Bob Marley fans will soon get a more intimate glimpse into the life of the renowned musician.
The upcoming film, Bob Marley: One Love, follows the Jamaican icon as he overcomes adversity to become the most famous and notoriously beloved reggae musician in the world.
“This is a really, deeply, deeply spiritual man,” said Kingsley Ben-Adir, who portrayed Marley in the film, told Blavity’s Shadow and Act in an exclusive interview.
The film also stars Lashana Lynch as Marley’s wife, Rita.
“He believed in God and Rastafari was his life and I want the film to really show that and how his beliefs around God and Rastafari are completely connected to his music and all a part of the same thing,” he said. “He believed that he was carrying the message of His Imperial Majesty to the people so that they understand and that was his life. He dedicated his life to that.”
No stranger to portraying historical figures through his artistry, Ben-Adir admits that his approach to those roles isn’t different from any other character he steps into.
“I honestly don’t think there is that much of a difference because really what it’s about at the end of it all is like, what’s the story about?” said the One Night In Miami star. “Then once you understand what that is, it’s about trying to support that story in the best way you can to the characterization. Obviously, they were real people, but I think you kind of have to forget that they are iconic and that they do mean so much to so many people. At some stage, your focus has to be on just supporting the story.”
On casting Ben-Adir, in a previous interview with S&A, director Reinaldo Marcus Green said, “We were looking for the best actor for the role, and we found that in Kingsley Ben-Adir from his very first audition tape–and we went through several hundred. It was a lot. We scoured every island in the Caribbean that we could. And when I saw that tape, I know Ziggy and I, we looked at each other and were like, ‘The foundation is there.’ He just had he had the ability to tap into the essence. And we knew from there it was just the foundation. From there, the real work began. He had to lose weight. The physical transformation of learning to play guitar, learning to sing, learning dialect – all of that had to take place. It was like a boot camp of how he was going to be able to do that. And he did that times ten. He really went deep into the research. He provided an incredible performance as an actor and showed that he is just a real talent, and somebody that was militant in his commitment to honoring that. And that’s what we were looking for– somebody that was committed to going on that journey, you have to be a little like me. You have to be a little crazy to take this on. You can’t fake it. You’ve got to be bold to be able to do that. And Kingsley is bold. He was bold in his performance. He was bold in his choices. I can’t say enough about his commitment to that, to the project. And I think we found the right person for the job.”
What’s more, with One Love being supported by Marley’s family (his children Ziggy and Cedella along with his widow Rita serve as producers), Ben-Adir relished in the fact that he got to spend a lot of time with his loved ones throughout the process of bring ing his story to the big screen.
“It was amazing,” Ben-Adir said. “So crazy. He [Ziggy] was there every day and one of Bob’s best friends, Neville Garrick was there every day and obviously, it’s pretty nerve-wracking. The first day was pretty intense, you know, with the family watching you on take one. There were a few conversations about just trying to find him and ease into his essence, not caricature, but after a day or two they became an invaluable source. They’re so involved that it really became a collaborative experience. And not just the family and Neville, but the support with the Jamaican cast, who flew into London a week before we started. This completely elevated the whole thing.”
With that upward mobility within the project, Ben-Adir also found inner growth himself after its completion.
For him, the biggest lesson learned was one of “self-love and feeling peaceful and safe.”
“And what it takes for each of us to find that in ourselves,” he added. “Spending that amount of time thinking about Bob in those terms is impossible without thinking about it for yourself and I’d say we had a lot in common in many ways. The deeper I go into the film and understand his humanity, not his music or his talent or his ability to reach, not that, but just on a much more simple level. I got to understand that he really was a man from the ghetto and he found music and he was lucky. He loved music and music saved him in a massive way, and I really identify with that.”
When it is all said and done and the world can take a deep dive into One Love, Ben-Adir’s hope is that people are willing to go beneath the surface level of who Marley was as just a musician, but rather to focus on the true essence of his humanity.
“The process of studying him over a period of months really opened my eyes to what the true message of what he was saying and how his stance on Marcus Garvey and the unification of Africa and of that is at the heart of what he believed in,” said Ben-Adir. “It’s not always clear in those little two-minute video clips of him talking about weed that the West loves to latch on.”
One Love is set to premiere in theaters on Feb. 14