On the incredibly star-studded Barbie set, Ariana Greenblatt had her pick of A-list stars to meet. But it was Michael Cera, who plays Barbieland’s Allan, with whom she was most excited to work.
“I didn’t know he was in the movie,” she remembers during an interview conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike. “No one talked about him coming. I was like, ‘Is that real?’
“I love him more than anyone on that set that loves him,” she says with a laugh. “I watched Superbad for a week straight in my trailer for lunch just to cope.”
Cera and Greenblatt became pals, sharing a few scenes together in the film and playing Wordle in the mornings on set. “I tried to play it as cool as I possibly could,” admits the former Disney Channel actress.
In Greta Gerwig’s just-released film, Greenblatt plays Sasha, an angsty Gen Z tween who lost interest in Barbies long ago and is the daughter of Gloria (America Ferrera). “She is a very layered girl,” Greenblatt says of her character. “Greta loves exploring the relationship between a daughter and a mom, so she somehow managed to throw them in this movie, along with all the Barbie chaos.”
The film sees Barbie (Margot Robbie) struggle to reconcile the harsh realities of the real world with the perfection that is Barbieland. When Ken (Ryan Gosling) turns the Barbie utopia into a patriarchal Ken-dom, Sasha and Gloria help the Barbies deprogram themselves from the Kens’ control. In doing so, the mother-daughter duo rediscover their own connection. “I tried to at least make [Sasha] as relatable as possible,” says Greenblatt. “I wanted to represent teenage girls appropriately. No one understands a teenage girl unless you were one once in your life.”
Four years ago, Greenblatt had a major breakout role in Avengers: Infinity War as the younger version of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), which marked her first feature film ever. The actress, now 15, also recently starred alongside Adam Driver in Sony Pictures’ dinosaur thriller 65. Next, she’s set to appear in the starry sci-fi comedy Borderlands, based on the popular video game.
With a background in dance, the New York native began acting at just 6 years old. After auditioning for a trio of roles on a whim, Greenblatt scored all three, one of them landing her a series-regular part on Disney Channel’s Stuck in the Middle, in which she starred alongside Jenna Ortega. “There was no way I was going to stop and go home back to dance,” she says.
Before Barbie, Greenblatt — who says getting the chance to observe Gerwig at work was a “master class” — remembers writing a list of people with whom she would love to work, a manifestation technique that ultimately came to fruition. “They’re all in Barbie and Borderlands,” the actress says of the people on her dream list. “Margot, Kevin [Hart], Kate [McKinnon], all of them have been my dream team,” she says. “I mean, Ryan Gosling? I don’t even know what my life is.”
As for the future, Greenblatt already has a plan: “I’ll have to make a new list and manifest that into reality.”
This story first appeared in the July 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.