Here's How Robert Downey Jr. Played So Many Characters In The Sympathizer Finale, Explained

RDJ played four different characters throughout the mini-series since its premiere in April. But The Sympathizer season finale revealed his fifth and final character in the show and it all made sense.

Updated on Jun 07, 2024  |  05:00 PM IST |  72.4K
Robert Downey Jr. Helmed Multiple Characters In The Sympathizer Finale
Robert Downey Jr. (PC: YouTube/Official Trailer/Max)

Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for The Sympathizer Season Finale

Playing different characters with contrasting dynamics isn’t much of a challenge for the very versatile Robert Downey Jr. But what he seeks in them is reason. The historical comedy thriller series, The Sympathizer wrapped with its finale, entitled Endings Are Hard, Aren’t They, on Sunday, May 26. But one question remains, how did RDJ even ace every single character in the show? 

The Marvel star played four different characters throughout the mini-series since its premiere in April. But The Sympathizer season finale revealed his fifth and final character in the show and it all made sense.

Robert Downey Jr. took up the challenge of five 

Based on author Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, The Sympathizer delved into the espionage that arose around the end of the Vietnam War. Robert Downey Jr., 59, started off with the CIA spymaster, Claude; followed it up with another appearance as Professor Robert Hammer; anti-communist American Congressman Ned Godwin and Oscar-winning filmmaker Niko Damianos a.k.a The Auteur. The season finale reveals his final character as The Captain’s father, a white American Priest. 

One of The Sympathizer producers and RDJ’s wife, Susan Downey shared an insight into how the five-character plot played out for him. She revealed that it was the director Park Chan-wook’s idea to cast only one actor for all the roles. But RDJ wasn’t instantly on board.


“It was director Park's idea to have one actor play all these characters, and it was Robert who challenged him and said, ‘I just don't want it to be a gimmick. There has to be a reason behind it,’” Susan Downey told the Entertainment Weekly. 

Hence, director Park and showrunner Don McKellar dug deeper into the storyline to find answers. She recalled, “They came back and they said, ‘okay, we got it. There's actually a fifth character that you're going to play.’ That's how it all came together.” And it all came full circle with Downey’s fifth character as the priest father of Hoa Xuande’s The Captain. 

Every RDJ character in The Sympathizer is symbolic of different established systems of America, actor Hoa Xuande says. Thus, anytime he sees the archetypical, white, male, American authority figure, The Captain is reminded of his anti-communist father who wanted to wipe out the Vietnamese communists. This is the reason why RDJ was chosen to play all the five characters. 


Susan Downey’s favorite character of all

When asked which of RDJ’s characters in the HBO series was her favorite, Downey weighed in on the Hollywood filmmaker, Claude a.k.a The Auteur because he resembled her husband in real life. “But I have to tell you, it's so hard to play favorites because there are things that are just so charming, awful, and so wrong about the Professor and certainly the Congressman,” she added of the other intriguing characters. 

Other cast members include Fred Nguyen Khan, Sandra Oh, Vy Le, Toan Le, Tom Dang, Tien Pham, Phan Gia Nhat Linh, Duy Nguyen, Scott Ly and others. 

The Sympathizer follows the unnamed spy protagonist, referred to as The Captain played by Hoa Xuande, who flees to the US disguised as a war refugee in the South Vietnam army. There, he gathers information and reports back to the Viet Congress.


All episodes of The Sympathizer are available to stream on Max.

ALSO READ: That Broke Me A Little': Terrence Howard Claims Robert Downey Jr Ghosted Him After He Sacrificed Iron Man Role For Actor

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