The Sympathizer (miniseries)

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The Sympathizer
Created by
Based onThe Sympathizer
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Park Chan-wook
  • Don McKellar
Directed by
ComposerJo Yeong-wook
Country of origin
  • United States
  • Canada
Original languages
  • English
  • Vietnamese
No. of episodes7
Executive producers
  • Park Chan-wook
  • Don McKellar
  • Robert Downey Jr.
  • Susan Downey
  • Amanda Burrell
  • Niv Fichman
  • Kim Ly
  • Ron Schmidt
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Jisun Beck
  • John Sloss
  • Ravi Nandan
  • Hallie Sekoff
  • Inman Young
  • Jes Anderson
  • Ted Pacult
  • Kris Baucom
Production locations
  • United States
  • Thailand
  • Jin Lee
  • Vikash Patel
  • Fernando Stutz
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseApril 14 (2024-04-14) –
May 26, 2024 (2024-05-26)

The Sympathizer (Vietnamese: Cảm tình viên) is a historical black comedy drama miniseries based on the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Viet Thanh Nguyen. The series was created by co-showrunners Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar, with Park directing for the series as well. The series premiered on HBO on April 14, 2024, and is produced by A24 and Rhombus Media.


The series is based on the story of the Captain, a North Vietnam plant in the South Vietnam army. He is forced to flee to the United States with his general near the end of the Vietnam War. While living within a community of South Vietnamese refugees, he continues to secretly spy on the community and report back to the Viet Cong, struggling between his original loyalties and his new life.[1]



  • Hoa Xuande as the Captain, a police captain in Saigon who is secretly a communist spy for the North
  • Robert Downey Jr. in several antagonist roles including (in order of appearance):
  • Toan Le as the General (Trọng), a high-ranking Southern Vietnamese general that the Captain serves under
  • Fred Nguyen Khan as Bốn, the Captain's childhood best friend
  • Duy Nguyễn as Mẫn, the Captain's other childhood friend and his handler
  • Vy Le as Lana, the General's daughter and the Captain's love interest
  • Ky Duyen as Madame, the General's wife
  • Phanxinê as the Major (Oanh), an incompetent major secretly running a black market operation, whom the Captain decides to frame
  • Kieu Chinh as the Major's Mother
  • Alan Trong as Sonny Tran, a Vietnamese American reporter and the Captain's former college rival
  • Sandra Oh as Ms. Sofia Mori, a Japanese American secretary who develops a sexual relationship with the Captain


  • VyVy Nguyen as the Major's wife
  • Kayli Tran as the Communist Spy
  • Scott Ly as Gunner Dao
  • David Duchovny as Ryan Glenn, an acclaimed but volatile method actor playing Captain Shamus in The Hamlet, loosely based on Marlon Brando
  • John Cho as James Yoon, a Korean-American actor playing Kim in The Hamlet
  • Max Whittington-Cooper as Jamie Johnson, a popular soul singer and first-time actor playing Lieutenant Bellamy in The Hamlet
  • Marine Delterme as Monique Thibault, the production designer of The Hamlet and Niko's girlfriend


No.TitleDirected byTeleplay byOriginal air dateU.S. viewers
1"Death Wish"Park Chan-wookPark Chan-wook and Don McKellarApril 14, 2024 (2024-04-14)0.206[2]
2"Good Little Asian"Park Chan-wookPark Chan-wook & Don McKellar and Naomi IizukaApril 21, 2024 (2024-04-21)0.147[3]
3"Love It or Leave It"Park Chan-wookPark Chan-wook & Don McKellar and Mark RichardApril 28, 2024 (2024-04-28)0.081[3]
4"Give Us Some Good Lines"Fernando MeirellesPark Chan-wook & Don McKellarMay 5, 2024 (2024-05-05)0.070[3]
5"All for One"Marc MundenPark Chan-wook & Don McKellar and Maegan HouangMay 12, 2024 (2024-05-12)0.058[3]
6"The Oriental Mode of Destruction"Marc MundenPark Chan-wook & Don McKellar and Anchuli Felicia KingMay 19, 2024 (2024-05-19)0.062[3]
7"Endings Are Hard, Aren't They?"Marc MundenPark Chan-wook & Don McKellarMay 26, 2024 (2024-05-26)0.088[3]



According to author Viet Thanh Nguyen, he insisted that any show adapted from his novel The Sympathizer be centered around Vietnamese people speaking Vietnamese. In early meetings, producers were uneasy about this requirement, but after political unrests during the Trump administration, the murders of George Floyd in 2020 and of six Asian-American women in Atlanta in 2021, the tone shifted.[4]

In April 2021, Viet Thanh Nguyen announced that the novel had been optioned by A24 to be adapted into a television series with Park Chan-wook directing. Rhombus Media is also involved in the production.[1] In July, HBO ordered the series from A24, and Robert Downey Jr. joined the project in a producer and co-star role.[5] The state of California awarded the production over $17.4 million in tax credits ensuring significant production would take place in state.[6] Marc Munden and Fernando Meirelles were also hired to direct some episodes of the series.[7]


Casting director Jennifer Venditti opened a worldwide casting call in order to find a main cast of Vietnamese descent, ultimately hiring Hoa Xuande, Fred Nguyen Khan, Toan Le, Vy Le, and Alan Trong.[8] Recurring roles for Sandra Oh, Kieu Chinh, and Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen were also announced in November 2022, and Downey was portraying several supporting antagonistic roles representing the American establishment.[9] In May 2023, Scott Ly and Marine Delterme joined the cast, in recurring roles.[10][11]

As a work about the Vietnamese refugee experience, the majority of the cast and crew are of Vietnamese origin, and more than half of the dialogue is in Vietnamese.[12][13] Hoa Xuande had to take a crash course to improve his Vietnamese to prepare for the main role.[14] The actor Phanxinê, who is also a well-known filmmaker in Vietnam, wanted to keep his involvement in the project private for as long as possible to minimize the political backlash he would receive, and stated that many friends discouraged him from participating.[15] It took him a while to decide to take the role of The Major because the project is politically sensitive. He finally took it because he saw the role as safe as "he shows a good side of Vietnamese men."[16] Fred Nguyen Khan and Duy Nguyễn, who play the Captain's best friends, are also best friends in real life.[17]


Filming took place in Los Angeles and Thailand.[8] The crew's numerous attempts to obtain permission to film in Vietnam were rebuffed by its government, and so Thailand was used as a stand-in for Vietnamese scenes.[18] Downey shaved his head for the series in order to save time required to use a bald cap for each of the various characters he portrayed. A significant portion of Downey's performance was also improvised.[19]


The series premiered on HBO and became available to stream on Max on April 14, 2024.[20]


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 89% of 66 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The website's consensus reads: "The Sympathizer does a solidly satisfying job of adapting its ambitious source material, conveying its core themes even as it occasionally struggles with its structure."[21] On Metacritic, the series holds a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[22]

The series received much attention in the Vietnamese American community in California. For younger viewers, it presents an opportunity to showcase Vietnamese stories to a global audience. For the older generation, the series had stirred some discontent – they view the focus on the lead character, who was a communist spy, as glorifying the Communists and disparaging the South. However, the community agrees that this is a significant moment for Vietnamese representation in Hollywood.[23]

In Vietnam

In Vietnam, where the Communist government did not allow the series to be filmed, it was also banned from being shown.[24] At the time of the series' premiere, there was no official Vietnamese translation of the original work published in the country,[25] even though a major publisher had bought the translation rights years earlier, shortly after the novel won the Pulitzer Prize.[26] After the series premiered, many articles about its production that were previously published in major newspapers were no longer accessible online, as if there was a censorship directive from the highest level or due to self-censorship, although it was unevenly applied.[25] An article in the state-run newspaper Tuổi trẻ Thủ đô described the series as "poisonous" and warned that "social media pages belonging to hostile forces [...] acclaimed the content of the series and cleverly integrated details that distorted Vietnamese history to sabotage the Party and the State" and called on young viewers to "heighten vigilance for false information regarding territorial sovereignty as well as Vietnamese history that hostile forces cleverly integrated or propagated via cinematic works."[24] Công an nhân dân, the official mouthpiece of the Ministry of Public Security, stated that the series has "distorted content", was created by "opposing elements", and the showing of the series so close to Reunification Day was made "with negative intention, to distort the triumph of the people of Vietnam."[27]


Award Year Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Astra TV Awards 2024 Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie Robert Downey Jr. Pending [28]
Gotham TV Awards 2024 Breakthrough Limited Series Park Chan-wook, Don McKellar, Jisun Back, Amanda Burrell,
Robert Downey Jr., Susan Downey, Niv Fichman, Kim Ly,
Ravi Nandan, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Mark Richard, Hallie Sekoff,
Ron Schmidt, and John Sloss
Nominated [29]
Outstanding Performance in a Limited Series Hoa Xuande Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards 2024 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie Robert Downey Jr. Pending [30]
Television Critics Association Awards 2024 Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials The Sympathizer Nominated [31]


  1. ^ a b Bui, Hoai-Tran (April 7, 2021). "Park Chan-wook is Directing a TV Adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen's Pulitzer-Winning Novel The Sympathizer". /Film. Archived from the original on April 8, 2021. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  2. ^ Pucci, Douglas (April 16, 2024). "Sunday Ratings: Billy Joel's 100th MSG Concert on CBS Tops in Latter Three Half-Hours of Prime Time - Programming Insider". Archived from the original on April 16, 2024. Retrieved April 20, 2024.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "The Sympathizer: Season One Ratings". TV Series Finale. April 24, 2024. Retrieved April 28, 2024.
  4. ^ Chow, Andrew R. (2024-04-09). "How 'The Sympathizer' Counters 50 Years of Hollywood Vietnam War Narratives". TIME. Archived from the original on 2024-04-22. Retrieved 2024-04-22.
  5. ^ Porter, Rick (July 15, 2021). "Robert Downey Jr. to Produce, Co-Star in The Sympathizer Drama at HBO". The Hollywood Reporter. PMRC. Archived from the original on July 15, 2021. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  6. ^ Patten, Dominic (July 18, 2022). "Star Wars Series Skeleton Crew, Shonda Rhimes' White House Drama The Residence, & Robert Downey Jr's The Sympathizer Adaptation Awarded Big CA Tax Credits". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on August 22, 2022. Retrieved August 22, 2022.
  7. ^ Petski, Denise (January 20, 2023). "The Sympathizer: Marc Munden & Fernando Meirelles To Direct HBO/A24 Series, Three Cast". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on January 25, 2023. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  8. ^ a b Porter, Rick (November 9, 2022). "HBO's Post-Vietnam Series The Sympathizer Sets Main Cast". The Hollywood Reporter. PMRC. Archived from the original on November 9, 2022. Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  9. ^ Petski, Denise (November 10, 2022). "The Sympathizer: Sandra Oh Among Three Cast In HBO & A24's Drama Series Adaptation". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on November 10, 2022. Retrieved November 10, 2022.
  10. ^ Bell, BreAnna (May 11, 2023). "HBO's The Sympathizer Adds Scott Ly to Cast (Exclusive)". Variety. Archived from the original on May 25, 2023. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  11. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (May 19, 2023). "French Actor Marine Delterme Signs With WME, Joins Cast of HBO Spy Series The Sympathizer by Park Chan-Wook (Exclusive)". Variety. Archived from the original on May 25, 2023. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  12. ^ Collins, Rance (2024-04-10). "'The Sympathizer' Star Sandra Oh on How the HBO Series Shows the Vietnam War Through the Vietnamese Lens: 'This Perspective Has Been Missing for 50 Years'". Variety. Archived from the original on 2024-04-21. Retrieved 2024-04-21.
  13. ^ Yam, Kimmy (2024-04-15). "'The Sympathizer' challenges U.S. 'savior complex' in Vietnam War, stars Hoa Xuande and Sandra Oh say". NBC News. Archived from the original on 2024-04-21. Retrieved 2024-04-21.
  14. ^ Yu, Brandon (2024-04-12). "This 'Sympathizer' Star Wasn't Sure He Was Right for the Job". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2024-04-20. Retrieved 2024-04-21.
  15. ^ Tang, Terry (2024-04-15). "In war saga 'The Sympathizer,' Vietnamese voices are no longer stuck in the background". AP News. Archived from the original on 2024-04-17. Retrieved 2024-04-22.
  16. ^ Hailu, Selome (2024-04-29). "'The Sympathizer': Phanxine on the Major's Big Moment and His 'Politically Sensitive' Decision to Join the Show". Variety. Retrieved 2024-04-30.
  17. ^ Hertz, Barry (2024-05-02). "How Montreal's Fred Nguyen Khan kicked down Hollywood's door on HBO's The Sympathizer". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2024-05-03.
  18. ^ "Phim The Sympathizer ra mắt thế giới, Việt Nam vẫn nói 'không'". BBC News Vietnamese (in Vietnamese). 2024-04-13. Archived from the original on 2024-04-21. Retrieved 2024-04-21.
  19. ^ Gardner, Chris (January 16, 2023). "Park Chan-wook Praises Robert Downey Jr. for Remembering Every Crew Member on 'Sympathizer' Set: "He Gives Them Each a Pat on the Back"". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on April 12, 2023.
  20. ^ Canfield, David (February 15, 2024). "How Robert Downey Jr. Helped The Sympathizer Pull Off an Audacious, Ferocious Adaptation". Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on February 15, 2024.
  21. ^ "The Sympathizer: Season 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 19, 2024.
  22. ^ "The Sympathizer: Season 1". Metacritic. Retrieved May 30, 2024.
  23. ^ Do, Quyen (2024-04-19). "'The Sympathizer' depicts war from a Vietnamese point of view, but how does the community see it?". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2024-04-22. Retrieved 2024-04-22.
  24. ^ a b Duy Long (2024-04-20). "Kiên quyết tẩy chay các sản phẩm điện ảnh độc hại" [Resolutely boycott poisonous and harmful cinematic works]. Tuổi Trẻ Thủ Đô (in Vietnamese). Archived from the original on 2024-04-24. Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  25. ^ a b "Nhiều bài báo về phim The Sympathizer biến mất: cuộc chiến trong ký ức sau nửa thế kỷ" [Many articles about the series The Sympathizer disappeared: the memory battlefield after half a century]. BBC News Vietnamese (in Vietnamese). 2024-04-29. Archived from the original on 2024-04-29. Retrieved 2024-04-29.
  26. ^ Anderson, Porter (2017-07-20). "Rights Update: Viet Thanh Nguyen's 'The Sympathizer' in 24 Territories". Publishing Perspectives. Archived from the original on 2023-12-31. Retrieved 2024-04-21.
  27. ^ Bình Nguyễn - Đặng Thanh Ngà (2024-04-29). "Không thể đánh tráo bản chất, bôi đen Chiến thắng 30/4/1975". Công an nhân dân (in Vietnamese). Archived from the original on 2024-04-29. Retrieved 2024-04-29.
  28. ^ "The 2024 Astra TV Awards Nominations Have Arrived". Hollywood Creative Alliance. July 9, 2024. Retrieved July 10, 2024.
  29. ^ Jones, Marcus (May 14, 2024). "2024 Gotham TV Awards Nominations Include 'Baby Reindeer,' 'The Curse,' and More". IndieWire. Archived from the original on May 15, 2024. Retrieved May 14, 2024.
  30. ^ Lewis, Hilary; Nordyke, Kimberly (July 17, 2024). "Emmys 2024: List of Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on July 17, 2024.
  31. ^ Longeretta, Emily (June 10, 2024). "'Baby Reindeer', 'Ripley' and 'Shogun' Lead 2024 TCA Awards Nominations: Full List". Variety. Retrieved June 10, 2024.

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