Following a worldwide search, HBO and A24 have set the lead cast for The Sympathizer, a drama series adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, produced by and co-starring Robert Downey Jr.
The five series regulars, Hoa Xuande (Cowboy Bebop), Fred Nguyen Khan (Transplant), Toan Le, Vy Le and Alan Trong (The Tomorrow War), all of Vietnamese descent, were cast following an extensive search across the U.S., Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, and Vietnam and a worldwide online open casting call.
The Sympathizer is an espionage thriller and cross-culture satire about the struggles of a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist spy during the final days of the Vietnam War and his resulting exile in the United States.
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Described as a “blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping spy novel and a powerful story of love and friendship,” the novel is hailed as a new classic of war fiction and has been compared to the works of Kafka, Orwell, and le Carré.
Xuande portrays The Captain, a spy for North Vietnam embedded in the refugee community in Los Angeles. A man of two minds and dual identities, the Captain is caught between conflicting loyalties, contradicting desires, and is ultimately forced to confront what it means to sympathize.
Nguyen Khan is Bon, the Captain’s childhood friend who refuses to bring the Captain’s multiple identities into focus. A proud member of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, Bon arrives in Los Angeles after a tragic loss and ultimately finds new meaning in the most unlikely of places and circumstances.
Toan Le plays The General, the larger-than-life former leader of the South Vietnamese Secret Police. Overtaken by paranoia, the General is fixated on sniffing out traitors amongst the refugee community in Los Angeles and is in feverish pursuit of his goal to lead a counter-revolutionary mission back in his homeland.
Vy Le portrays Lana, the rebellious daughter of the General. Fluent in both American and Vietnamese culture, she has an uncanny skill of absorbing and adapting to American popular culture, a capacity that is dizzying for the Captain and unnerving for her father.
Trong is Sonny, the idealistic former classmate of the Captain and now the editor of a Los Angeles Vietnamese-language newspaper. Sonny is free to pursue his desires and ideals with open passion which provides the perfect foil for the Captain.
They join Downey Jr., who is set to play multiple supporting roles as the main antagonists, all of whom represent a different arm of the American establishment.
The series is currently in production, with filming in Los Angeles and Thailand.
Oldboy director Park Chan-wook is on board as co-showrunner, along with Don McKellar, and also will direct the series. Park and McKellar will also exec produce along with Downey, Susan Downey and Amanda Burrell for Team Downey. Niv Fichman will also exec produce through Rhombus Media as will Kim Ly. The series is a co-production between HBO, A24 and Rhombus Media in association with Cinetic Media and Moho Film.
Xuande is repped by Industry Entertainment and Morrissey Management. Nguyen Khan is repped by Martinez Creative Management. Toan Le is repped by Authentic Talent & Literary Management and Jackoway Austen Tyerman. Vy Le is repped by Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Jackoway Austen Tyerman. Trong is repped by Mosaic and Hansen, Jacobson, Teller.
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