Hollywood is learning about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s pre-presidential career as a comedic actor, and they’re surprised and tickled.
Paddington star Hugh Bonneville took to Twitter to thank Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky for voicing the bucket-hat wearing bear in an international version of the film.
“Until today I had no idea who provided the voice of @paddingtonbear in Ukraine,” wrote Bonneville on Twitter on Sunday.
“Speaking for myself, thank you, President Zelensky,” wrote Bonneville, who also appeared in Downton Abbey. The film’s production company confirmed that Zelenskiy voice not only 2014’s Paddington but also 2017’s sequel, according to Us. To put things in perspective, he was inaugurated as president in 2019.
Zelensky has had a Reagan-like career, as he was a successful actor before becoming president of the Ukraine.
He was part of KVN, a long-running show on Russian TV. Described as a sort of team amateur comedy competition, it’s like something between Upright Citizens Brigade and Saturday Night Live, and a place where many famous actors start their career. Zelensky was a member of the Ukrainian KVN team in the early 2000s.
In one clip, the performers, including Zelensky, begin wearing traditional Ukrainian dress – before stripping down to tight vinyl pants and crop tops, performing a suggestive dance. The point of the sketch is to poke fun at the traditional masculinity that is a large part of Ukrainian culture.
Another sketch features a character called “Assholeman.”
But one of his most successful ventures was a television comedy he created, wrote, and starred in, called Servant of the People. He played a schoolteacher who suddenly became president of the Ukraine.
For Zelensky, at least, life can mimic art.
And Monday, as bombs continue to fall in Ukraine, Zelensky continues to perform, this time in a political theater meant to broadcast the truth—posting to YouTube often to let Ukrainians know he is with them that he has not fled for his own personal safety as Russian propaganda has said.
A recent video showed him with standing under streetlights with members of the government, naming each one and saying, simply, “here” implying that they were present and accounted for in the embattled country. They ended with “Slava Ukraine, geroyam slava.” Long life to Ukraine, long life to heroes.
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