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Welcome to the world of spycraft

Welcome to the world of spycraft

A Cold War double agent finds himself out of his depth in The Sympathizer, Sky Showcase’s thrilling new series based on the worldwide bestselling novel

By Charlotte Briggs, Staff Writer

The reviews are in. Award-winning film-makers Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar’s screen adaption of The Sympathizer has taken the US by storm. With a gripping story that transcends time, continents and cultures, as well as an ensemble cast including Sandra Oh and Robert Downey Jr, it’s not hard to see why our friends across the pond are raving.


Based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the seven-part drama follows an unnamed protagonist known as The Captain (Hoa Xuande, Last King Of The Cross). His story begins in the final days of the Vietnam war working for the South Vietnamese military and their US allies. But The Captain is secretly a communist spy and has been following orders from the North Vietnamese army while sending information to the Viet Cong.


When Saigon falls, The Captain is forced to flee to the United States with other South Vietnamese refugees, starting a new life in Los Angeles. However, it becomes clear that The Captain’s spying days are far from over and soon enough he’s torn between two worlds. Check out the trailer below.



We know what you’re thinking. How can you get your hands on it? Well, there’s good news. For UK viewers The Sympathizer will be launching on Sky Showcase HD (CH 109) at 9pm on Monday 27 May


There’s more. The Sympathizer will also be available as a box set in On Demand on Virgin TV, where it will be available in stunning ultra-high definition. So if you have a UHD-enabled, TV, you can binge this pixel-perfect series in one sitting or catch up at a time that’s convenient for you.


The Sympathizer comes from independent production powerhouse A24, the company behind Oscar winners Moonlight and Everything Everywhere All At Once as well as award-winning TV hits like Beef and Such Brave Girls. With Oscar-winning Oppenheimer star Robert Downey Jr as executive producer and Cannes Best Director winner Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Decision To Leave) on writing and directing duties, it’s a gripping cross-culture satire that you don’t want to miss.


Read on to learn more about the cast of The Sympathizer, their characters and how the actors’ personal experiences shaped their performances.


Australian-born actor Hoa Xuande leads the star-studded cast as double agent The Captain, and says he made a choice to play against the screen spy archetype in his first major production. “They’ve got guns, they run around, they blow things up. I actually thought it was more important to get to the heart of the character,” Xuande told a Vanity Fair podcast.


Robert Downey Jr plays four characters in The Sympathizer – but this runs much deeper than the Oscar winner simply showing the breadth of his talents. “He represents all of those arms of the American society and their effect on the Vietnamese immigrant diaspora,” Xuande explained.  


Grey’s Anatomy and Killing Eve star Sandra Oh is Ms Sofia Mori, a middle-aged American-Japanese secretary who begins a love affair with The Captain and plays a pivotal role in his internal conflicts. “Falling in love with Sandra Oh was really not that hard,” Xuande laughed.


Toan Le’s personal experiences largely influenced him when filming the series, particularly the events surrounding the fall of Saigon. “[Filming the evacuation sequence] was very surreal. I left on April 28, 1975, when I was 15. It was a day or so before things got really bad at the airport… It was business as usual, peaceful, the sun was shining, and here I was, boarding a plane that was going to take me away forever,” Le told The Hollywood Reporter.



Not only is Vy Le’s role as the General’s daughter Lana her debut gig, but it also taught the actor about her own family’s history. “My dad was born in ’70 and my mom in ’75, so they were very young when Saigon fell,” she said when interviewed alongside Toan Le. “Shooting the show was a huge learning experience.”


Although The Sympathizer marks Phanxinê’s first-ever acting role he’s no stranger to the world of film. He’s already a well-established director, film-maker and critic (under his pen name Phan Xi Ne) in Vietnamese cinema, having directed 10 productions including the award-winning Sweet 20.


While Fred Nguyen Khan already has some acting credentials under his belt, including a role in Netflix’s Fatherhood, he says taking part in The Sympathizer was very special to him. The actor, who plays The Captain’s best friend, remarked to Screen Rant, “It felt great to just be amongst other Vietnamese actors. It felt like a family reunion with your favourite cousins.”


The Sympathizer
marks a significant milestone in Duy Nguyen’s TV career as the first time he was able to act in his native Vietnamese. Interviewed alongside co-star Nguyen Khan, the actor said, “Just to be able to speak Vietnamese on such a big stage [means that] now millions of people can be exposed to the language, the culture.”


When is The Sympathizer on TV?

The Sympathizer begins at 9pm on Monday 27 May on Sky Showcase HD (CH 109), with episodes also be available to watch in On Demand.


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