Who is Fred Nguyen Khan in The Sympathizer? All to know

Fred Nguyen Khan as Bon (via HBO)
Fred Nguyen Khan as Bon (via HBO)

HBO's latest offering, The Sympathizer, tells the story of a Vietnamese spy in Los Angeles called Captain. With Hoa Xuande in the lead role, his close friend Bon in the show is portrayed by Canadian actor Fred Nguyen Khan.

The Sympathizer is based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2015 Pulitzer-winning novel of the same name. Combining elements of intrigue, espionage, politics, and dark humor, the novel is set near the end of the Vietnam War and told through the eyes of an unnamed narrator who simply goes by 'Captain.' The Captain is a North Vietnamese spy who has integrated himself into the South Vietnamese army unbeknownst to his colleagues and friends.

Along with Bon, the Captain escapes to Los Angeles, USA, where he continues to work as a mole for the communists back home. Finding himself amongst his so-called foes in a foreign nation, his loyalties and his beliefs are challenged while living his new life.

The Sympathizer premiered on Max on April 14, 2024, with its episodes set to be released every week until May.


The Sympathizer's Bon is the Captain's friend

Fred Nguyen Khan and Hoa Xuande in 'The Sympathizer' (via HBO)
Fred Nguyen Khan and Hoa Xuande in 'The Sympathizer' (via HBO)

In HBO's The Sympathizer, Bon is a childhood friend of the Captain and a member of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, who has no knowledge about his friend's dual allegiance.

During the fall of Saigon, the Captain arranges for a flight so that he, Bon, and the General can escape. However, Bon's wife and child are killed with others on the airstrip. This leads him to commit to the General's counter-revolution in pursuit of vengeance. As they settle in Los Angeles as expatriates, Bon struggles with depression due to his loss while seeking comfort from his friend.

In a Screenrant interview in April 2024, Nguyen Khan spoke about his character:

"I was just so focused on telling the story of Bon. It's such a complex and nuanced character that I had the greatest of fulfilment as an actor to portray this character."
A still from 'The Sympathizer' (via HBO)
A still from 'The Sympathizer' (via HBO)

He also revealed that he created a playlist that his character would likely listen to. Khan shared:

"I actually have a Spotify playlist that says "Bon's Record Collection." And it's music that he would be listening to, even though he doesn't really collect music, but that's something that he would be listening to."

Who plays Bon in The Sympathizer?

A still from 'The Sympathizer' (via HBO)
A still from 'The Sympathizer' (via HBO)

As previously stated, Fred Nguyen Khan plays the role of Bon. He is a Canadian actor and stunt performer of Vietnamese origin. According to WNYC, he is trilingual and has been studying martial arts since he was four years old.

An April 2024 article by Variety reports that Khan's grandmother was a Vietnamese refugee who sought asylum in Canada. Having grown up in Montreal, Khan describes himself as a "32nd Gen Shaolin Disciple" on his social media page. Furthermore, as per IMDb, Fred Nguyen Khan is an accomplished martial artist, having trained in traditional kung-fu at the Shaolin Temple and in contemporary Wushu.

In an April interview with Screenrant alongside co-star Duy Nguyễn, he revealed that The Sympathizer marked his first time acting in Vietnamese.

"The only Vietnamese media that I was exposed to were variety shows, stuff like that. So, I never felt like, as an actor, that the Vietnamese language can be used in film or TV shows until I came to the set," he said.

During the same interview, Nguyen Khan revealed that he spoke to his father and uncles for his research on the time period that his character belonged to. Moreover, while diving into his family history, he also disclosed that they had been through boats and refugee camps before settling in the North American country.

Fred Nguyen Khan has appeared in multiple projects including Transplant, Fatherhood, and Tales of Melee Island. As a stunt performer, Khan has worked on To Catch a Killer, The Office Games, and Slim & Ren.

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Produced by A24 and Rhombus Media, the first episode of The Sympathizer premiered on April 14 on HBO's streaming service Max. Its seven-episode arc will end with the final episode set to be released on May 26, 2024.

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