Are Jamie Johnson, Ryan Glenn and James Yoon Based on Real Actors?

Image Credit: Hopper Stone/HBO

HBO’s ‘The Sympathizer’ presents a sharp critique of the portrayal of the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese people, primarily through the lens of Hollywood, as it follows the misadventures of a North Vietnamese spy in America. The Captain’s mission leads him to do all sorts of things. When his bosses discover that he has been invited to serve as a consultant in a Hollywood film, they encourage him to take the job and try to influence the movie in a way that serves their agenda. Once on the set, the Captain experiences the full extent of the movie and is introduced to three different kinds of actors, all of whom serve a very important purpose in the story.

The Actors in The Hamlet Critique Hollywood Films From Several Angles

Image Credit: Hopper Stone/HBO

‘The Sympathizer’ is based on the book of the same name by Viet Thanh Nguyen, who used the premise of The Hamlet to underscore the problems with the American narrative of the Vietnam War. The film satirizes Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now,’ which had a significant impact on Nguyen after he saw the movie at a young age and was exposed to the flawed nature of Hollywood. Like Coppola’s film, ‘The Hamlet’ focuses on Captain Will Shamus, an unpredictable and cruel character who goes up against Sergeant Jay Bellamy, who is tired of his ways.

The role of Shamus is played by veteran actor Ryan Glenn (played by David Duchovny), who is known for his method acting. Glenn is so deeply entrenched in his role as Shamus that he has acquired the character’s persona and will remain so until the end of the filming. Known only as “the Thespian” in Nguyen’s book, Glenn is a riff on Marlon Brando, who was also known for going deep into his characters and making method acting more popular in the following years.

While Nguyen didn’t directly base Glenn on Brando, he did pick up some characteristics adopted by him and other method actors over the years, especially the ones who take it a tad too far. Method acting has been adopted by several actors over the years, but while some focus on the nitty-gritty of the characters, others use it as an excuse for their rude and bad behavior, especially to their costars and other members of the set. The writer sheds light on this through Glenn, who scares the Captain so much that the latter thinks that Glenn, as Shamus, might actually rape the actress in a rape scene.

Image Credit: Hopper Stone/HBO

The opposite of Glenn is the newbie Jamie Johnson, who plays Bellamy. Unlike the veteran actor, Johnson is a fresh face for whom this is the first starring role following a successful music career. His personality clashes with Glenn, who becomes more infuriated and gets even more aggressive as the days pass.

The most important is the character of James Yoon, the most recognizable Asian-American actor known for playing all kinds of minor roles. What makes him so identifiable is the fact that he is the go-to Asian actor in Hollywood films and will play everything from an old Chinese man to a young Japanese while actually being Korean. Through Yoon’s character, the author points the audience towards the lack of diversity as Asian characters are mostly reduced to background characters, even when the story is basically about them. Yoon represents the actors pushed to the sidelines and only brought around because they fit the box that the filmmakers wanted them to be. It also highlights how Asian characters have been trivialized in Hollywood over the years.

Read More: Is Nico Damianos Inspired by a Real Movie Director? Is The Hamlet an Actual Film?