Who does Robert Downey Jr. play in The Sympathizer?

Robert Downey Jr. is following his Oscar win with a starring role in the new HBO series The Sympathizer! But his role may be quite surprising!
The Sympathizer
The Sympathizer /

The Sympathizer is about to air and give Robert Downey Jr. a great new showcase! But it turns out he’s not playing just one character in this wild HBO miniseries! Find out more here!

Robert Downey Jr. is enjoying the best time of his lengthy career. The man has made one of the greatest comebacks in Hollywood history as two decades ago, he was dismissed as a joke thanks to his various personal problems. But Downey built himself back up with his turn as Iron Man kick-starting the MCU. 

Since then, Downey has mixed blockbusters with smaller dramas and become one of Hollywood’s biggest leading men. It paid off, as he finally won the Oscar for his turn in Oppenheimer

Now, the actor is a key star in the new HBO miniseries The Sympathizer. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2015 novel, the show follows the Captain (Hoa Xuande), a North Vietnam spy in the South Vietnam army. He’s forced to flee as the Vietnam War closes, making his way to America. Coming into a small community, he continues his spy work for the Viet Cong while wrestling with his dual nature. 

It’s a compelling novel and should lead to a great show. However, Downey’s role in it is very compelling in that it’s not just one part. 

How many roles does Robert Downey Jr. play in The Sympathizer?

The big gimmick of the show is that Downey plays four different roles, all meant to showcase some part of the American dream: a CIA operative, a professor, a congressman and a movie director.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Park Chan-wook explained that he felt one actor playing all four roles would best serve the story.

"Even though each of the characters from all of the four have different occupations and they might have different characteristics, in essence it was very important they were faces that represent America. So in order to convey this idea very clearly and directly, I came to the conclusion that I’d have one actor portray all these different characters so that audiences can understand clearly."

Niv Fichman added that Downey brought his improv talents to the role to help it out and sparked the show more. 

"[Downey] challenged them, and I’m not going to reveal what they came up with to actually entrench that conceit into the actual character, but it’s revealed in episode seven. So it’s not just a conceit, there’s something that’s very, very visceral and very important and emotionally connected to The Captain’s journey that Robert was the one who challenged them [on] and it’s the big reveal of the show."

Seeing Downey in these different roles should be a fine reminder of what a great actor he truly is. It’s possible he could be adding an Emmy to his bevy of awards for this show and be another feather in the cap of one of today’s best actors.

The Sympathizer premieres on HBO and MAX Sunday, April 14.

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