Shortly after the release of the first teaser trailer for Greta Gerwig’s live-action Barbie movie, starring Margot Robbie as the iconic eponymous fashion doll and Ryan Gosling as Barbie boy toy Ken, Simu Liu is providing more clues about what we can expect from the film, the plot of which has been kept largely under wraps.
In the short teaser, the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings star is seen performing an energetic dance sequence featuring jazz-hand movements while wearing black clothes and hot pink socks. The movie will reportedly have three different versions of Ken, with Liu and Doctor Who’s Ncuti Gatwa playing the character alongside Gosling, while Issa Rae and transgender actor Hari Nef will appear as alternate Barbies with Robbie.
Liu is tight-lipped regarding any specific details about his dancing character, but the Marvel actor says Gerwig has cowritten and directed a Barbie story that is inclusive, showcasing a diverse cast and centering on the theme that everyone is beautiful in their own unique way.
“I remember very clearly about some of our big intricate dance sequences. Greta was very, very conscientious about who she cast. We were able to cast people of different shapes, sizes, differently abled, to all participate in this dance—all under this message of: You don’t have to be blonde, white, or X, Y, Z in order to embody what it means to be a Barbie or a Ken,” says Liu at the Unforgettable Gala, the annual awards ceremony honoring Asian artists and leaders in entertainment, on Saturday evening in Beverly Hills. “It’s really about finding your inner beauty and owning that part of yourself and being the best possible version of you.”
Gerwig’s vision of the Barbie world, which will premiere in theaters on July 21, 2023, also includes America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Alexandra Shipp, Michael Cera, Emerald Fennell, Emma Mackey, Rhea Perlman, and Will Ferrell among its ensemble.
“I will say, going on set I was never isolated. I felt like I was going to work every day with a cast that really celebrated each other and celebrated each other’s differences, no matter where we came from,” Liu says of the experience. “I think when you watch the movie, you’ll see that reflected on the screen.”
As for the elaborate dance moves seen in the trailer, Liu says the dancing came naturally to him due to his background in hip-hop. While studying at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, Liu was a member of the college’s hip-hop dance team, Hip-Hop Western. He and his squad even came in fourth place at the provincial college hip-hop competition.
“One of my first conversations with Greta, I told her, ‘Well, I don’t want to brag, but I was on my university’s hip-hop dance team.’ And she literally screamed. So I feel like that ended up playing a very critical role in me getting this project,” says the Marvel star. “But it was fun to get to reignite that part of me, ’cause I feel like after I started work as an accountant and then subsequently as an actor, I kind of forgot that I love dancing. This movie was definitely an opportunity to reconnect to that part of myself, so I was very happy.”