‘The Sympathizer’ cast share personal experiences in fleeing the Vietnam War

‘The Sympathizer’ cast share personal experiences in fleeing the Vietnam War‘The Sympathizer’ cast share personal experiences in fleeing the Vietnam War
via HBO
Michelle De Pacina
6 days ago
The cast of HBO’s drama series “The Sympathizer” have shared personal experiences of leaving their homeland during the Vietnam War. 
Key points:
  • The Sympathizer” stars, including Ky Duyen, Toan Le, Tien Pham, Vien Hong, Joseph Hieu and Scott Ly, recounted their families’ harrowing stories of fleeing Vietnam in pursuit of a better life.
  • More than two million people fled Vietnam after the war, but more than 500,000 died or disappeared during their journey.  
The details:
  • Duyen vividly remembered her departure on April 30, 1975, when she was just 9 years old, aboard a military airplane. She recounted lying on her mother’s lap, feeling her silent tears. Reflecting on her experience, she shared, “It’s tremendous sadness. Even working on ‘The Sympathizer,’ it tears me up, because I have a real-life parallel to the script.”
  • Le resonated with the chaos depicted in the show, recalling his own experience at 15 being airlifted and bussed to the airport. “A couple days later, when I woke up in Guam, I knew we lost the country and we might not go back at all,” he said.
  • Pham’s family, who fought alongside American soldiers during the war, faced their own trials. His mother had to sedate him for two days as they traversed the jungle to reach the shore, where they boarded fishing boats to escape.
  • Meanwhile, Hong recalled the cramped conditions on the boats, sharing, “Every square inch was basically filled with people. After the second day, we ran out of food and water. I drank my urine to stay alive. I had nightmares years after.” He also confronted the brutality of pirates who looted, assaulted and raped Vietnamese women. 
  • Hieu recounted being adrift in the ocean for five days before being rescued by the Philippine Navy, leading to refuge in Manila.
The big picture:
  • Through their roles in the show and their personal narratives, the actors honor the courage and determination of those who sought a better life amid the turmoil of war.
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen, author and executive producer of “The Sympathizer,” also recalled leaving Vietnam in 1975. “I wanted to honor [my parent’s] experience, but also the experiences of everyone who fled because people lost everything and they had to rebuild their lives,” he said.    
  • Ly emphasized the resilience born from such trials, saying “I always say that we are the actual aqua people. We came from the water. The trauma and all the people who didn’t make it…created this courage and grip.”
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