Kingsley Ben-Adir

British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir’s seemingly innate ability to portray complex, multifaceted real-life figures with such ease and accuracy is remarkable.

The London-born talent started his career in the 2010s with a stellar list of theatre performances and TV appearances. Yet as of the last few years, Kingsley is quickly earning his status as a prominent figure in Hollywood, and it’s fully deserved. The actor has appeared in projects like Greta Gerwig’s cinematic triumph Barbie as Ken or the villainous character Gravik in the Disney+ Marvel series Secret Invasion, to name a few. But Kingsley is also able to step into the shoes of some heavyweight real-life individuals. All you have to do is see his performance as the American human rights activist Malcolm X in One Night In Miami or his brief appearance as former president Barack Obama in The Comey Rule. It’s his dedication to nailing the accent, mannerisms, and ethos of the person that makes him a joy to watch.

However, he’s managed to take on yet another icon in the form of the world-famous musician, Robert Nesta Marley, AKA Bob Marley. The Jamaican singer-songwriter was a pioneer of the reggae genre and his legend has lived on throughout the years even after his sad passing in 1981 at the young age of 36. Kingsley portrays the artist in Bob Marley: One Love which follows Bob in his mid-1970s rise to fame, the creation of his seminal record, Exodus, and up to the famed One Love Peace Concert in 1978.

Undoubtedly, the actor is cementing himself as a leading man thanks to his magnetic performance as Bob throughout the biopic. It’s here where Kingsley is displaying his strong acting chops in full Patois while showing the man behind the legend.

To celebrate the home release of Bob Marley: One Love, 1883 Magazine’s Cameron Poole sits down with Kingsley Ben-Adir for a chat about the film.

Kinglsey Ben-Adir as “Bob Marley” in Bob Marley: One Love from Paramount Pictures.

Hi Kingsley, thanks for chatting with 1883. Before filming you flew out to meet Bob Marley’s family, bandmates, and collaborators, in a previous interview you said you were met with some wariness, how did that change by the time you wrapped the film?

I feel like it when we were filming in Jamaica, there was so much love from whatever community we were in, everyone came out and it was all smiles and shouts of Bob. The general feeling was that everyone was so excited for the movie. There was a collective kind of feeling of goodwill. I think if there was any caution around me at the beginning, it was just about who I was, and what my intentions were. Whenever I spoke to anyone, by the time we got to the end of the conversation, they knew full well from me that I was going to be fully committed and trying to honour Bob in the best way possible.

You know, authenticity around the way Bob spoke, his emotional world, and trying to tap into his spirit, I was very clear with everyone that was what I was coming in to try and do. So every conversation ended with a feeling of goodwill, good vibes and anyone who didn’t want to meet me just didn’t come to meet me. 

All of the conversations I had with everyone were positive, constructive, and helped me to understand who Bob was as a human being. I owe a lot to everyone in Jamaica who took the time to come and share their stories about Bob.

From your research and prep for the role, what’s one thing you learnt about Bob that you didn’t know before?

I didn’t know anything about Bob at all. I knew some of his music and knew that he was mixed race, from Jamaica, an incredible poet, and a brilliant musician. But who he was as a person, everything was new, it really was. If I go back to March 12th, day one, I didn’t know anything. I think, not the diehard fans and people back home who know him really well, but most of the world knows Bob – he is one of the top five most recognisable faces on the planet. 

Everyone thinks they know a lot more than they do because his music is such a part of the culture and we’ve all grown up [with it]. A lot of people don’t even remember the first time they heard of him, they’ve always just kind of known him, so I learned everything.

Kingsley Ben-Adir as “Bob Marley”, Anna-Sharé Blake as “Judy Mowatt”, Lashana Lynch as “Rita Marley”, and Naomi Cowan as “Marcia Griffiths” in Bob Marley: One Love from Paramount Pictures.

Could you tell me about the vocal training, specifically how it was implemented on set as a mix of your vocals and Bob’s were used for the film?

I sing in the [London} house [scenes], so when I’m in the room with Lashana [Lynch] and singing “Turn Your Lights Down Low” into the creation of Exodus, that’s all my voice and that wasn’t the plan. Originally, Ziggy [Marley] and Stephen [Marley] were supposed to come in and dub it. But they ended up leaving my voice in because Bob sang semitone down when he was rehearsing, and so Bob was a little deeper in the discovery of music. 

When he went on stage the frequency changed, so that’s where I sing in the film. In all of the stage performances, I sang on the day for the emotional performance in the face as I needed to actually let words and sounds out. But they were all learnt and lip-synced around the vocal stems that we were going to use, so my mouth movements matched whatever the stems were. It’s mainly Bob’s voice and then a little bit of mine in the acoustic scenes, not including “Redemption Song” at the end, that’s Bob’s voice.

Finally, what’s the main learning point you’ve taken away from playing such a beloved music icon?

I have taken away something in and around the feeling of safety. Like what it means to feel safe, what it means to feel unsafe, what it means to feel connected or unconnected, and what it means to feel togetherness or detachment.

What inner peace is and what does it mean to have? What does it mean to be in a state of stillness where you feel inner peace? Because the exploration of Bob around that time, when we shot the film, was around [those questions]. 

It was really [delving into] his internal world, his internal dilemma around that, and trying to explore it with his family, so I’ve taken something around safety.

Lashana Lynch as “Rita Marley” and Kingsley Ben-Adir as “Bob Marley” in Bob Marley: One Love from Paramount Pictures.

Fantastic, thank you so much for your time, Kingsley.

Thank you, my pleasure man, it was nice to talk to you. 

Bob Marley: One Love is available to buy on digital or download & keep now.

It is also available to rent digitally from May 6 and available to buy on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD, on May 27.

Watch the interview below.

Interview Cameron Poole

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