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Ken (Ryan Gosling) in sunglasses and a fur coat, looking sassy Photo: Warner Media

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Everything Ryan Gosling has said about playing — no, becoming — Ken for the Barbie movie

The Barbie press tour has brought out his full ‘Kenergy’

Zosha Millman (she/her) manages TV coverage at Polygon as TV editor, but will happily write about movies, too. She’s been working as a journalist for more than 10 years.

There are good press tours and bad press tours, and then there’s what Ryan Gosling is doing on the Barbie press tour: a godsend.

Gosling has made it no secret that he’s stoked to be involved with the film, and his time promoting it — during which he’s slowly unleashed his full “Kenergy” — has been an absolutely wild ride. There was a time he was sworn to secrecy (telling Vogue, “It would be very un-Ken of me to talk about Ken”), but those days are long past. Now we can revel in his full court impress.

Gosling’s Ken era is built on natural star power that can’t be manufactured. As he told GQ, “I care about this dude now. I’m like his representative. ‘Ken couldn’t show up to receive this award, so I’m here to accept it for him.’” And as he accepts the attention on Ken’s behalf, he has gone beyond merely promoting a film and become a phenomenon unto himself. Though Barbie co-writer/director Greta Gerwig and fellow star Margot Robbie apparently “conjured this out of him” — “Up until this point, I only knew Ken from afar. I didn’t know Ken from within. I doubted my Ken-ergy. I didn’t see it,” Gosling said at CinemaCon — it’s taken on a life of its own. Each new public appearance has gifted us with a new quote about how the spirit of Ken compels him.

As Gosling tells ExtraTV, he’s dabbling with dangerous, untested material — “Kenergy you can feel” — noting that “very little is known about Kenergy. And we don’t have the funding for the research.

“We know that it’s real. In my case it came on as a rash, and then it turned into a tan. And then suddenly you’re shaving your legs, and you’re bleaching your hair, and you’re wearing bespoke rollerblades.”

While Ken might not have a sense of humor (apparently), Gosling most certainly does. And here are the best things he’s said about taking up the mantle of Ken — or, put differently, here’s everything Gosling has said about the role.

A close-up of Jimmy Fallon’s hands holding up a photo of a Ken doll, face down in the dirt, next to a squished lemon Image: NBC Universal/YouTube
  • On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Gosling offers the original, the blueprint, the only way anyone should ever talk about accepting a job offer: “Best script I ever read. I walk out in the backyard. And you know where I found Ken, Jimmy? Face down in the mud next to a squished lemon.”
    And later: “I texted it [the photo] to Greta and I said: ‘I shall be your Ken. For this story must be told.’”
  • He continued this thought on EW’s Around the Table, stating: “It was like, at one moment I was a human male in my backyard picking up a Ken doll, and then somehow magically I had become that doll and I was being picked up by Greta Gerwig, and the only way to become human again was to just follow her very specific directions.”
Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) sing in the Barbiemobile out of Barbie land in Barbie Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
  • He also responded to the #notmyken movement that sprung up in opposition to the first photo of him as Ken. “It is funny, this kind of clutching-your-pearls idea of, like, #notmyken,” Gosling told GQ. “Like you ever thought about Ken before this? […] But suddenly, it’s like, ‘No, we’ve cared about Ken this whole time.’ No, you didn’t. You never did. You never cared. Barbie never fucked with Ken. That’s the point. If you ever really cared about Ken, you would know that nobody cared about Ken. So your hypocrisy is exposed. This is why his story must be told.”
  • Did Gosling always see himself as a Ken? “Ken wasn’t really on my bucket list. But in fairness, I don’t have a bucket list,” he told Vogue. “So I thought I’d give it a shot.”
  • He also explained why he played so hard to get when Gerwig was trying to cast him: “I did doubt my Kenergy in the beginning. And I thought this was such a perfect tonal symphony that I didn’t want to be the one instrument that was out of tune, you know? I just knew what it was going to take. So I just wasn’t sure I could do it [...] but I just decided I was going to Ken as hard as I can. I Kenned in the morning; I Kenned at night. If I’m honest, I’m Kenning a little right now.”
  • And how did the role find him while he was shooting (and doing the press tour for) The Gray Man? “It’s been cathartic,” he told MTV News. “Because there’s always been a Ken inside of me. It’s the role I was born to play. I’ve had this Kenergy, if you will. And this Kenergy is alive in me now.”
  • He also has a lot of feelings about the ’80s power ballad he performs in the film, telling the LA Times:

It felt so organic, as this whole process has. We were talking a lot about just being kids and coming from that place in a lot of these scenes. And when I was a kid, I was working and I was dancing at the mall or singing at weddings.
And I thought, you know, that kid worked really hard and got me here. I owe everything to him, but I thought I had let him retire. Like, he’d worked enough and I could take it from here. But it was time to pull him out of retirement one more time for one last heist.

He also notes that the performance didn’t come from him, telling the LA Times (with “a straight face,” per the article): “Ken sang that song. I never sang like that in my life. I don’t know why or how that happened.”

  • Gosling also sees Ken as a way to get in touch with the kid he once was. “There’s something about this Ken that really, I think, relates to that version of myself,” he told GQ. “Just, like, the guy that was putting on Hammer pants and dancing at the mall and smelling like Drakkar Noir and Aqua Net-ing bangs. I owe that kid a lot. I feel like I was very quick to distance myself from him when I started making more serious films. But the reality is that, like, he’s the reason I have everything I have. [...] I really had to go back and touch base with that little dude, and say thank you, and ask for his help.”
  • Again, here’s the Kenergy quote in full — from Gosling’s interview with ExtraTV — which I just can’t say enough about:

Here’s to hoping that the #BarbieMovie helps fund RyanGosling’s further research into “Kenergy.” #barbiethemovie #barbie #barbietiktok #barbiedoll #margotrobbie

♬ original sound - ExtraTV
  • Gosling also told Vogue how Margot Robbie helped him find Ken: “She left a pink present with a pink bow, from Barbie to Ken, every day while we were filming. They were all beach-related. Like puka shells, or a sign that says ‘Pray for surf.’ Because Ken’s job is just beach. I’ve never quite figured out what that means. But I felt like she was trying to help Ken understand, through these gifts that she was giving.”
  • He told BuzzFeed that his favorite part of working on Barbie (after getting to work with “all these talented people”) was “getting to wear a fake mink. And I think the headband is a good look for me.”
  • Gosling’s partner and daughters encouraged his Kenergy: “They’ve seen a lot pieces of [the film], and helped me a lot with it. They were huge inspiration for me.”
    “Well, it was, I think, weird enough for them that I played Ken anyway,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “I might like, you know, just hold off on them seeing the full Ken energy.”
  • Was he thrown off by having bleached hair? No — when he saw the concept he thought: “Finally. Finally. I’ve been manifesting this my whole life,” he told Variety. “Yes [...] I felt seen. I felt like I was seeing myself.”

Last, but certainly not least, when Buzzfeed asked Gosling which of his past roles was the hardest to let go of, he did say Ken. “The Ken thing is tough. It’s a bit like that Pillsbury dough — go with me on this — Cinnabon mix? Like once you open that canister you’re making Cinnabons. And you’re loving it. You’re loving making Cinnabons.”

And indeed, this role seems to have awakened something in him that will be hard to let go of. (As he says, maybe it’s the inner child in him, a development he’s surprised so many people know about.) But lest we forget, there is a Ken in all of us. As the man, the myth, the press tour legend himself says: “Look no further. You are Kenough.”