After an extensive casting search, HBO has lined up the core cast for its post-Vietnam War drama The Sympathizer.
Hoa Xuande (Cowboy Bebop) will play the lead role in the series, based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel. He’s one of five actors of Vietnamese descent cast in The Sympathizer, along with Fred Nguyen Khan, Toan Le, Vy Le and Alan Trong. HBO and co-prodcuer A24 put out an open casting call worldwide for the series and did an extensive search for the actors across North America, Vietnam, Europe and Australia.
The quintet join the previously announced Robert Downey Jr., who will play several supporting roles and is an executive producer of the series.
The Sympathizer, which HBO ordered to series in July 2021, is part espionage thriller and part cross-culture satire. It follows the Captain (Xuande), a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist spy during the final days of the Vietnam War and his resulting exile in the United States. After leaving Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Captain becomes enmeshed in the Southern California exile community and serves as a cultural adviser to an American film about the war. He’s later recruited to return to Vietnam for a raid on the communists.
Khan (Fatherhood) will play Bon, the Captain’s childhood friend who refuses to bring his pal’s multiple identities into focus. After arriving in Los Angeles, Bon finds new meaning in the most unlikely of places and circumstances.
Toan Le will play the General, the former head of the South Vietnamese Secret Police who’s now fixated on uncovering traitors in the refugee community. He also pursues leading a counter-revolutionary mission in his homeland. Vy Le plays Lana, the General’s daughter who is fluent in both American and Vietnamese culture, a skill the Captain finds dizzying and the General unnerving.
Trong (The Tomorrow War) plays Sonny, an idealistic former classmate of the Captain and now the editor of a Vietnamese language newspaper in L.A. who serves as a foil for the Captain. Downey, meanwhile, will take on several roles — all antagonists — that represent different facets of the American establishment.
Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Little Drummer Girl) and Don McKellar (Sensitive Skin, Last Night) are co-showrunners on The Sympathizer, with Park also directing. The series is a co-production between HBO, A24 and Rhombus Media, in association with Cinetic Media and Moho Film.
Park and McKellar executive produce with Robert and Susan Downey and Amanda Burrell of Team Downey, A24, Kim Ly, Rhombus Media’s Niv Fichman, Ron Schmidt, author Nguyen and Moho Film’s Jisun Back. Production has begun on the series, which will film in Los Angeles and Thailand; a debut date hasn’t been set.
Xuande is repped by Industry Entertainment and Morrissey Management; Khan by Martinez Creative Management; Toan Le by Authentic Talent & Literary Management and Jackoway Austen; Vy Le by Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Jackoway Austen; and Trong by Mosaic and Hansen Jacobson.