What Bob Marley: One Love's Cast Looks Like Compared To The Real-Life People

When Billboard asked Bob Marley's son, Ziggy, why he decided it was time for a large-scale, behind-the-scenes telling of his father's story, he gave a lovely and insightful answer: "Now is the time for this message of one love to be put into the global view. ... It's a very important time in the world, a very significant time in the world. We're on the edge of something."

Ziggy went on to explain that the film was the family's idea and was told in the way they wanted it to be told, which is wildly important. The family also had a major say when it came to casting, and Ziggy said that when it came to casting his father, it wasn't fluency with the Jamaican dialect or even musical ability that was most important, it was the ability to capture the depth of his emotion. Even the look came second, and it was Kingsley Ben-Adir who gave a performance that jumped off the audition tapes.

It was the same with casting Lashana Lynch as Rita Marley, and Ziggy said they felt so strongly about their casting choices that if the studio tried to overrule them, they just were going to pull their permission and scrap the entire project. Can a cast get a better recommendation than that? Probably not. That said, how much does the cast look like the real people they're portraying? Let's take a look.

Bob Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir)

Although Ziggy Marley gave his unwavering support for casting Kingsley Ben-Adir as Bob Marley for the family-supported "Bob Marley: One Love," Ben-Adir has been pretty honest about feeling like he just didn't have the look. In an interview with Man About Town, he said that he had some major doubts after sending in his audition tapes: "I said, '[the role's] not for me. I don't think it's right. I can't sing, can't dance. I don't look like Bob. He's five foot seven, I'm six foot two."

Ben-Adir has a pretty incredible track record of transforming himself into characters who were very real people, though, having played both Malcolm X and Barack Obama. What's the secret? Aside from appearance, he says that capturing a person's energy and emotion is crucial, and he added that he immersed himself in Jamaican culture. Guided by close friends and family, he found himself in a unique situation: It wasn't all about appearance, but soul.

Still, he was also candid about the pressure he was under, saying, "It was about trying to find him in a way that wasn't mimicking him or doing an impersonation, but just trying to find the essence of how Bob would have been in each one of those scenes." But what about the most iconic part of Marley's appearance? In multiple interviews, Ben-Adir has also given serious kudos to the hair and makeup department for creating the wig that allowed him to take on Marley's signature dreadlocks.

Rita Marley (Lashana Lynch)

The real Rita Marley has been a tireless champion of the preservation and promotion of her husband's work, and — along with many members of her family — was a producer on "Bob Marley: One Love." Therefore, it kind of goes without saying that anyone playing her in the film might feel they're under some serious pressure. But for Lashana Lynch, she's said — similar to what co-star Kingsley Ben-Adir said about portraying Bob Marley — that portraying Rita was about more than just appearances. That came second to learning to capture her emotion, energy, and essence.

Lynch was on CBS Mornings when she described meeting Rita for the first time, and says that although she had pages of notes and questions prepared, those papers never made it out of her bag. "I had to put aside me being an actor and literally think of myself as a vessel for this woman," she explained, adding that, "I wanted her truth."

Whenever she found herself doubting, she said she would go back to the beginning: Her aura. That's not to say it was easy, though, and in another interview with Collider, she said she was particularly impressed with the film's dedication to portraying authentic Jamaican accents and dialogues, which paid homage to her own Jamaican heritage. Also challenging was the many costume changes required, particularly while shooting tour sequences.

Cindy Breakspeare (Umi Myers)

One of the criticisms that's been bandied about is perhaps an understandable one: "Bob Marley: One Love" doesn't spend too much time dwelling on the extramarital affairs of both Bob and Rita Marley. There were plenty, resulting in children named Stephanie, Rohan, Karen, Julian, Ky-Mani, and Damian. Damian's mother was Cindy Breakspeare, the winner of the 1976 Miss World competition. She's played in the film by British actress Umi Myers, and it's worth mentioning that Breakspeare is a highly controversial figure for obvious reasons.

She's also been candid about her Miss World win and her experiences following the competition. The Canadian-born Breakspeare moved to Jamaica when she was five, and in an interview with Ron Fanfair, said that she was only really made aware of her light skin after her win. She spoke, too, of how being light-skinned was a big deal during her six-year relationship with Marley, saying, "It was a bit scary because 'uptown' girls of light complexion didn't have relationships with Rastas. I knew I was crossing that invisible line in the sand."

Although Myers hasn't given too many interviews about playing Breakspeare, she did post some thoughts to Instagram. She, too, acknowledged that it was most important to her to get the emotion right, thanking Breakspeare for her guidance and saying (in part), "To try and capture the love you and Bob shared was a beautiful journey."

Aston Barrett (Aston Barrett Jr.)

Aston Barrett's musical career pre-dated his work with Bob Marley, and it's even possible to argue that without him, Marley's career wouldn't have been the same. Sadly, Barrett wouldn't get to see the reception fans gave "Bob Marley: One Love," as he passed away in 2024 after suffering from a series of strokes. Still, fans should be wildly impressed with his casting, and those who aren't in the know might think that the movie's actor bears an almost uncanny resemblance to the real person. There's a good reason for that — the actor is his son, Aston Barrett Jr.

In an interview with Liz Claman, Barrett Jr. talked not only about Marley's music, but what it was like taking over from his father in The Wailers, playing his father in the film, and then losing his father just weeks before the movie premiered. 

"It's, you know, I feel very blank. I would just say that anyone that have their parents, you should cherish them. You never really know this feeling." He continued, "I had an amazing connection with my father. ... And for me, every day I hear my father, every time I go on the Instagram, I see my father, I go to the movies, I see my father. When I look in the mirror, I see my father, because I look like him. So he is everywhere. So it also gives me strength, but it also ... right now, it still makes me cry."

Judy Mowatt (Anna-Share Blake/Sevana)

While the casting of Kingsley Ben-Adir may have raised some eyebrows when it was reported that he had no musical experience, but had been tapped to play one of the biggest musicians in recent history, the casting of Judy Mowatt went in the opposite direction. They were big shoes to fill, as Mowatt wasn't just one of three women singing backup to Marley, but she had a massively successful career on her own. 

Cast as Mowatt is another Jamaican singing sensation, Sevana. Born Anna-Sharé Blake, she's the genre-hopping sensation seen as perfect to step into the role of the trailblazing singer that she described as "the most spirited of the three [I-Threes]," despite not bearing a striking resemblance to Mowatt herself. 

Sevana appeared on Television Jamaica's Daytime Live to talk about her preparation, which came down to capturing Mowatt's stage presence rather than strictly worrying about looking like her physically. For her, the two kind of went hand-in-hand — as she learned how Mowatt danced and held herself, the two got closer and closer. She said that costuming was a huge part of the look, saying that she was very in tune with details that included wearing her head wrap in precisely the same way as Mowatt ... all while capturing the seriousness with what she was being tasked with.

Marcia Griffiths (Naomi Cowan)

When Naomi Cowan released her "StarGirl Mixtape" in 2021, she spoke with Flaunt about everything from the release to the meandering path she'd taken to get there, to those who inspired her. "From Dennis Brown to Marcia Griffiths who are Jamaican legends, they've influenced me on multiple levels I can't even begin to describe," she said, and in 2024, she would be on the red carpet for the release of "Bob Marley: One Love," where she played Griffiths.

At the Jamaican premiere of the movie, Cowan spoke to the Jamaica Observer about what it took to transform into her idol, embodying her stage presence in spite of not bearing a massive resemblance to her. She considered herself fortunate in that she could not only study but speak to Griffiths, saying, "We did a lot of movement rehearsals ... for me, one of the things that I did was study her body language, and I really wanted to feel like her."

Interestingly, there's a family connection here, too: Cowan is the daughter of Marley's longtime manager, Tommy Cowan. She told BET that she had grown up hearing stories of Marley and those who made music with him, saying that she had tapped into not only Griffiths' history, but her own father's oft-told tales of what it had been like to be front and center while music history was made.

Junior Marvin (David Kerr Jr.)

After being inspired by Jimi Hendrix and being offered a job by Stevie Wonder, Junior Marvin famously joined Bob Marley's band in 1977. Why did he pick Marley? "I got home and I had to call my friends and family and decide whose offer to accept," he told The New Zealand Herald. "I went with Bob because he was Jamaican, and there was more encouragement to accept it." And that family connection would remain incredibly important, because looking at photos of Marvin and the actor who plays him in "Bob Marley: One Love," it turns out that there's a very good reason for that striking resemblance — they're father and son.

On the red carpet for the movie premiere, David Kerr Jr. — pictured, standing alongside his father — reflected on the appropriateness of the fact that the aforementioned meeting with Marley happened on Valentine's Day. "It's a full circle for us," Kerr said (via Mulderville USA).

He also admitted that when he heard the first details, he didn't think much of it. Something gnawed at him, though, and he realized how horrifying the idea was that someone else might be able to play his dad. No one, after all, would be better than he would: Kerr said that not only did he go on tour with his father, but they shared a love of music, performed together, and he decided, "You know what? This is easy for me."

Chris Blackwell (James Norton)

Chris Blackwell's story is a pretty wild ride, too. The Jamaican-born son of a rum-distilling family, he wasn't just on the front lines of the music scene, but his mother was rumored to be the inspiration for some of Ian Fleming's most famous Bond women. He met Bob Marley in 1972, and he's regularly stressed two things: He didn't so much manage Marley as he went along for the ride, and he didn't want there to be a Marley movie, simply because he wouldn't be calling the shots. That said, he also added that he liked the finished product, and he liked the person playing him — the British James Norton. 

In an interview with Collider, Norton talked about becoming Blackwell. His aforementioned tendency to play backup to his artists rather than pushing, pulling, and guiding presented him with a challenge: He had few photo references of Blackwell to work from. While Norton does bear a bit of a likeness to a young Blackwell, Blackwell himself has been modest.

Blackwell told The Telegraph that Norton had stayed with him in Jamaica to prep for the role, adding, "I liked him immediately. He's fun to be with and he's very good in the film. ... I lucked out on that casting, because let's be honest, he's much better looking than me."

Neville Garrick (Sheldon Shepherd)

Sheldon Shepherd is another Jamaican artist tapped to play a major role – Neville Garrick —  in "Bob Marley: One Love," and in an interview with The Jamaica Gleaner, he revealed that he had actually auditioned for every Wailers part they were looking to cast, but nothing really quite hit. "I knew I wanted to be in the film, I just didn't know how I would get to play. I could see that the director also wanted me in the film. They searched through scripts and characters and came up with Neville ... I took one look at his profile and was instantly drawn to his character."

Shepherd found himself working with a unique gift and a unique challenge, as Garrick was not only hands-on with the entire filming process, but he was on set every day. Shepherd told The British Blacklist that it made for the creation of a special kind of connection, and says that during the time they spent together, they found they had more in common than appearance, height, and weight — they went to the same high school and had some of the same teachers.

He also told a brilliant story about meeting Garrick, who set up in his trailer and claimed that it was his — "He told me that his name is on the door so I should take it up with production," Shepherd said. Garrick's trailer ended up being labeled "Real Neville Garrick," and he added, "We had a good laugh out of that one."

Bunny Livingston/Wailer (Abijah Livingston)

When Bunny Wailer — also known as Bunny Livingston — died in 2021, it was the end of an era: He, Bob Marley, and Peter Tosh had been the founding members of the Wailers, and he was the last surviving member. His official cause of death was a stroke, and like Marley, he would leave behind a legacy of music. Not as widely reported was the family's belief that his initial stroke — suffered in 2020 — was a consequence of the stress created by the mysterious disappearance of his wife, Jean Watt.

One of the most outspoken of the family was son Abijah Livingston, who condemned the actions of his longtime manager Maxine Stowe, and accused her of undermining the family's wishes regarding his music and legacy. It makes sense, then, that when it came time to cast "Bob Marley: One Love," it was Livingston who stepped up to play his father. The incredible likeness between the actor and the real-life person being portrayed? It's no accident.

Who better, after all, to play the father than the son? In an Instagram post, he wrote, "Grateful for this opportunity to be working with the greats on such a classic project, @onelovemovie about the works of the Legend @bobmarley. ... Looking forward! Honored to represent my father's legacy @bunnywailerofficial."

Carlton Barrett (Hector Roots Lewis)

When Hector "Roots" Lewis got the role of Bob Marley's drummer, Carlton "Carly" Barrett, he stepped into a fascinating group of people, family members, and actors. His Carlton is the brother of Aston Barrett, who's played by his son, Aston Barrett Jr. That made Lewis's co-star the nephew of the character he played — and he told Newsday that it provided invaluable context for him. He described the brothers as being "similar in structure, similar in almost vocal tone," which provided some very real, in-person research for him.

Lewis has also been candid about how he was cast not because he was an actor, but because he was a musician. In an interview with Television Jamaica's Daytime Live, he talked about studying his gestures and his facial expressions to help him truly embody the groundbreaking musician, and added that he found one major way that he looked nothing like the man he was playing.

"He had a high shoulder, and I don't have a high shoulder," he explained, adding that it took some extreme effort on his part to capture the drummer's stance and posture. But Lewis also said that part of the challenges was what made it so rewarding: "When you're honest with art, and when you approach it in a way where, 'I'm scared, but I'm excited,' it kind of opens you to going into the dimension and being fully immersed."