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Preparing for Bob Marley: One Love Is Why Kingsley Ben-Adir Doesn’t Play Guitar in Barbie

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Kingsley Ben-Adir knows exactly what he hopes Bob Marley: One Love says to viewers today. “I feel like that idea of togetherness and community and bringing people together — the message in the film that’s so important is understanding that that’s what Bob Marley was like as a human being, when it came to creating music,” he tells Consequence. “He was big on involving everyone. If you didn’t play an instrument, he’d encourage you to pick something up, even if it was just a spoon and a little bottle. He wanted everyone involved.”

You get to see this spirit in action during the new biopic, which features Ben-Adir as the famed musician during a key period of his life, including the creation of the iconic Exodus. “It was an extraordinary experience,” Ben-Adir says. “I got to know Bob and to learn about him as a human being, as a father with the people who knew him as a human being and as a father. It was a really unique process.”

Prior to the filming of One Love, Ben-Adir worked on a very different movie — in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, he plays Basketball Ken, one of Beach Ken (Ryan Gosling)’s closest allies. Filming on that project took three months, and because “there’s a lot of downtime when you’re shooting,” he did some of his prep work for playing Bob Marley in between takes, keeping a guitar and “Bob’s interviews” nearby on set.

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“There was so much to learn, you know, in terms of the music, in terms of the language, everything,” he says. “Chords take a long time to sink in, with the guitar, you go through many stages and you hit walls and you hit blocks where it takes a few weeks to get through them.”

Funnily enough, while Ben-Adir was literally learning the guitar during production, he’s the only Ken in the film who isn’t seen playing the instrument on screen — specifically in the film’s Matchbox 20 tribute, where all the respective Kens serenade supposedly-brainwashed Barbies with their rendition of “Push.”

Says Ben-Adir, “I remember we all came in for rehearsal and we talked through the scene and then Greta [Gerwig] just said, ‘Someone’s gotta play the drums, who wants to play the drums?’ And my hand shot up. I went, ‘Me!’ Because I just wanted the afternoon on the drum kit — I can’t play the drums, but I know like one little beat, and I’d been playing the guitar all morning and yeah, I just needed a little break.”

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