Jamaicans Respond on How Was Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Jamaican Patois in the Bob Marley Movie?

How did Kingsley Ben-Adir fare in using Jamaican Patois in the Bob Marley movie? Based on feedback from Jamaican moviegoers, he did well. Ben-Adir’s portrayal of Bob Marley in the recently released film “One Love” demonstrates a remarkable command of Jamaican Patois. His adept pronunciation and nuanced use of the language add an authentic depth to his performance, enhancing the portrayal of the iconic reggae legend.

“For a non-Jamaican, I was largely impressed with his patois,” said Dr. Allan Cunningham, the former USA South East Jamaica Diaspora chair.

“Kingsley Ben-Adir captured much of the Jamaican/Rastafarian flavor, behaviorally and culturally, in a skillful manner. He encapsulated much of the nuances of our Jamaican vernacular and attitude, and although there were lapses (accentually) to the keen ear, I thought he was BRILLIANT both in language and in his representation of Jamaican patois and accent,” said Jamaican internationally renowned singer Steve Higgins.

“When I heard the languaging of non-native speakers of the Jamaican language in the movie, who learned the language from esteemed Jamaican linguistics experts, mi glad bag bos! Big op unuself,” said Kari-Lee Grant, PhD, President, and CEO, Center for Research and Equitable Development LLC.

Dr. Joseph T. Farquharson, head of the Jamaican language unit and a consultant to the movie, reflected on the changing attitudes towards Jamaican Patois: “The outcry from the Jamaican public that they didn’t want any ‘fake Patois’ definitely indicates that times have changed. Not so long ago, Jamaicans themselves were less serious about their own language. I am happy that this film benefited from the expertise at the Jamaican Language Unit, and that the Cassidy-JLU Writing System played a significant role in Kingsley’s preparation of his lines. In Kingsley’s own words, and the words of his dialect coach (for whom I acted as advisor), the writing system made learning to read the language on the page much much easier. Kingsley, the dialect coach, and I were adamant that if, from a language perspective, this was going to be another ‘Cool Runnings’, we would not be part of it. Hopefully, we can take the next obvious step as a nation to indicate to the world that the Jamaican language is serious business.”

“I am glad that Fae Ellington worked as a language consultant on the film and the Jamaican Language Unit at UWI Mona was invoked because the accents are among the best to be in the big screen”, said David Mullings Chairman and CEO, Blue Mahoe Holdings.


In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Ben-Adir detailed his rigorous preparation for the role, which included studying over 50 rare archival Marley interviews and transcribing them to absorb the nuances of Marley’s Jamaican Patois. Seeking further authenticity, Ben-Adir collaborated with Jamaicans, inviting them to assist in translating challenging parts of the interviews. This collaborative effort resulted in a comprehensive document containing hundreds of pages of phonetically written “Bob speak,” providing Ben-Adir with a valuable resource for his linguistic portrayal.

Beyond his linguistic endeavors, Ben-Adir also undertook the task of learning to sing and play the guitar for the role, demonstrating a multi-faceted dedication to capturing Marley’s essence. While his casting initially sparked controversy among some Jamaicans, with doubts raised about his ability to master Patois and accurately portray Marley, director Reinaldo Marcus Green stood by Ben-Adir, emphasizing his acting prowess and praising his audition tape as “exquisite.”

Reflecting on his initial reservations about the role, Ben-Adir admitted to being initially apprehensive but ultimately embracing the challenge. He crafted an audition tape after studying Marley’s performances, particularly focusing on his 1977 rendition of “War” at London’s Rainbow Theater.

In “One Love,” Ben-Adir’s commitment to authentically capturing Marley’s essence through language, music, and performance shines through. His dedication to the role has resulted in a portrayal that pays homage to the reggae legend with respect and accuracy, adding a compelling layer to the film’s narrative.

Photo – Paramount/One Love