Having previously starred as Malcolm X in the film One Night in Miami... and as Barack Obama in the TV series The Comey Rule, Kingsley Ben-Adir is no stranger to playing iconic real-world figures.


But his leading role as reggae superstar Bob Marley in the new film One Love might just be his most demanding acting challenge to date, with the actor having thrown himself head first into the preparation process – and even creating a Bob Marley station on the set of Barbie (in which he played Basketball Ken).

Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com ahead of the film's release, Ben-Adir explained that he could easily have studied the late singer for even longer while getting ready to take on the role.

“You could take five years studying him, you could spend 10 years studying him," he explained. "There were days where I was like, 'I need to actually live in Jamaica for five, six years to get this.'"

He added: "There was a day where I was like, 'I don't have enough time to take everything in, the language and the music.' So the collaboration with the family, and Bob's friends and all of the Jamaican cast who flew into London on the first few days, everything became a discussion and everything became... a group thing.

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"It really was, it wasn't like anything I've ever done before in that way."

A still from the film in Bob Marley: One Love showing Lashana Lynch as Rita Marley and Kingsley Ben-Adir as Bob Marley. They are sitting on a sofa laughing and he has a guitar on his lap.
Lashana Lynch as Rita Marley and Kingsley Ben-Adir as Bob Marley in Bob Marley: One Love. Paramount

Ben-Adir revealed that he quickly realised he was going to need not just one dialect coach, but a whole language team set up, as well as "Jamaican experts everywhere" so that everything could be "double, triple quadruple" checked.

He also explained that he decided it was important to focus less on Marley's status as a cultural icon and more on his internal life – allowing him to create a more three-dimensional portrait of who he was as a person.

"I've never played an artist, I've never played a musician," he said. "So I needed to understand what it means to be a musician.

"What does it mean that every day you wake up, and you play and you write, and you think of lyrics? And his life was about creating, you know, so that was that was what was different about it.

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“The iconic status and how loved Bob is around the world… you really have to turn the volume down on that pretty early on," he continued. "It’s not going to help you find him. It's not going to help you find the more personal side to Bob, the more intimate side, his vulnerability, his struggles, what he went through, you know, his experience growing up in the ghetto.

"The iconic thing, that's where he arrived, I need to understand how he got to where he did."

Meanwhile, Ben-Adir's co-star Lashana Lynch – who plays Marley's wife Rita in the film – explained how taking part in the film allowed her to gain a "deeper perspective" on Marley, whose music she has been listening to for as long as she can remember.

"His lyricism, his level of command of lyrics is just out of this world," she said. "It's always fascinated me. And I used to read Bob's lyrics just as almost like a monologue. Because it's such good storytelling.

"But just tying his love story to his life to the moments of the end of his life, it all is so vivid for me now. It literally is like he wrote a biography through his music.

She added: "It just felt like I was piecing together parts of him that I didn't know, that I was learning in increments. And now I have like a broader, more fuller version of him through listening to him."

Bob Marley: One Love is now showing in UK cinemas. Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on tonight.


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