Robert Downey Jr’s sweet act to nervous Aussie co-star


Australian actor Hoa Xuande scored the biggest break of his career with his new starring role in the hotly anticipated HBO series The Sympathizer.

Xuande receives top billing in the show, which starts streaming today on BINGE, available on Hubbl – above Hollywood stars like Robert Downey Jr. and Sandra Oh.

The series, a historical black comedy based on the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Viet Thanh Nguyen, tells the story of “the Captain” (Xuande), a North Vietnamese plant in the South Vietnam army who is forced to flee to the US towards the end of the Vietnam War.

At 36, Xuande is no acting newcomer – here in Australia, he’s had recurring roles in shows like Ronny Chieng: International Student, Hungry Ghosts and Last King of the Cross – but The Sympathizer is undoubtedly his biggest role to date, and a big introduction to international audiences.

In recent interviews to promote the show, the humble Aussie actor admitted to some nerves about taking such a big leap – while his Oscar-winning co-star Downey Jr shared the ingenious way he helped Xuande settle them.

“My hopes were just to try and be the token Asian on TV. If I could at least do that, I felt like I could make a career,” he told The Hollywood Reporter of his initial career ambitions in a recent interview.

Xuande revealed that he even gave himself a stage name in an attempt to broaden his likelihood of being cast in projects: His real surname is Nguyen, the most common Vietnamese surname.

“I tried to give myself a name that would be ambiguous enough so that I could at least fit into other Asian roles, not just Vietnamese roles,” he revealed.

Elsewhere in The Hollywood Reporter interview, Xuande confessed to feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the show’s shoot, which took place across LA in Thailand over the course of six months.

So large is Xuande’s role in the show, he had like “one and a half days off” during that time.

“A lot of the time I was just thinking, ‘I’m in way over my head on this,’ ” he revealed.

And in a recent interview with the New York Times, Xuande’s co-star Robert Downey Jr shared that he sensed his nerves at carrying the show, and revealed how he helped him settle into the role.

Downey Jr, who also serves as an executive producer on the series, had access to an initial teaser trailer that HBO had cut. He was impressed by what he saw, and brought it to Xuande to show him – over and over, six times in total, until he too saw that his performance was shaping up to be a star-making turn.

Downey Jr revealed that he’d performed a similar trick on himself when he was filming the first Iron Man movie. Feeling daunted to be taking on the role, Downey Jr finally decided he was doing it justice when he saw himself in a teaser trailer released very early on for Comic-Con.

“And because I’d had that experience,” he told the New York Times, “I knew that he needed it.”

The Sympathizer begins today on BINGE, with new episodes dropping weekly at 11:10am on Mondays.