Barbie’s latest splash on the big screen has everyone talking – but this isn’t our favorite blond bombshell’s first rodeo. In fact, the beloved doll been playing many parts and making big moves since the ‘50s. But before we delve into the plentiful personalities of Barbie, watch Greta Gerwig’s hit, Barbie on DIRECTV – Rent or Buy on Channel 125 (or discover using your device’s search functionality) starting on September 12.
Get a glimpse into Barbie’s Dream House with the Barbie movie trailer.
The Many Lives of Barbie
When Barbie toys burst onto the doll scene in 1959, she was the girl who had it all: the body, perfect boyfriend, dream house and — over the years — a series of unlikely and escalating Girl Boss jobs. But with Greta Gerwig‘s new Barbie movie, that world gets turned upside down. Gerwig’s Barbie (played by Margot Robbie) has been exiled from Barbie Land for daring to question how perfect it really is and must make her way in the real world for the first time.
Luckily, Barbie has a crew of Kens and spinoff BFFs to help her on her way, as everyone from lawyer Barbie to Ken #3 band together to figure out how reality works outside the Dream House. This zany, sugar-sweet film is populated by an equally delicious cast that gives the Barbies of yesteryear a pink-hued, 21st-century update.
Read on to see which stars make up the cast of Barbie 2023, playing new versions of Barbie originals and which dolls are debuting for the first time.
Margot Robbie as Barbie
Barbie is now a franchise, but there was one doll that started it all. Released in 1959, Barbie hit the scene sporting a pert zebra swimsuit, a demure pout, coquettish glance, an updo a la Audrey Hepburn and a body that — if modeled on a full-sized human — would clock in at 5’9″ with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist, 33″ hips and a size 3 shoe. Margot Robbie is everything the original Barbie was supposed to be. She’s tall, thin and bubbly. With a background in both soap operas (Australia’s Neighbors) and dark comedy (I, Tonya), Robbie brings range to a doll that is ranging far outside her normal horizons.
“We can all see each other—all the Barbies own their own Barbie DreamHouses, and when they wake up in the morning, they can wave at each other, totally see each other because there are no walls, and they love it, there is no embarrassment,” Robbie says of Barbie Land. “It’s like the Garden of Eden before they felt the need to put clothes on. That’s what waking up in Barbie Land is like, except, of course, there are clothes, and they are fabulous!”
Ryan Gosling as Ken
Ryan Gosling has long been America’s indie-Hollywood crossover darling, known for playing such unsavory characters as an aspiring serial killer in Murderer By Numbers, a violence-prone getaway driver in the movie, Drive and a socially awkward man in love with a blow-up doll in Lars and the Real Girl. But whatever his role, this Mickey Mouse Club alum has always brought heartthrob energy to the silver screen — and the Barbie movie is no different. Since his debut in 1959, Ken has been Barbie’s constant arm candy. But in the Real World, this himbo can’t live on his washboard abs alone, as he navigates being a jobless, homeless and carless second fiddle to an iconic main squeeze with main character energy. Will Ken get it together? We can’t say yet, but we know no matter what he does, he’ll do it in style.
“My Ken was created to just observe the awesomeness that is Barbie, and there’s even a line in the film when he says he only exists within the warmth of Barbie’s gaze.” Gosling says, “He has no identity of his own, so he’s in a kind of existential hell. But he’s given a job, which is ‘beach.’ And he’s not sure what that job is specifically, but he really wants to be good at it.”
Issa Rae as Barbie
Barbie’s had a lot of jobs over the years, but none were quite so impressive as her 1992 bid to take up residence in the true Barbie Dream House: the White House. The original President Barbie governed America, but Gerwig’s version is the political boss of Barbie Land, making sure perfection is achieved daily. Rae’s come a long way from where she started, too, gaining confidence as she moved from her Youtube web series, Awkward Black Girl, to her Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated television series, Insecure. Perfection’s a tall order, but with confident Rae at the helm, anything seems possible.
“The most flattering thing in the world is when Greta said, ‘You know, when I was thinking about who I wanted to be President in this world, I thought wouldn’t it be cool if Issa were President?’ And I was like, ‘What, me?’” Rae remembers. “To have the opportunity to play President of all the Barbies, even though all Barbies can do anything and are capable of everything, is such a treat.”
Simu Liu as Ken
If Gosling’s Ken is an airhead who sees the world through candy-colored glasses, Simi Liu is his perfect adversary. Not only is Liu going for Ken’s girl (his flirtations are as suave as his all-black outfit), he’s also not afraid to aim for the top, challenging Gosling’s Ken to a beach-off from the jump. Luckily, Liu has experience with classic rivalries in his superhero role in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. We say, let the battle begin.
“Kens are just Kens. They just hang around and a lot of their identity is derived from being able to win the gaze of the Barbies, and so they are really just kind of hypercompetitive about really dumb things. It’s revealed that my Ken is a skilled dancer, and he can do backflips and Ryan’s Ken really resents that.” Liu jokes.
Hari Nef as Barbie
In the ’70s, the original Barbie made waves as a surgeon at a time when women doctors were a rarity. In Gerwig’s version, Doctor Barbie is still busy smashing that pink glass ceiling, bringing health to fine residents of Barbie Land. Doctor Barbie is played by the equally iconic ceiling-smasher Hari Nef, who made a name for herself as Gittel in Transparent and as the first openly trans woman signed to IMG Models. Nef’s Doctor has brains and beauty, and our prognosis for the film is: excellent.
“There’s a streak of satire and absurdism in the framework of Barbie Land that addresses and pokes fun at the culture we live in, which is amazing because girls can and should be everything. That can put a lot of pressure on the girls to be everything, but in “Barbie,” Greta creates this nuanced dynamic where we revel in things and laugh at them at the same time. I think the person who owns me is a 38-year-old gay man who lives in the West Village and collects dolls, because honey, this outfit is perfectly preserved in the box! This is no child’s play!” Nef said.
Kate McKinnon as Barbie
For every poised and perfect Barbie, there’s an equally uncoiffed and well-used Barbie stashed in a toy chest somewhere: her hair cut by an enterprising toddler, her makeup done in marker. Kate McKinnon brings this version of Barbie to life as Robbie’s existential adviser, pushing her to ditch the pink subdivisions of Barbie Land for an adventure within and without. There’s nobody better for the job than McKinnon, who has made weird a national pastime in her roles on Saturday Night Live and such madcap feminist reprises as Jillian in the all-female ghoul-spooking team of 2016’s Ghostbusters. With her chopped locks, her DIY marker makeup and her apt tagline (This Barbie is always in the splits), we’d let McKinnon guide us anywhere.
“We were in a playwriting class together and Greta is a genius, and it was absolutely no surprise when she became an award-winning writer and director.” McKinnon says. “Someone told me that she was making the Barbie movie and I thought, perfect. And my agent told me about the role of this Barbie, and I thought, ‘Okay, I’m home. If you asked me to pick a role for myself, it would be this Barbie. My sister had a bunch of 9 Barbies whose hair she brushed and whose clothes she cared for, but there was one receptacle of her ire that got its head shaved. You keep a Barbie with her legs splayed as far as they will go—it’s just a Barbie that every little girl grew up with.”
Ncuti Gatwa as Ken
When Gerwig cast Barbie, she clearly had an affinity for the cast of the Netflix hit, Sex Education, recruiting everyone from Emma Mackey (sex ed entrepreneur Maeve Wiley) to Connor Swindells (the early season bully of Sex Education who plays Mattel intern Aaron Dinkins in Gerwig’s revisionist Barbie herstory. But by far one of the breakout stars of the new film is Ncuti Gatwa, whose fizzy personality and inspired fits on Sex Education teed him up for his candy cowboy look in Barbie.
“My Ken is a little bit softer and more vulnerable. I think he’s just happy to kind of be a part of a ‘thing.’ He just wants to be involved and be included and loves that Kens are all there for each other. It’s an amazing and precise social commentary on society and gender norms, done in a pink, fluffy way.” Gatwa said.
Dua Lipa as Barbie
With six Brit Awards, three Grammys, an MTV Video Music Award and — yes, you heard it right — two Guinness world records, it didn’t seem that pop sensation could reach any higher heights. So instead she went deep, debuting in her first acting role as Mermaid Barbie, a blue-haired sea creature who brings sexy to the sea. A role made just for the film, our only critique is that Mermaid Barbie didn’t come around earlier.
More Characters to Unbox
This is already a star-studded list, but it’s hardly all of the major players and promising up-and-comers Gerwig recruited to represent the residents of Barbie Land. Whether it’s Will Ferrell playing a scheming Mattel CEO determined to get Barbie back in the box where she belongs or Michael Cera bringing Arrested Development-level laughs to the role of Ken’s best friend, Allen, or America Ferrera playing a disillusioned Mattel employee, Gerwig created a cast with as much depth as breadth, giving us so many dazzling dolls it’s hard to keep track. But one thing is certain: With dolls this delightful, we’ll follow Robbie anywhere Gerwig has her go.
Barbie Movie Fun Facts
As expected, the set was fun, energetic and full of unexpected surprises. Explore some of our favorite fun facts.
- Kate McKinnon’s Barbie’s House has holes hidden across the set, designed to enable McKinnon to hide one of her actual legs during filming, with a fake leg up against the wall to give the impression she is in the splits.
- Barbie’s car was operated by a remote-controlled transmitter with a member of the SFX team sitting in a custom-built chair and using VR drone technology, enabling Margot Robbie’s Barbie to “drive” hands-free around the set.
- The Barbie DreamHouses were over 25 feet high. Margot Robbie did all her own stunts, including jumping from the top of the house.
- Inspired by the movie “Mean Girls,” every Wednesday the crew were encouraged to wear something pink. Everyone got very involved and took it seriously.
- The Kens may have their differences, however, they do share one thing in common apart from their adoration of the Barbies: body waxing. As director Greta Gerwig explained to them on numerous occasions, Kens are not mammals, they’re dolls.
Even More to Watch
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Frequently Asked Questions
How old is Barbie?
The Barbie doll is officially 64 years old.
What is Barbie’s full name?
Barbara Millicent Roberts
Who directed Barbie?
Greta Gerwig directed the new, live action film.
When does the Barbie movie come out?
Rent or buy the Barbie movie on DIRECTV starting on Sept. 12, 2023.
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