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
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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”