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Kingsley Ben-Adir Says Playing Bob Marley Was Toughest Role To Date



Kingsley Ben-Adir seems to have a knack for playing black icons.

From his break out role portraying President Barack Obama in The Comey Rule to Malcolm X in One Night In Miami…. But it was his latest turn, playing reggae legend Bob Marley in One Love: Bob Marley, that may have been his toughest to date.

Ben-Adir lip synced to original recordings in concert scenes. Credit…Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures

“Bob was intense,” he told HipHollywood during the press junket in London. “That’s one of the first things I learned about this period of time when he was creating [the album] Exodus. I was asking Neville Garrick, who was around at the time, and Tyrone Danny. And they were like, it was intense. It was intense.”

The film directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green follows Marley from 1976 when he is already the biggest star in reggae through his exile to the UK, back home to Jamaica, dropping his hit album ‘Exodus’ and becoming a global superstar.

“We weren’t making a cradle to grave, I wasn’t interested in that,” said Green. “We were going to choose a period of Bob’s life to focus on like we did in King Richard. We were going to choose a finite window, and we were going to stick to that.”

Ziggy Marley, left, with Ben-Adir on set. “Kingsley brought an emotional depth that nobody else brought to the auditions, and a magnetism,” Marley said.Credit…Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures

Green who also helmed King Richard starring Will Smith says it took close to a year to find the right actor to play Bob.

“I was looking for a great actor, lesser musician, really a great actor. And I saw that in the tape. I saw a really intelligent, vulnerable, sensitive man that I thought, okay, well, if he’s crazy enough to take this on, then maybe we got something. And sure enough, he was. And I’m really grateful he did.”

Still transforming into Bob was no small fete for Ben-Adir who bought an acoustic guitar as soon as he finished filming the Marvel mini-series “Secret Invasion,” watched YouTube instructional videos, and played “Redemption Song” over and over “like a lunatic” before hiring a guitar teacher.

“He really went on his own journey, learning to sing, dance, choreograph, listening to hours and hours of Bob’s tapes, bedroom tapes, I mean, hours of interviews,” said Green. “So he went on a really deep research process of his own.”

The 37-year-old, whose maternal grandparents are from Trinidad and Tobago, also spent months working to get Bob’s unique Jamaican patois down.

“Paramount put a great team in place, and then the Marley family had their people who they put in place. So by the time we got on set, there were nine language experts who were ready,” he revealed.

“What became really important was there’s the jamaican patois, but then there’s how Bob spoke. There’s how Bob spoke, and Bob spoke different. No one spoke like Bob. He picked up words from his travels. He said american words. There’s certain things that Bob says that even Jamaicans don’t say. So it became a real process where we all had to really think carefully about the authenticity of the movie.”

Ben-Adir opposite Lashana Lynch as Rita Marley. The real Rita was among the producers.Credit…Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures

Overall Ben-Adir feels blessed to have had the opportunity to play Marley.

“It’s just a privilege, man. It’s a privilege and a blessing, because I didn’t realize that as I was shooting Bob, I was like, oh, maybe this is the best part you could ever hope know. And as you get deeper into Bob’s soul and spirit, he became very relatable to me. And what he went through, the struggles he went through, the suffering he endured, and to have his family and his friends there going, it’s all good. I was like, oh, man, this is nuts.”

One Love: Bob Marley is in theaters now.

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