ALLURE – Liu shares why he was “desperate” to be in the film, plus breaks down the detailed grooming routine that helped transform the actor into the beloved himbo.
Barbie fever is all anyone can talk about. (Myself included.) The film’s tagline might claim that “Barbie is everything. He’s just Ken,” but Kenneth Sean “Ken” Carson, the Pisces doll born two years and two days junior to Barbie, has done a good job of creating headlines of his own. Ryan Gosling’s coined terms “Kenergy” and “You are Kenough” have kept us eager to learn more about how Barbie’s love interest plays out on screen. But Gosling isn’t the only Ken. There are several of them in Barbie Land, including Simu Liu.
“It’s a movie about Barbies and Kens, but really, at the end of the day, it’s a movie about humanity, and what it means to be human, and what it means to grow,” says Liu, who plays one of many versions of the doll in the upcoming Barbie, a film whose specific plot details have so far been kept impressively under wraps. “To have these conversations about patriarchy and toxic masculinity, where these things come from — how are we complicit in it? How do we attack it?” It may seem heavy handed to have those conversations in a movie about a life-size plaything — the movie is literally about dolls — but Liu says it goes there in a nuanced fashion. “It’s impossible to have [this] movie without commenting on this concept of gender as a whole. And I just think that Greta does it so beautifully.”
Liu, who says that the role of Ken was the first audition he had since Shang Chi, was “desperate” to play Ken. “It was hands down the best script that I ever read,” he recalls. “I was like, ‘I’ll do whatever I need to do — get me in this movie.’”
Liu says Ken embodies “dumb masculinity” in that he’s very enthusiastic with “not a lot of brain power, but a lot of flexing and puffed up chests.” Naturally, the conversation veered into speaking of Liu’s own chest, as the actor detailed the extensive waxing he underwent for the movie to obtain the perfectly coiffed Ken look.
“We got waxed two times [over filming],” says Liu. “I had never been waxed before at that point, but I was told that it lasts a few weeks which is good because it was one of the most painful experiences of my life and I don’t think I could do that on a weekly basis.” The second wax was necessary because the hair on his legs started growing back “which was rough, I’m not gonna lie to you.”
Gosling revealed last year that he underwent spray tans for his look, and while Liu didn’t partake in those, he did need a perfectly even body complexion. “We had this kind of body paint that we applied to all over our exposed skin because there’s this notion of, ‘Well, Kens aren’t human so … Kens can’t break out because there’s no pores,’” he explains. “We had to look glossy and plastic and there was a lot of body paint applied every single day.” (While Liu didn’t specify the product used, we’re thinking the said “body paint” is something akin to Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs.)
While Ken is eye candy — with his hair perfectly quaffed and clear skin — Liu adds that a solid skin-care regimen was the basis of his look. “Skin care is very important before and after the makeup,” says Liu. “I really got to get into a skin-care routine over the course of this movie: the cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer. At the end of every day, it was just really, really important for Kens to keep that up.”
And it turns out Liu has great taste — his go-to brand is a favorite of Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, and Meghan Markle. “Look, right now I’m all about Tatcha,” says Liu. “The Rice Wash, I’m here for all of it! [It] feels great. I’ve gotten like three pimples [overall] since I started using it. This is not sponsored, I swear to God, I’m just a big fan. I’m just admiring from afar.”