'Da 5 Bloods' Cast Captures Lingering Pain of the Vietnam War

Gabrielle Bruney
Photo credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX
Photo credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX

From Esquire

Photo credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX
Photo credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Spike Lee's latest movie, Da 5 Bloods, tells the epic, decades-spanning tale of Paul, Otis, Melvin, and Eddie, four Black Vietnam War veterans who return to the nation to find the remains of their old friend as well as a treasure in gold bars. Along the way, they grapple with the trauma of war, which has scarred relationships with their children, and littered their lives and those of the Vietnamese people with landmines both real and metaphorical.

The film is marked with Lee's signature auteur flourishes, from its opening montage of scenes from 1960s and '70s American history, to its regular cutaways to photographs of both the movie's characters and scenes from real life. And while his directing has a lot to do with the film's warm critical reception, so does its phenomenal cast. From more minor players like Ngô Thanh Vân, who plays the real-life radio wartime personality known as Hanoi Hannah, to star Delroy Lindo, who gives an already-awards-hyped performance as Paul, it's the actors who make make these characters unforgettable.

Delroy Lindo (Paul)

Photo credit: Roy Rochlin - Getty Images
Photo credit: Roy Rochlin - Getty Images

Violent, prickly, untrusting, Trump-supporting Paul is the most difficult of all the Bloods. But, as the film reveals, he's also the one with the most lingering scars from the war—he's still wracked by nightmares, alienated from his son, David, and is most affected by the loss of their former leader, Norman. Paul is played by British-American actor Delroy Lindo, who's a regular of Lee's films, and has appeared in his movies Crooklyn, Clockers, and Malcolm X.

Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Melvin)

Photo credit: Walter McBride - Getty Images
Photo credit: Walter McBride - Getty Images

In contrast with Paul, Melvin's the fun-loving, hard-drinking member of the bunch, but like Lindo, Whitlock is a veteran of many a Spike Lee joint. He's appeared in BlacKkKlansman, Red Hook Summer, Chi-Raq, She Hate Me, 25th Hour, but Whitlock is likely best known for his role in The Wire, where he played crooked Maryland state senator Clay Davis.

Clarke Peters (Otis)

Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images

Paul isn't the only one of the Bloods who has a complicated relationship with his kids—Otis learns upon his return to Vietnam that he fathered a daughter, Michon, with his one-time girlfriend Tien. He's still loyal to the family he unknowingly left behind after his wartime service ended, which complicates his relationship with Paul, who thinks Tien is double crossing the group. Peters, who's a singer, dancer, and writer as well as an actor, is, like Whitlock, a familiar face to fans of The Wire—he played detective Lester Freamon on the iconic HBO series.

Norm Lewis (Eddie)

Photo credit: Sylvain Gaboury - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sylvain Gaboury - Getty Images

Of all of the Bloods, Eddie is is the generous, jovial, success story, a car dealership owner who's the most financially prosperous member of the group. He's played by stage veteran Lewis, who made history as the first black actor to star in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

Jonathan Majors (David)

Photo credit: Paul Archuleta - Getty Images
Photo credit: Paul Archuleta - Getty Images

David is Paul's son, who follows his father to Vietnam to make sure that he's doing alright. He strikes up a budding romance with anti-landmine activist Heddy, before things between the pair get pretty complicated. Majors is a Yale School of Drama-trained newcomer who starred in The Last Black Man in San Francisco and has a lead role in the upcoming Jordan Peele-produced HBO series Lovecraft Country.

Mélanie Thierry (Hedy)

Photo credit: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff - Getty Images

Hedy is the founder of LAMB an NGO that disables landmines in Vietnam who inadvertently gets caught up in the Bloods' gold heist. She's played by French actor Thierry.

Ngô Thanh Vân (Hanoi Hannah)

Photo credit: Morgan Lieberman - Getty Images
Photo credit: Morgan Lieberman - Getty Images

Ngô, who also goes by Van Veronica Ngo, is a Vietnamese actor and singer who's perhaps best known to American audiences as Paige Tico, Rose's sister, in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In Da 5 Bloods, she plays Trịnh Thị Ngọ, a real-life Vietnamese radio personality known to American troops as Hanoi Hannah.

Paul Walter Hauser (Simon)

Photo credit: Rachel Luna - Getty Images
Photo credit: Rachel Luna - Getty Images

Hauser, who starred in Clint Eastwood's Richard Jewell, plays LAMB worker Simon.

Jasper Pääkkönen (Seppo)

Photo credit: Jamie McCarthy - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jamie McCarthy - Getty Images

Lee fans will recognize Pääkkönen from his role as Klan member Felix Kendrickson in BlacKkKlansman. Here, he plays fellow LAMB member Seppo.

Jean Reno (Desroche)

Photo credit: Pablo Cuadra - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pablo Cuadra - Getty Images

Da 5 Bloods big bad is played veteran French actor Reno, who's known to American audiences for his roles in films like Leon: The Professional, Mission: Impossible and The DaVinci Code.

Chadwick Boseman (Norman Holloway)

Photo credit: Brad Barket - Getty Images
Photo credit: Brad Barket - Getty Images

None other than the Black Panther himself plays the Bloods' late leader, Norman "Stormin' Norm" Holloway. It's Boseman's first time working with Lee, who was such a big fan of Black Panther that he saw the film four times.

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