Park Chan-wook Teases ‘Sympathizer’ Series: ‘A Lot of Diversity’ Onscreen

Park Chan-wook is revealing what fans can expect from the upcoming series “The Sympathizer.”

Set at HBO from A24, Park confirmed that Robert Downey Jr. will have a sizable role in the show alongside Sandra Oh.

“Overall, it’s a seven-episode series, and it’s set in 1975, immediately after the Vietnam War,” Park told IndieWire at the 2023 Golden Globes red carpet. “The story covers Vietnamese refugees who have migrated to L.A. and the stories surrounding that environment. Because of the context, casting revolves around having a lot of diversity, especially a heavy presence of Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans.”

“The Sympathizer” is based on Viet Tanh Nguyen’s 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. Park is confirmed to be helming three out of the seven episodes in the limited series.

The official synopsis teased that the show will center on a mole from North Vietnam embedded in the South Vietnamese army who is later exiled to the U.S. However, he remains tied to the local South Vietnamese community and eventually returns to Vietnam to fight communists.

Downey is set to play multiple supporting roles as the main antagonists, all of whom represent a different arm of the American establishment — including an up-and-coming Orange County Congressman, a CIA agent, and a Hollywood film director, among others, per a press release. Downey Jr. also executive produces, with Park serving as co-showrunner with Don McKellar.

“Working with Robert — he’s such an amazing actor and such an energetic man and a joy to be around. It’s been really great to be working with him,” Park recently told Variety in a cover story. “Also, Robert’s wife Susan is such an intelligent woman and a smart producer. It’s been great to work with her and she’s been tremendous help to me.”

“The Sympathizer” is Park’s return to TV after 2018 limited series “The Little Drummer Girl” starring Florence Pugh, Alexander Skarsgård, and Michael Shannon. Park’s film “Decision to Leave” noir is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2023 Golden Globes on January 10.

Park previously told IndieWire that “Decision to Leave” doesn’t quite mark a new chapter for his filmmaking style deviating from his former thrillers. “I didn’t intend to make this film so that it would be the first film of the next chapter of my career,” Park said. “My next film could very well be like my previous films.”

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