When a Hollywood producer heard Ronald Reagan was running for president, he said, “No. All wrong. Jimmy Stewart for president. Ronald Reagan for best friend.”

But if we look at the modern record of actors as national leaders, it’s not a bad one when we look at two examples: Ronald Reagan and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Why? Because actors know how to hit their marks, i.e.- say the right things from the right place at the right time.

As image and entertainment are part of the presidential skill set, those trained in it, or those who have vast experience, have an inherent advantage over the less experienced. The example there is Vladimir Putin. Have you ever seen a guy with a worse image right now? It’s one of the areas of invasion, there are numerous others, the Russians are doing badly. From a strong but supposedly rational national leader, he’s gone to Bond villain madman in the space of a couple of months.

But Zelenskyy? His people have seen numerous WWII films, especially the Marseilles scene in Casablanca, and know how to craft a perfect international image down to the beautiful strong adoring wife and the cute kids. They also must have studied Ronald Reagan.

Reagan brought that actor’s sense of timing and delivery to his role as president. When you see Reagan in Santa Fe Trail or Knute Rockne-All American you can see the hints of a president decades later. You see the sunny optimism, the daring, the charisma. When you watch and listen to the Ponte Du Hoc speech you understand that only a man with professional chops could have pulled it off. Not to mention the perfect writing of Peggy Noonan.

Zelenskyy has mastered his role as well. He is cast as the defiant underdog who won’t give up when facing overwhelming odds. Kind of a national Leonidas in 300. He has made sure to show up in military uniform or tactical attire when the press is around. He’s also taking a page from Churchill pre-Pearl Harbor, when the British Prime Minister was asking Roosevelt only for the tools to defend England against the Nazis. Zelenskyy is making the same argument regarding his Nazis. It’s working well on a massive scale.

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It’s effective because the image is backed up by reality. Ukraine really is under the gun from a tyrant and Zelenskyy’s words and actions have actually rallied his people to a courageous defense of their homeland. Reagan had the same effect on his troops. I know. I was one of them.

In fact, Zelenskyy just won the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award for his “indomitable stance for freedom and democracy.” The Reagan Foundation recognized one of its own.

Though Zelenskyy must make sure not to push the No Fly request too far, or not take the too little too late message over the top. He can’t sound shrill or too needy. So far, he’s playing it close to perfect. Let’s hope he’s just as good as the leader of a government in exile.