The most culturally significant cinematic release of the year is upon us—and no, we are not talking about Christopher Nolan’s little bomb movie. We are, of course, referring to Barbie.
While the simultaneous release of Greta Gerwig’s ode to the iconic Mattel doll and Nolan’s nuclear epic Oppenheimer has culminated in a pretty entertaining cultural moment (we fully expect “Barbenheimer” to be added to the dictionary by year’s end), and Cillian Murphy is practically a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination, he lacks the one je ne sais quoi quality that marks a true leading man: Kenergy.
Who Plays Barbie?
Barbie is first and foremost all about its female lead and supporting actresses, of which there are many. In addition to Margot Robbie as the titular toy, the cast of the film includes a whole plastic panoply of other Barbies, each of whom embodies a different one of the many, many jobs that the character has held over the years. Pop star Dua Lipa makes her big-screen debut as Mermaid Barbie, for instance, while Insecure creator Issa Rae is President Barbie, model Hari Nef is Doctor Barbie, and Saturday Night Live alum Kate McKinnon plays a choppy, drawn-on version of the doll that will be familiar to anyone who has seen Rugrats who also seems to be fulfilling the Morpheus-from-The Matrix role in this story.
But that’s not all.
It was announced in 2021 that Ryan Gosling would be playing Ken to Robbie’s Barbie. But that is just the beginning. There are almost as many Kens as there are Barbies in the movie. Each of whom captures a hilarious take on the famous male doll without ever drawing focus from the girls. If Margot Robbie’s leading lady is “everything,” then these guys are more than happy to be “just Ken.”
Here’s everything we know about the actors playing Ken in Barbie.
Gosling was the first actor to be announced as Ken. And the movie’s promotional campaign has given us a lot of him in character. Complete with platinum blonde hair (the first time he’s rocked the look since his performance in The Place Beyond the Pines). Gosling has, in fact, appeared to have gone full method for the role of Ken. Continuing to embody that “Kenergy” in interviews and press junkets.
Simu Liu’s star rose to stratospheric levels when Kim’s Convenience actor entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2021 as the title character in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. A role he will reprise in the upcoming sequel.
Liu approached the Barbie movie with the same level of physical commitment as he did with his MCU debut. “It’s all choreography, right?” he said in a recent conversation with Men’s Health. “Whether you’re fighting people on a bus or doing a multi-person dance sequence in a cul-de-sac in Barbie Dream World. It’s cool to trade the gloves and the pads for a dance studio with a ballet bar.”
Best known for the role of Eric in Netflix’s hugely popular high school comedy-drama series Sex Education. Gatwa recently took on one of the biggest mantles in pop culture when it was announced that he will be the fifteenth actor to play the Doctor in Doctor Who, one of the longest-running staples of British television. So he’ll be well-versed in the responsibility of playing the similarly iconic Ken.
(Gatwa’s Sex Education co-star Connor Swindells will also appear in the movie; his character poster describes him as “like an intern or something.”)
Following on from roles in The OA and High Fidelity, Kingsley Ben-Adir is currently starring in Marvel’s conspiracy thriller series Secret Invasion, in which he plays the primary villain. So how better to shore up some goodwill than Ken?
The brother of Avengers star Chris Evans has an impressive resume in his own right, but this is the first time he is taking on a role that is arguably even more widely known and loved than Captain America.
The Fast X star revealed in May that he would be playing one of the dolls in Barbie, after begging Margot Robbie to help him land a role. “I said, ‘I will pretty much do whatever you guys need, ’cause I really enjoy the movie,'” Cena said. “And they asked me if I wanted to be a merman. I said yeah, sure.'”
And now, thanks to a behind-the-scenes featurette, we have our first look at Cena as a “Kenmaid.”
*By Phillip Ellis
*This article originally appeared on menshealth.com