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HBO's The Sympathizer: What We Know So Far

Despite some of the shake-ups and hiccups that have come from their ongoing partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery, HBO continues to be one of the preeminent original programming creators in Hollywood. And for proof of that fact, look no further than the overwhelmingly positive first reactions to their latest original, "The Last of Us" (per Rotten Tomatoes). Such accolades have, of course, been commonplace for HBO over the years, with the network, and now its streaming wing, producing some of the best-loved series in television history, with titles like "The Sopranos," "The Wire," "Six Feet Under," "Game of Thrones," and most recently "Succession." 

Those shows are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of HBO's hits in the past few decades, and the network will undoubtedly continue to deliver such high-quality offerings down the road. As it is, they may already have their next big hit on the way, via the currently in-production thriller "The Sympathizer." Here's everything we know about the series so far.

Who is starring in The Sympathizer?

"The Sympathizer" marks HBO's latest collaboration with indie powerhouse A24, after the recent successes of "Euphoria" and the less lauded but no less fascinating "Irma Vep." And if another HBO and A24 team-up doesn't get you hyped over the project, it's a safe bet the series' principal cast will, as "The Sympathizer" boasts the talents of Robert Downey Jr. and Sandra Oh.

Downey Jr. has, of course, spent the better part of the past two decades earning raves for his turn as Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But his first post-MCU offering (2020's "Dolittle") was hardly a runaway hit, so the actor is no doubt lining up roles that will remind viewers of his formidable skill. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Downey Jr.'s talents will be well-utilized in "The Sympathizer," as he's slated to play several different supporting roles in the series, which he is also producing through his Team Downey shingle.

Oh, on the other hand, could not be hotter these days, even after her hit series "Killing Eve" ended with more of a whimper than a bang. According to Variety, Oh will portray a fierce feminist whose awakening to her Asian American identity complicates her life in unexpected ways. Joining that heavy-hitting duo in "The Sympathizer" is an impressive list of largely Vietnamese talent, including Kayli Tran, Duy Nguyen, Kieu Chen, VyVy Nguyen, and Ke Duyen, among others.

What is The Sympathizer about?

As for what that crew will be doing in "The Sympathizer," it seems they will be involved in spy games at the end of the Vietnam War. The series is actually based on Viet Thanh Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize spy novel of the same name. Published in 2015, Deadline reports "The Sympathizer" has been lauded as a work comparable to those of literary masters such as George Orwell, Franz Kafka, and John le Carré.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the historical drama is described as a thrilling tale of international espionage centered around a half-French, half-Vietnamese man who serves as a communist spy during the final days of the war. Part of the story reportedly unfolds during the man's post-war life in America, where he becomes part of the Southern California exile community. There he also serves as a consultant on a Hollywood production about the war, before later being recruited to return to Vietnam to try and topple the communist regime.

The story reportedly explores in often darkly humorous fashion such complex topics of personal identity, immigration, and the Americanization of the Vietnam War. It should be fascinating to see not only how those subjects are explored in the context of one of the most tumultuous eras in modern history, but how they might reflect the chaos of the current geopolitical climate.

When will The Sympathizer be released?

If you need yet another reason to be excited about "The Sympathizer," you should know the series has put together a stacked cast of behind-the-camera talent to bring the story to life. And fans of international cinema will be over-the-moon to learn Park Chan-Wook and Don McKellar are serving as co-showrunners on "The Sympathizer." Park is, perhaps, best known for his masterful 2004 revenge thriller "Oldboy," but scored major accolades for his 2016 drama "The Handmaid" and is currently earning Oscar buzz for "Decision to Leave." McKellar, meanwhile, is a beloved Canadian actor and filmmaker in his own right, having appeared in dozens of celebrated films during his career, while directing several more (including 1998's marvelous "Last Night"). 

Per IMDb, McKellar will write all six episodes of "The Sympathizer," with Park lining up to direct at least one episode himself. Deadline reports that Park will cede the director's chair to both Marc Munden (2020's "The Secret Garden") and Fernando Meirelles ("City of God") for several episodes. As of this writing, no official release date has been named for "The Sympathizer." But filming on the series is reportedly already underway, so it shouldn't be too long before such an announcement is made. Stay tuned for details.