The actor plays the late music icon in the new biopic, 'Bob Marley: One Love,' out Feb. 14
The actor, 37, who plays the late music icon in the new biopic, Bob Marley: One Love, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue that Marley was "humble" and "loving" but also had a "tough side."
When asked to detail the most helpful piece of advice he got from Marley's family about playing the reggae musician, Ben-Adir says, "That he was from the ghetto, [where] they called him Tuff Gong."
According to The Washington Post, Tuff Gong "was a name given to him as a street kid in the Kingston ghetto called Trenchtown. The name had its roots in the Rastafarian philosophy to which Marley was exposed at an early age. The name is supposed to connote special abilities and mission in life."
As for that mission, Ben-Adir continues: "He was a gentle, kind, humble, loving human being who was committed to music, who was committed to his mission and his message, but there was also a really tough side of Bob where he wasn't messing around."
Adds Ben-Adir: "And he knew the streets. He wasn't a pushover."
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One Love, which was produced in partnership with the Marley family, "celebrates the life and music of an icon who inspired generations through his message of love and unity," according to a synopsis.
"On the big screen for the first time, discover Bob’s powerful story of overcoming adversity and the journey behind his revolutionary music," the synopsis adds.
The project is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, who made his directorial debut with King Richard. Zach Baylin, the screenplay writer for King Richard, wrote the script for One Love.
According to Ben-Adir, Marley was "not perfect in any way," and he notes, "Like many great artists, he had his flaws and his complexities."
"So it was about the instruction really, not advice, from the family and from the Jamaican people, who knew Bob and loved him, who spoke to me and shared so much," the actor continues. "The same thing kept coming up, that Bob ... was a tough man."
Ben-Adir also highlights that One Love is "not an American dad movie," so he had to "find that nuance and that vulnerability, and make sure that we honored that, but also still show the love inside of him, the caring side of him."
"It involved a lot of people, and it involved a lot of fine-tuning and being careful," the Barbie star adds.
One Live is in theaters Feb. 14. The LIFE: Bob Marley special issue is available now.
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