Before being elected president of Ukraine in April 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskyy enjoyed a lengthy stint as an actor and performer. The transition from entertainer to politician isn’t unheard-of—Ronald Reagan famously acted opposite a chimpanzee before pursuing office—but Zelenskyy’s filmography is full of surprises.
Over the weekend, it was discovered Zelenskyy voiced the character of Paddington Bear in Ukrainian dubs of 2014’s Paddington and 2017’s Paddington 2. The bear was originally voiced by Ben Wishaw, who holds no elected office.
Black List founder Franklin Leonard, Paddington production company StudioCanal, and actor Hugh Bonneville all tweeted confirmation of the casting. “Until today I had no idea who provided the voice of [Paddington] in Ukraine," Bonneville wrote. “Speaking for myself, thank you, President [Zelenskyy].”
Global attention over Zelenskyy’s acting efforts has been emphasized in recent weeks as Ukraine finds itself under attack by Russia, prompting an outpouring of support for both the country and its leader. In addition to Paddington, Zelenskyy also starred in Servant of the People, a Ukrainian comedy series about a school teacher who finds himself elected president. The finale aired just a month prior to Zelenskyy’s actual ascendancy into office.
Paddington is just one of many films that made use of local talent when they were distributed internationally. While the original stars sometimes assume dubbing duties—Sandra Bullock speaks German, for example—it’s more typical for studios to hire native speakers for a variety of roles. In Japan, Koichi Yamadera has filled in for Jim Carrey, Brad Pitt, and Tom Hanks.
[h/t Entertainment Weekly]