‘One Love’ Star Kingsley Ben-Adir Says It Was Easy to Switch Between Playing Bob Marley and a ‘Barbie’ Ken: ‘I Sort of Get Into a Frenzy’

Torrential downpour could not dampen the celebratory spirit at the premiere of “Bob Marley: One Love,” held at Westwood’s Regency Village Theatre on Feb. 6 — a momentous date, as yesterday would’ve been the Jamaican reggae legend’s 79th birthday.

The evening included appearances by star Kingsley Ben-Adir, producer Ziggy Marley and a plethora of other stars, including Stevie Wonder and executive producer Brad Pitt, who surreptitiously arrived at the event in support of his Plan B production.

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Not long after posing alongside Pitt, Ben-Adir stopped on the red carpet to speak with Variety about transforming into the inimitable Bob Marley. He recalled the very first moment he stepped onto set in full wardrobe — complete with a wig of dreadlocks — to embody the essence of the beloved musician.

“Do you want an honest answer?” Ben-Adir asked. “I felt stressed. I wanted to change everything…I was pulling it and messing it up,” he said, miming the motion of tugging at the dreads. “You know, it was a process, so I took a while to ease in.”

And ease in he did. In his first starring role in a major studio film, Ben-Adir not only bears a striking resemblance to Marley, but masters his manner of speaking to an uncanny degree. The British-born actor delivers lines in fluent Jamaican patois as if he were raised on the island himself.

Ziggy Marley, the eldest son of the singer, recognized innate qualities in Ben-Adir that convinced him he was the right man to play his father.

“There’s a voice inside you what tell you the truth,” Marley told Variety. “You have to listen that, and that was Kingsley.”

Ben-Adir has regaled press with stories of studiously prepping for “One Love” while on the set of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” in which he plays a plastic doll. Was it difficult for the actor to oscillate between the voice of Ken and the voice of Bob Marley?

“No, no, no. When there’s too much work, I like it. I sort of get into a frenzy,” he said.

Marley’s signature raspy vocals are blended with Ben-Adir’s during the performance sequences. Ben-Adir sang the artist’s iconic songs when shooting those scenes and his own voice is featured in quieter moments throughout the film, when Bob is shown writing songs on the couch with an acoustic guitar. Ben-Adir, however, was not a trained musician when he accepted the role. Was he nervous at all for his singing lessons?

“Yes and no,” Ben-Adir said. “Once you get going, it’s more energizing than anything.”

Before being whisked down the carpet and into the theater, Ben-Adir shared his favorite Bob Marley song, a deep cut proving his intimate knowledge of his extensive discography: “So Jah S’eh.”

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