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The satirical spy-thriller “The Sympathizer” hopes to make a mark at the Primetime Emmys this year, as HBO/Max has submitted the show for 27 Emmy categories. The hopeful bids from creators Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar include acting recognition for breakout performer Hoa Xuande and superstar Robert Downey Jr., as well as outstanding limited or anthology series.

Based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2015 debut novel, “The Sympathizer” tells the story of “The Captain” (Xuande), a North Vietnamese soldier in the South Vietnamese army who is forced to flee to the United States with his general near the end of the Vietnam War. While living within a community of South Vietnamese refugees, he continues to spy on the community, struggling between his original loyalties and his new life.

Fresh off his Oscar win for supporting actor in “Oppenheimer,” Downey aims to become the first male actor to win an Oscar and an Emmy in the same calendar year, competing in supporting actor (limited) alongside Jonathan Bailey (“Fellow Travelers”). Two women have achieved this feat previously, Helen Hunt and Helen Mirren, while Emma Stone hopes to accompany her “Poor Things” Oscar with an Emmy for “The Curse.” 

It’s been 23 years since Downey received his sole Emmy nomination for supporting comedy actor as Larry Paul in the classic “Ally McBeal.” He could earn two nominations this year for acting in and executive producing “The Sympathizer.” With the actor transforming into four distinct characters in a period piece, the series is poised to be a strong contender in the Creative Arts categories. Notably, previous Emmy winners are at the helm, including prosthetic designer Vincent Van Dyke (“Star Trek: Picard”) and two-time Oscar-winning production designer Donald Graham Burt (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Milk”).

The Sympathizer
Hopper Stone/SMPSP

Read: All Primetime Emmy predictions in every category on Variety’s Awards Circuit.

In his first TV leading role, Vietnamese Australian actor Hoa Xuande has received rave reviews from critics. He will compete in the lead actor (limited) race against Andrew Scott (“Ripley”), Jon Hamm (“Fargo”) and Richard Gadd (“Baby Reindeer”).

With 13 career Emmy nominations, Sandra Oh hopes to add up to three more. In “The Sympathizer,” Oh’s role as the independent feminist Sofia Mori will vie for supporting actress against her HBO/Max counterpart Kali Reis (“True Detective: Night Country”) and Jessica Gunning (“Baby Reindeer”). Additionally, her leading role in the Hulu television movie “Quiz Lady,” which she also helped produce, is up for consideration.

Co-showrunner Park Chan-wook will be submitting for directing and co-writing the pilot episode “Death Wish” with Tony winner Don McKellar (best musical book for “The Drowsy Chaperone” in 2006). This marks the 60-year-old Korean filmmaker’s second venture into television; his TV debut, “The Little Drummer Girl” from BBC in 2018, received critical acclaim but was shut out of the Emmys.

“The Sympathizer” is among several Asian storytelling contenders in the Emmy conversation, including the drama series “3 Body Problem” from Netflix, “Shōgun” from FX and “Tokyo Vice” from HBO/Max.

The full list of HBO/Max’s 27 submissions for “The Sympathizer” is below. Notably, other actors and artisans are allowed to submit themselves for consideration.

  • Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series
  • Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie — Hoa Xuande
  • Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie — Robert Downey Jr, Fred Nguyen Khan, Duy Nguyen, Toan Le
  • Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie — Sandra Oh, Ky Duyen
  • Directing for a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie — Park Chan-wook, Episode 101: “Death Wish”
  • Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie — Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar, Episode 101: “Death Wish”
  • Picture Editing for a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie — Vikash Patel, Episode 101: “Death Wish”
  • Cinematography for a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie — Ji-yong Kim, Episode 101: “Death Wish”
  • Casting for a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie — Jennifer Venditti, casting director
  • Choreography for a Scripted Programming — Shanda Sawyer, Episode 105: “All for One”
  • Period Costumes — Danny Glicker, Episode 103: “Love It or Leave It”
  • Period and/or Fantasy/Sci-Fi Hairstyling — Katherine Kousakis, department head hair, Episode 103: “Love It or Leave It”
  • Outstanding Main Title Design
  • Period or Fantasy/Sci-Fi Makeup (Non-Prosthetic) — Myriam Arougheti, department head makeup artist, Episode 105: “All for One”
  • Prosthetic Makeup — Vincent VanDyke, prosthetic designer, Episode 103: “Love It or Leave It”
  • Music Composition for a Limited or Anthology Series, Movie or Special (Original Dramatic Score) — Cho Young Wuk, Episode 101: “Death Wish”
  • Music Supervision — Linda Cohen, Episode 103: “Love It or Leave It”
  • Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More) — Donald Graham Burt, Alec Hammond
  • Sound Editing for a Limited or Anthology Series, Movie or Special — Tim Kimmel, supervising sound editor, Episode 101: “Death Wish”
  • Sound Mixing for a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie — Sam Hamer, sound mixer, Marc Fishman and Danielle Dupree, re-recording mixers, Episode 101: “Death Wish”
  • Stunt Coordination for Drama Programming — Justin Riemer
  • Stunt Performance
  • Special Visual Effects in a Single Episode — Chad Wanstreet, visual effects supervisor, Episode 101: “Death Wish”



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