The Sympathizer: Everything We Know So Far About Park Chan-Wook's HBO Max Series

With "Decision to Leave" recently hitting theaters to critical acclaim, it's fair to say that Park Chan-wook is on a roll right now. Then again, when hasn't he been? He's been an extremely consistent director in terms of quality and themes, with classics like "Oldboy" and "The Handmaiden" to his name. While he's mostly known for movies, he's certainly dipped his toes into television thanks to his directorial stint on the British miniseries "The Little Drummer Girl."

Now, he's returning to the small screen with an adaptation of "The Sympathizer," the 2015 debut novel of Viet Thanh Nguyen that garnered critical acclaim. While this series has been in the works since 2021, it has finally begun production in both Los Angeles and Thailand, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If you're eagerly anticipating Park's next project as much as we are, then you're in luck. We've compiled all you need to know about "The Sympathizer," from what it's about to the eclectic cast it has amassed.

When and where to watch The Sympathizer

The good news is that production on the series has already begun. This means that the series will likely be ready to premiere sometime in the middle or end of 2023. As for where you'll be able to watch it, it will premiere on HBO Max, or rather, whatever streaming service Warner Bros. Discovery will roll out that combines HBO Max and Discovery+. Let's just say HBO Max for now just to avoid confusion, shall we?

Until then, you've got plenty of time to read Nguyen's original novel. Considering it won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, it's definitely something you should check out. When we first reported on the series adaptation, /Film's Hoai-Tran Bui called it "a phenomenal read that operates as both gripping spy novel and subversive immigrant tale." You can find it at chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble or Amazon, but if we can make a suggestion, order it through a locally-owned bookstore. Not sure where to find one? Check out IndieBound's store finder here!

What we know about the original Sympathizer novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen

"The Sympathizer" is likely to follow the original 2015 novel pretty closely, with Nguyen also serving as a producer on the project, presumably for accuracy. If it does end up following the book, then viewers are in for quite the wild ride — the novel is a bit of a mixture of different genres, from espionage thriller to social satire and even dark comedy. It's probably no surprise, then, that a director known for genre-bending projects like Park will be adapting it for the screen.

The novel follows the Captain, a mixed-race Vietnamese spy during the Vietnam War. After the Fall of Saigon in 1975, he is forced to leave the country and immigrates to Los Angeles. There, he finds work as a consultant for Hollywood productions, but his past continues to haunt him, with it coming back in full force after he's asked to return to Vietnam to seize communists. It's a twisty journey that touches upon a ton of poignant themes.

What we know about the cast and crew of The Sympathizer

Park is not the only name of interest attached to the project. However, if he was, we would still be tuning in to watch it. In addition to directing the series, he will serve as co-showrunner alongside Don McKellar, whose 2014 series "Sensitive Skin" is an underrated gem. A24, Team Downey, and Rhombus Media will help finance the project.

And yes, *that* Team Downey. Robert Downey Jr. will serve as an executive producer and supporting actor in the series with an interesting character detail — he's actually playing multiple antagonistic forces that are said to represent different aspects of American society. Of course, he shouldn't overshadow the talented actors of Vietnamese heritage attached to the project. Chief among them is Hoa Xuande, who will play the unnamed Captain the story centers around.

Fred Nguyen Khan will play the Captain's childhood friend, Bon, who follows him to Los Angeles. Toan Le will play the similarly-unnamed General, a former head of the South Vietnamese Secret Police with suspicions towards the Captain, while Vy Le will play his daughter, Lana. Finally, Alan Trong will play newspaper editor Sonny.