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  • Glen Loveland

Hoa Xuande: The Overnight Sensation Taking Hollywood By Storm in The Sympathizer


HBO's adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Sympathizer, is a triumph. As someone who was profoundly impacted by Nguyen's groundbreaking story when it was first published, I had high hopes for this series. And I'm happy to write that it not only meets those high expectations, but exceeds them.

At the heart of this series is a star-making performance by Hoa Xuande. The Australian-Vietnamese actor is a revelation as the unnamed spy known only as the "Captain." He brings a magnetic intensity and simmering depth to a challenging role that requires him to be both the story's suave narrator and a man struggling with profound internal conflicts. Xuande's layered portrayal powerfully embodies his character's struggle between identities and loyalties.

I had the opportunity to watch Xuande's recent interview with The Washington Post, and I was struck by the thoughtfulness and wisdom he brought to discussing both the series and his own experiences as the child of Vietnamese immigrants. He spoke with great poise about using his own background to tap into his character's sense of existing between two worlds, never fully belonging to either. It's clear that Xuande is not only a gifted actor but an intelligent and perceptive artist with a very bright future ahead of him.

I'm just going to say it: Hoa is a full-on thirst trap, and I am parched. This gorgeous Australian-Vietnamese actor isn't just talented (though he is insanely talented); he's also sexy AF. That chiseled jawline, those soulful eyes, the way he wears a suit... I'm fanning myself just thinking about it.

Seriously, People magazine needs to put Hoa at the top of their list for the next Sexiest Man Alive. He's got that impossible Aussie cool, but with an added layer of smoldering intensity that just makes you melt.

I may or may not have spent a few hours scrolling through his Instagram, and let me tell you, it does not disappoint. Though I do have one request, Hoa, honey: please post more!

The Sympathizer itself is a remarkable achievement, using the framework of an espionage thriller to delve into questions of identity, loyalty, politics, and the corrosive legacy of colonialism. By telling this story of the Vietnam War and its aftermath primarily through Vietnamese points of view, it provides a crucial counterpoint to typical American-centric narratives. The series has real bite in its darkly satirical portrayal of American cultural arrogance and racism. But it reserves its greatest empathy for characters, on all sides of the conflict, whose lives have been fractured and reshaped by massive historical and political forces beyond their control.

Books and films about the Vietnam War have rarely captured Vietnamese experiences and perspectives with this level of complexity, nuance and deeply felt humanity. In illuminating those often neglected stories and voices, The Sympathizer performs a vital service. But it's also a wildly entertaining, suspenseful and thought-provoking ride in its own right. This is television of the highest order, and a series that demands to be seen, discussed and grappled with.

The Sympathizer heralds the arrival of a major new actor in Hoa Xuande and provides an essential new perspective on a war whose aftershocks still reverberate through both American and Vietnamese life. It's an unqualified must-watch.


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