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ENTERTAINMENT Simu Liu Says the Kens Worked Out While Barbies Had Sleepovers During Making of ‘Barbie’ Movie

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Simu Liu is revealing how he and his Barbie costars developed their Ken-ergy.

To foster cast bonding for her big-screen adaptation of the iconic Mattel toys, writer-director Greta Gerwig gathered her actresses for a Barbie-themed sleepover. Liu, Ryan Gosling and the other actors playing Kens, however, had a different assignment.

“Greta was very deliberate in what she wanted the Kens to do to bond, which was to gym together,” Liu, 34, recently told E! News.

“So, while the Barbies were having a nice, relaxing night, the Kens were just male aggression and testosterone, lifting things and flexing and all that. That was the chosen bonding ritual for the Kens.”

And much like the apparent Ken-on-Ken rivalry in the movie itself, the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings star said he “could not beat” Gosling when it came to gym time.

“No matter how early I went, he was always there. He always stayed later than me. So I really saw the discipline and I really saw the Ken-ergy.”

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He added with a grin, “Viewers will get to see the Ken-ergy — when they see Ryan’s torso. And the rest of him!”

At the Barbie world premiere Sunday, Liu shared with PEOPLE his initial reaction to Gerwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach’s script. “I became so incredibly desperate to be a part of it. The Kens are just so deliciously stupid, and it’s an amazing feeling to get to step into that role and tell that story.”

As for the bonding activity for female castmates including Margot Robbie, America Ferrera and Kate McKinnon, Liu told PEOPLE that “the Kens were allowed to either visit briefly or to phone in and say hi.”

While Issa Rae missed out on the sleepover (“I was so sad,” she told PEOPLE), another cast member reportedly misunderstood its theme; on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Ferrera remembered showing up in “the most grandma floral twin set you could imagine… nobody told me that it was a sexy Barbie sleepover.”

Liu told E! News that, along with weightlifting, the cast “had a lot of dinners, a lot of hangs.” He also developed another competitive streak with costar Scott Evans, a fellow Ken.

“Scott and I had a very, very, very long and very contentious table tennis rivalry that lasted over the course of the entire production of the movie,” he said. “I hope I get to see him again soon because I need to get him back.”

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Speaking about Barbie dolls’ decades-long cultural impact, Liu added that Gerwig’s film reflects “the evolution of the Barbie brand over the years.”

“What I love about this movie, myself included of course, is that there’s lots of Barbies and lots of Kens,” he continued. “It started as one thing and thankfully has kind of evolved to be more inclusive, to be more diverse.”

Barbie parties into theaters July 21.

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