Fri | Apr 19, 2024

Fae Ellington talks acting as dialect coach on ‘Bob Marley: One Love’

Published:Sunday | March 3, 2024 | 9:33 AMJanet Silvera - Senior Gleaner Writer
Kingsley Ben-Adir (right), and Lashana Lynch in ‘Bob Marley: One Love’.
Kingsley Ben-Adir (right), and Lashana Lynch in ‘Bob Marley: One Love’.
Veteran Jamaican broadcaster Fae Ellington spoke about her role as dialect coach in ‘Bob Marley: One Love’.
Veteran Jamaican broadcaster Fae Ellington spoke about her role as dialect coach in ‘Bob Marley: One Love’.
Ziggy Marley (left) and Kingsley Ben-Adir on the set of ‘Bob Marley: One Love’.
Ziggy Marley (left) and Kingsley Ben-Adir on the set of ‘Bob Marley: One Love’.
Fae Ellington standing out the house where Bob Marley lived in London.
Fae Ellington standing out the house where Bob Marley lived in London.
Fae Ellington and Neville Garrick on set of Bob Marley: One Love while filming in Trench Town.
Fae Ellington and Neville Garrick on set of 'Bob Marley: One Love' while filming in Trench Town.
Fae Ellington cooling down with a cup of beverage after coming off the set in the UK.
Fae Ellington cooling down with a cup of beverage after coming off the set in the UK.
Fae Ellington and her driver while in the UK David Lloyd.
Fae Ellington and David Lloyd, her driver while in the UK filming 'Bob Marley: One Love'..


Veteran Jamaican broadcaster, language coach and cultural ambassador, Fae Ellington, has characterised the success of the movie Bob Marley: One Love as a call for Jamaicans to be introspective and rediscover the love and respect that the country urgently requires.

And, despite criticisms regarding the authenticity of the chosen cast and their portrayal of Jamaican characters, Ellington stands firm in her perspective.

Bob Marley: One Love is dominating the box office, holding the number-one spot for a second consecutive week, with sales totalling approximately US$13.5 million in its second week. Within just two weeks, the movie, produced for about US$70 million, has surpassed this milestone, grossing nearly US$72 million in North America alone and exceeding US$120 million globally.

Ellington served as a dialect coach for the project. Over the span of two years, she was part of a team dedicated to teaching non-Jamaican and Jamaican actors on the UK set the nuances of the island, particularly focusing on the years 1976 to 1978, which are central to Bob Marley’s legacy and the focal point of the movie.

In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner last week, Ellington said the movie represents “the social [and] political circumstances of the 1976-78 period accurately, and the critical role of Rastafarianism in the society and the revolutionary lyrics of reggae music in [the fight for] human rights, peace, justice and love. These are global issues and the planks of a democratic society,” she charged, heaping praises on all involved in its production.

Obviously not comfortable taking the credit for the impressive command of the language that the two lead actors were able to deliver, the Britain-born Kingsley Ben-Adir, who played Bob Marley, and Lashana Lynch, who played his wife Rita, Ellington said, years ago when Paramount began its venture in Jamaica and established a working relationship with Cinecom’s Natalie Thompson, they sought contact with an individual or organisation capable of addressing the nuances of the Jamaican language.

“I recommended the Jamaica Language Unit at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, where Dr Joseph Farquharson serves as the head,” she shared. “This initiated a collaboration where Dr Farquharson engaged with Brett Tyne, an American based in the UK, who specialises in dialogue and dialect coaching. Tyne gleaned invaluable insights from Dr Farquharson and was instrumental in working with Kingsley Ben-Adir, transcribing his script.”

Ben-Adir, she said, played a pivotal role in his success, immersing himself in Bob Marley’s interviews, performances, and conversations with the family. She said he had little time to prepare and deliver. He was seen recently on television in the United States saying his efforts revealed Marley’s spiritual side, a discovery that shaped the project significantly.

“Without Ben-Adir’s groundwork, Tyne’s guidance would not have been as effective, allowing Ziggy and me to enhance the initial efforts,” Ellington reflected. She contributed to the inflections, nuances, pitches, and accents, drawing from her lived experience.

Today, she says proudly that the collaboration was truly a team effort.

“The actors, particularly Lashana Lynch, who portrayed Rita, dedicated themselves to understanding their characters deeply. Lashana spent about four hours with Mrs Marley, while Ben-Adir spent many hours talking with Bob’s friends and relatives, and investigating not only the legend’s physical and day-to-day life and mannerisms, but also his spiritual side that has pulled persons from all over the world together,” Ellington added, impressed by their commitment.

Bob Marley: One Love is the fourth of five movies that Ellington has worked on, and probably the most difficult to coach when it came to actors grasping and delivering the Jamaican accent, she said.

“Getting an accent right depends on many things, one of them is the length of time you have to spend on it, and also the ability of the person to pick up the accent quickly,” Ellington told The Sunday Gleaner. “Accents are easy for some people, and not for others. You need a lot of time to get accents right, the Jamaican accent in particular. If you don’t have that time, you won’t have the same results, but I think the cast members did extremely well.

“A lot of the controversy is because of social media. The movie only covers two years – 76 -78. So, there is a lot of talk about this one and that one ... . No! If you really look back, they [the producers] knew what they were doing,” she charged.

Ellington has worked on Jamaican-based movies, including Sprinter, Get Millie Back, which has not yet been released, and Black Cake. She said she is also currently working on a movie that involves Canada, but of which she is not allowed to speak. The 70-year-old said it seemed all her various roles over the years have been preparing her for her current calling as a dialect coach.

Over her career, she has worked in the theatre as an actress and a director; as a broadcaster for radio and television, and also as a broadcast teacher at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at UWI, for more than three decades. She has also served as chairman of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) board.

It seems everything has come full circle, she said, reminiscing on her coverage of Bob Marley’s funeral during her time at the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation Radio in 1981. She recalled the packed arena, her interview with Bob’s son, Stephen Marley, who was nine years old at the time, at the packed roadway en route to St Ann. She remembers a conscious Rastaman with a burden, even in death, to improve humanity. “He is a man with frailties and foibles, as the rest of us.”

“When I look back on my life, my training, and my work in theatre as an actress, and as a director, my work in culture, everything that I’ve done has prepared me for these roles as a dialect coach,” she said. “I don’t know if I would call it a career change, but I would call it a career opportunity that God has placed in front of me for which I am giving thanks and [I] am so grateful.

“It was a team effort but I’m very honoured and privileged, and, looking back, it makes me feel that I am valued for what I have garnered over the years,” she noted. “It also makes me feel valued for my knowledge of our Jamaican culture and how I’ve used the language with no shame, but with elegance and competence. I’m honoured to have the ability to go between both our languages with such ease. I feel good so till!

“Bob Marley is a global icon. His message resonates with the world, especially with oppressed people. I am sure that this movie will introduce Bob Marley’s music to millions of new followers. The message will strike an even more powerful gong, resonating through new generations. Marley reminds us that we are one people, and the message is love,” she continued, noting that justice and peace round out the other major themes.