Ryan Gosling had his doubts about playing Ken, Barbie’s oft-overlooked boyfriend, in Barbie, starring Margot Robbie. “Ken’s job is just ‘beach,’” he said of the eternally tan, bleach-blond doll. “I’ve never quite figured out what that means.” But a serendipitous encounter with his daughters’ plaything showed him all he needed to know about being Barbie’s sidekick. 

“I was in my backyard one day, and I see a Ken face down in the mud by a squished lemon,” Ryan told The New York Times. “I thought, Oh, this story does need to be told.” The 42-year-old was initially blasted as too old for the part (Margot is 33), to which he says, now you care? “It’s funny,” he said of the backlash. “This kind of clutching-your-pearls idea of #notmyken. Like, you ever thought about Ken before this?” 

He felt right at home in the hot-pink, super-girly Barbie Land. “It came naturally,” said the dad of two girls (mom is Eva Mendes). “I grew up in a house run by women. I live in one now.” Once filming moved from Leavesden Studios outside London to L.A.’s Venice Beach, however, he got the jitters. 

“I didn’t anticipate when I was Kenning in Leavesden Studios that I would have to Ken in public,” he joked. “I wouldn’t recommend that to anybody.” Especially since the Oscar nominee was unprepared for a key scene on the beach’s famed boardwalk. “Well, I hadn’t practiced my rollerblading,” he admitted. “I never felt more like Ken in my life because Margot was trying to hide her disappointment!”