What came first, the Ken-ergy or the Kenjuring? Ryan Gosling, rom-com heartthrob or indie murderer — pick your poison — plays Barbie’s washboard abs, employment-challenged, himbo boyfriend in Greta Gerwig’s upcoming pepto-colored existential musical about the dolls facing reality. On the surface, he appears giddy in the film’s trailer, following Barbie around like a clingy puppy, but underneath the Mattel pink hides Ken’s deep seated emptiness. “Ken’s got no money, he’s got no job, he’s got no car, he’s got no house,” Gosling said in one of his first descriptions of the character. “He’s going through some stuff.” To understand Ken’s plastic soul, Gosling had to search deep inside himself, find his Ken-ergy, and then let co-star Margot Robbie and Gerwig conjure it out of him, in his telling. All the while, those who panned his casting caught his ire. “If you ever really cared about Ken, you would know that nobody cared about Ken,” he recently told GQ. “So your hypocrisy is exposed.” Below, everything Gosling said about channeling his character — and laying a path forward for every Ken to feel seen.
On the casting backlash:
“I would say, you know, if people don’t want to play with my Ken, there are many other Kens to play with,” he told GQ. “It is funny,” he began, “this kind of clutching-your-pearls idea of, like, #notmyken. Like you ever thought about Ken before this?”
“And everyone was fine with that, for him to have a job that is nothing,” he continued. “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.”
It’s not the first time he called out the naysayers for “clutching their pearls” over his casting. “They never played with Ken,” Gosling argued in an interview with Jimmy Fallon just after the first look at Ken dropped last summer. “Nobody plays with Ken, man … He’s an accessory and not even one of the cool ones.”
On Ken’s joblessness:
“Ken’s job is just beach,” Gosling told Vogue in May. “I’ve never quite figured out what that means.” He elaborated on the duration of his non-employment with GQ. “Ken,” Gosling said, “his job is beach. “For 60 years, his job has been beach. What the fuck does that even mean?”
Last summer, he was a little more cynical about Ken’s personal crises. “Ken’s got no money, he’s got no job, he’s got no car, he’s got no house,” he told Entertainment Tonight on camera. “He’s going through some stuff.” The video has since become a meme.
On being Barbie’s sugar baby:
“She left a pink present with a pink bow, from Barbie to Ken, every day while we were filming,” Gosling told Vogue of his Robbie’s acting method. “They were all beach related. Like puka shells, or a sign that says ‘Pray for surf.’” After all, when your job is “just beach,” it’s important that you have puka shells. “I felt like she was trying to help Ken understand, through these gifts that she was giving,” he added.
On the Kenjuring:
“Up until this point, I only knew Ken from afar,” he said at CinemaCon on April 25, per Variety. “I didn’t know Ken from within. I doubted my Ken-ergy. I didn’t see it. But Margot and Greta conjured this out of me.”
On his Ken-tharsis:
“It’s been cathartic because there’s always been a Ken inside of me. It’s the role I was born to play. I’ve had this Ken-ergy, if you will. And the Ken-ergy is alive in me now,” he explained in an interview with MTV News while promoting The Gray Man last July. “I feel a Ken in you,” Gosling told the reporter.
On seeing himself as Ken for the first time:
“I felt seen,” he told Variety at the red-carpet premiere for The Gray Man last summer. “I felt like I was seeing myself. I felt seen. I think a lot of Kens will feel seen when they see this. Gotta do it for the Kens. No one plays with the Kens.”
On Ken’s personality:
“Ken has no sense of humor,” he said at CinemaCon in April. “He’s utterly, deadly serious.”
On agreeing to play Ken:
“Best script I ever read,” he said on Fallon, describing the moment he felt like he understood the role on a visceral level and simply had to call forth his inner doll. “And, I walk out in the backyard. And do you know where I found Ken, Jimmy?” (Gosling has two daughters who ostensibly play with Barbies.) “Facedown in the mud next to a squished lemon. I texted [a picture of it] to Greta and I said, ‘I shall be your Ken. For his story must be told.’”
On Ken-ergy existing in the ether:
When a reporter asked Gosling how regular people find their Ken-ergy, the actor said the answer is simple. “It’s there the whole time,” he told them at the Toronto premiere in “Ken”ada. “You’ve got it. It’s so strong, I can feel it right now. Look no further, you are Ken-ough.”
He went on to say that Ken-ergy is everywhere. “It’s like Wi-Fi,” he explained. “It’s there, but do you know how it’s really there? I don’t.”
On Finding Ken-munity:
In a BTS video, Gosling said “They’re just… you know they’re Kenning. They’re Kenning all over the place. They’re Kenning all over each other. They’re Kenning everywhere, and they’re Kenning so hard that they’re gonna Ken themselves blind if they don’t stop Kenning.” Make of that what you will.
On Knowing When Enough Is Ken-ough:
During his and Margot Robbie’s BuzzFeed Puppy Interview, Gosling said that playing Ken was like making cinnamon rolls from a tube, essentially saying it’s very difficult to put Ken back in the tube. “It’s a bit like that Cinnabon mix,” he said. “Once you open that canister, it’s very hard to … once you open it, you’re making Cinnabons and you’re loving it.”
On wearing Ken-derwear:
In a way, Ken-derwear was one of the first things that established Gosling’s ken-ergy; it was one of the stars in his first look image last year. Now, a year later, Gosling’s undies are still the talk of the town. “It’s just important to have your name written on your underwear for lots of reasons… but most importantly, it keeps your name in the mix,” says Gosling to GQ of the boxers. “If Barbie ever says, ‘Hey, is that Ken written on your underwear?’ You can say ‘Under where?’”