Kingsley Ben-Adir Proved Doubters Wrong With Bob Marley

Ben-Adir is no stranger to the pressure of playing a beloved legend (Obama and X) but in Bob Marley: One Love, he found his biggest challenge to date. It’s not just that Marley is one of the most recognizable musicians of all time, or that his voice raised generations, or that he’s synonymous with the cultural fabric of a country Ben-Adir isn’t from — it’s all of the above. And when Ben-Adir was cast, Jamaicans were (rightfully) skeptical. After countless examples of non-Carribbeans butchering the region’s accents onscreen (see How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Cool Runnings, Luke Cage, just to name a few) and the lack of care and respect Hollywood has consistently shown when it comes to depicting Patois specifically, it’s understandable that the casting of Ben-Adir, a British dude with Trinidadian grandparents, was met with an outcry of criticism and cynicism (it’s a good thing he doesn’t read comment sections). But those cries were quieted by the power of his performance. Ben-Adir is magnetic as Marley, capturing the lure and lore of the icon, while also grounding him in subtle instances of tenderness and humanity. Even when the movie doesn’t, Ben-Adir meets the moment. And his Patois is impeccable. After my press screening of Bob Marley: One Love, I stood outside the theater with a group of Black journalists, most of us Caribbean Canadians, in awe of what Ben-Adir pulled off. It was an impossible task and he did it. Now that the film is a certified box office smash, and is reaching a whole new audience with its digital release, Ben-Adir is enjoying a very specific moment in his career, the one we’re going to look back on — when he’s winning awards and starring in whatever he wants — and say that this was his much-deserved, and slightly overdue, breakthrough.  

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