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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."