‘The Sympathizer’ Stars Sandra Oh and Hoa Xuande Unpack That Big Episode 6 Death

The actors also tell TheWrap about working “very intimately” together in the HBO series

Note: This story contains spoilers from “The Sympathizer” Episode 6.

In Sunday’s episode of “The Sympathizer,” the Captain (Hoa Xuande) murders his nemesis Sonny (Alan Trong) in his apartment, following the General’s (Toan Le) orders after concerns surfaced about his reporting on their covert mission.

But the decision is fueled by more than just the directive, after The Captain learned that his girlfriend Sofia Mori (Sandra Oh) had been having an affair with Sonny while he was away, working as a Vietnamese interpreter on Nikos’ (Robert Downey Jr.) movie.

“We have a rivalry that’s obviously spanned through our childhood because we have very similar backstories. The Captain and Sonny had American education before they split ways, so they see their causes for the Vietnamese people very similarly, but they obviously act upon it in very different ways,” Xuande told TheWrap. “I can only speak on behalf of the Captain but it’s almost like this rivalry expanded into the foray of love, and how we both become involved with the same woman. It tests of our ideology and our loyalties and our cause and now intertwined with our loves.” 

Alan Trong and Sandra Oh as Sonny and Sofia Mori in “The Sympathizer” (Hopper Stone/HBO)

“There’s this one moment between the Captain and Sonny that you realize, not only is the Captain doing this because of the directive that Sonny is a nuisance and he needs to be gotten rid of. But it’s the thing that he says that it seems that Sonny is unburdened and there’s a jealousy or an anger,” Oh added. “It’s like, ‘How are you so unburdened and I’m so burdened? How did you get that woman and I don’t have her?’ So there are really emotional elements that are the final thing that push the Captain into the actions that later on he deeply regrets, or that haunt him.”

The decision to kill Sonny quickly landed him in hot water, as Sofia discovered his true identity. But rather than turn him in, she told him to “go far away.”

“In this episode, you really see how the Captain is actually a very reactionary person and that’s what Sofia picks up on. She asks him a question, she’s basically saying, ‘You’re not impulsive?’ and she can read by the way that he answers that he is guilty, that he has done something terrible,” Oh said. “But her loyalty, in her blossoming and having a deeper understanding of herself as an Asian American woman, she chooses to align herself with the person that she was in love with, but is so disgusted by what he has probably done that she rejects him. So I actually really, really love Episode 6 looking at it, because it’s very, very complex.” 

When asked about working “very intimately” with Oh, Xuande had nothing but praise for his co-star.

“Given the opportunity to work with Sandra Oh is one thing, but to work on that level, like never in a million years would I have thought I’d be able to even do that and I was very nervous about that,” he said. “But Sandra has just been such a wonderful scene partner to work with and, being as inexperienced as I have been stepping up to the plate to do a show like this, has always been really supportive of just even speaking out on my behalf if I didn’t feel comfortable about certain things. That is probably why I didn’t have to try so hard to fall in love with Ms. Mori.”

Oh acknowledged that the “sparks fly quite quickly” between The Captain and Sofia and that she is intrigued by him. But she defended her character’s actions when it came to her relationship with Sonny.

“There’s time that passes. This is so of the Captain’s character, he’s completely non-committal,” she said. “I would say Ms. Mori is a very liberated lady. She was not going to wait around. Ms. Mori moves on like the bulldozer that she can be.”

In addition to Oh, Xuande, Downey Jr., Trong and Le, “The Sympathizer” stars Fred Nguyen Khan, Duy Nguyen, Phanxine, Vy Le, Ky Duyen and Kieu Chinh. The limited series is a coproduction between HBO, A24 and Rhombus Media, produced in association with Cinetic Media and Moho Film.

New episodes air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and stream on Max.

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