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After brushing up on his sleuthing skills a couple times as the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes, saving the world on several occasions in a fancy iron suit, and ultimately finding himself on the wrong end of a CGI dragon, few would have blamed superstar Robert Downey Jr. for maybe stepping away from the spotlight to enjoy a well-deserved break from the grind. Not so fast. The prolific actor has lined up his next project along with some suitably major players, which will feature his big jump into the world of television.

According to Deadline, Downey Jr. has secured a co-starring role in the series adaptation of the award-winning novel The Sympathizer. Oh, and no less a dream team than HBO and indie studio A24 will be joining forces for this one. This role comes with an added wrinkle for Downey Jr, however, as he’ll apparently be playing multiple supporting characters, including “an up-and-coming Orange County Congressman, a CIA agent and a Hollywood film director.”

That is absolutely wild and sounds like an excellent chance to flex some long-overdue acting muscles. In fact, Deadline reports that this was a major selling point for him along with his interest in the story.

the sympathizer tv series

What’s The Sympathizer?

Written by Viet Thanh Nguyen, the spy thriller and satirical story (which perhaps explains those multiple roles) follows a biracial French/Vietnamese communist spy through the tail end of the Vietnam War and his subsequent defection to the United States. As impressive as Downey Jr’s CV undeniably is, he obviously doesn’t quite fit the bill of that description and so the search is currently ongoing for the lead part. The rest of the cast will be filled out as well, which is made up primarily of Vietnamese characters. Deadline also shares a description of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, painting it as a “blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping spy novel and a powerful story of love and friendship.”

The report adds that this project won’t take a strictly limited series approach, as befitting the scope and scale of the book. We previously heard that Oldboy director Park Chan-wook is on board as co-showrunner along with Don McKellar.

The synopsis for the novel (from GoodReads) is as follows:

It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause.

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