer is based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a communist spy during the Vietnam War and his eventual life in the United States.


In 2021, Nguyen announced his novel was optioned by production studio A24. Robert Downey Jr. soon joined as a producer and costar.


The Sympathizer will be executive produced and directed by filmmaker Park Chan-wook, who also worked on Snowpiercer, Oldboy, and The Little Drummer Girl.


Other directors for the show include Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, known for City of God, and English director Marc Munden, known for Utopia and National Treasure.


Notable writers for The Sympathizer include Mark Richard (The Man in the High Castle and Fear the Walking Dead), playwright Naomi Iizuka (Tokyo Vice), and Meagan Houang (Shogun).


The Sympathizer Release Date


The Sympathizer will premiere on HBO on Sunday, April 14, at 9:00 pm EST. It will also be available for streaming on Max.


The Sympathizer Episodes


The limited series will consist of seven episodes released weekly this spring. Following the premiere, each subsequent episode will come out on Sunday evening.


The finale will air on Sunday, May 26, just under the wire to be considered for Emmy eligibility.


And we do expect The Sympathizer to be an Emmy contender.


The Sympathizer Trailer


A teaser trailer for The Sympathizer dropped way back in April 2023 by Warner Bros. Discovery during its announcement of its new streaming service Max.


The trailer opens with a journalist interviewing the Captain, played by Xoa Xuande, backed by intense music and flashes of dramatic Vietnam War scenes.


We’re also treated to quick glimpses of the familiar and beloved Sandra Oh and an almost unrecognizable Robert Downey Jr.


The trailer highlights the show’s main plot and builds tension with clips addressing the political climate of the Vietnam War and the post-war era. It ends with a look at the other actors in the main cast.


More recently, HBO released a second trailer in February.


This trailer shows us Sandra Oh and Robert Downey Jr. in the opening seconds — major names that are a massive draw for the show.


The first half of this trailer is a little more light-hearted, with groovy 70s music and witty dialogue. Then the tone changes, and we’re thrust again into the serious world of espionage.


We see our main character, the Captain, facing suspicion and scrutiny as he adjusts to life as a spy in the post-Vietnam-era United States.


We also see Robert Downey Jr. playing several characters and sporting outlandish costumes, hair (or lack thereof), and makeup.


Side note: We heard Downey Jr. even shaved his head to make it easier to get into a bald cap for these roles. Now that’s commitment!


The Sympathizer Plot


The Sympathizer is described as “an espionage thriller and cross-culture satire,” so it’s sure to keep us on the edge of our seats.


The limited series will follow the story of the Captain, a North Vietnam communist sent to spy on the South Vietnam army. He’s half-French and half-Vietnamese and is torn between his loyalty to North Vietnam and his camaraderie with the South Vietnamese soldiers.


Following the fall of Saigon, the Captain flees to Los Angeles, where he continues to act as a mole for North Vietnam, reporting back to the Viet Cong.


However, while in America, he makes friends and has affairs that challenge his sense of duty. Despite no longer being in Vietnam, the Captain is forced to continue living a double life.


The show will explore the Captain’s struggles to remain loyal to the Viet Cong while settling into a new life amongst the South Vietnamese refugees in the US.


The Sympathizer Cast


The casting director for The Sympathizer conducted a global casting call to ensure the main cast members were mostly of Vietnamese descent.


Xoa Xuande stars as the Captain, supported by a cast including Fred Nguyen, Toan Le, and Duy Nguyen. Xuande is known for his role as Lin in the live-action Cowboy Bebop series.


Vy Le and Alan Trong round out the main cast, while Robert Downey Jr., who also produces, will star in various, primarily improvised roles.


Other than Xuande and Downey Jr., the main cast comprises unknown actors chosen for their Vietnamese heritage.


Recurring cast members include Sandra Oh, Ky Duyen, and Kieu Chinh.


The notable names like Robert Downey Jr. and Sandra Oh will surely bring in viewers, while the relatively unknown Vietnamese cast will add authenticity to the story.


Where Can I Watch The Sympathizer?


With bestselling source material, a renowned director, and a cast that combines familiar actors with fresh faces, The Sympathizer is expected to be an instant success.


You can watch episodes of The Sympathizer as they air on HBO starting April 14 and continuing each Sunday evening until May 26.


Episodes will also be available to stream on Max.

Shela Ward is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.



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