News / Arts & Entertainment

Somali-American Actor Stars in 'Captain Phillips' Movie

Barkhad Abdi poses for photographers as he walks the red carpet at a screening for the movie "Captain Phillips" at the Newseum in Washington, Oct. 2, 2013.
Barkhad Abdi poses for photographers as he walks the red carpet at a screening for the movie "Captain Phillips" at the Newseum in Washington, Oct. 2, 2013.
Harun Maruf, Dan JosephPamela Dockins
The new movie Captain Phillips is earning strong reviews for its star, Tom Hanks, and its realistic portrayal of a hijacking by Somali pirates.  The young actor who plays the "lead pirate" in the film is also winning praise for his performance.  Barkhad Abdi is a Somali-American who spent his early years in Somalia and his more recent years working as a limousine driver in the city of Minneapolis.

Abdi's life was changed by a report he saw on a Minneapolis TV station.  It said producers were looking for actors to play roles in a film about Richard Phillips, the captain of the U.S. ship Maersk Alabama that was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2009.  

Abdi auditioned and won a role as one of the pirates.  He says his background as a Somali immigrant helped him to be convincing in the role.

"I was always fascinated by the pirates, and I was amazed by what they do.  And I'm a Somalian myself - I was born in Somalia, I left Somalia when I was seven years old, and I witnessed the war.  So I could relate to the pirates in a lot of ways, I know a lot of people who came from Somalia who lived with us in Minneapolis," said Abdi.

Minneapolis is home to the largest Somali immigrant community in the United States.  Thousands of Somalis have moved there over the past 20 years, fleeing war and poverty in their homeland.

The 28-year-old Abdi, who had been working as a limo driver, suddenly found himself working with two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks and a major Hollywood director, Paul Greengrass.  He says both men helped him feel comfortable on the set.

"Tom Hanks is really a humble guy, that, you know, was there with me, and you know, just helped me through it.  And Paul Greengrass was the one that gave me a chance and who believed in me from the get-go.  And so if ever I'd do anything wrong, he'd take me aside and help me get the scene better.  So I'm really grateful about working with them," he said.

The movie has earned a good reception, with many reviewers taking note of Abdi.  The New York Times lauded his performance as "very, very fine," while the Denver Post said, "Abdi's turn as Muse... is striking for its avoidance of sentimentality or villainy."

The movie takes pains to show how the pirates were driven to crime not by ideology but by their desperate circumstances in Somalia.

Abdi says that before the movie came out, he received some criticism within the Somali community for playing a potentially embarrassing role.  Now, he says, those feelings have vanished.

"The Somali community, they're loving it.  I received all kinds of messages on Facebook and Twitter, complimenting me and telling me how proud they are of me," said Abdi.

Abdi says he does not have any offers for future roles, but hopes to keep acting.

Captain Phillips opened in American theaters on October 11.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: sa'id yare from: mogadishu
November 01, 2013 10:46 AM
well done brother!


by: abdi kaafi from: kenya
October 21, 2013 4:50 PM
Asc bro you are a greet somali man i hope we will support you all be win


by: Hassan from: How are you
October 17, 2013 8:51 PM
Asc this is hassan for USA before I'm from somail also where do you lived Now i know you are somail i watch your new movie


by: barsh from: boston
October 13, 2013 2:57 PM
Saw the movie yesterday and cannot get barkhad abdi out of my mind.he is a natural. The acting overall was amazing.

In Response

by: Ann from: Florida
October 26, 2013 12:59 PM
Barkhad Abdi deserves an academy award for Best Supporting Actor in the film Captain Phillips.


by: kvt from: miami
October 11, 2013 10:56 PM
Abdi and his counterparts were awesome in the movie. I saw it today and I really enjoyed it. the movie was not long and drawn out they got straight to the action

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

Avery Sunshine is known for her irresistible combination of soul, jazz and gospel influences. She’s traveled the world entertaining audiences with her powerful voice, inspiring lyrics and infectious spirit. She joins host Shawna Renee on "The Soul Lounge" to perform and share the stories behind her new album, "The Sun Room."