Barkhad Abdi

Barkhad Abdi Headshot


Birth Date: April 10, 1985

Age: 39 years old

Birth Place: Mogadishu, Somalia

Somali-born Barkhad Abdi gave one of the most indelible performances of 2013, playing a real-life pirate who overtook an American freighter in the harrowing thriller "Captain Phillips" from director Paul Greengrass. Despite having never acted before, Abdi's soulful presence underscored the desperation of hijacker Abduwali Muse, who abducted American captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) in an ill-fated attempt to gain a fortune in ransom money. Like the Cambodian doctor Haing S. Ngor did for his role in "The Killing Fields" (1984), Abdi drew on his own real-life experiences as a witness to the violence in Somalia for his performance and earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts. In the process, Abdi not only delivered a stellar performance which launched a promising acting career, but also put a sympathetic face on the conditions that drove many of his countrymen to commit criminal acts like those depicted in the film.

Born April 10, 1985 in the city of Mogadishu, Somalia, Barkhad Abdi left his native country at the age of seven when civil unrest broke out, resulting in widespread violence and lawlessness. He was raised largely in Yemen before his family relocated to the burgeoning Somali community in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There, he studied engineering at Minnesota State University while working at a variety of jobs, including disc jockey and limousine driver at a relative's chauffeur company. While employed at the latter position, Abdi took part in a open casting call for Somalis to appear in "Captain Phillips." After two rounds of auditions, Abdi was cast as the lead pirate, Abduwali Muse, who embodies the fate of many Somalis, who are forced to turn to hijacking in order to survive the punishing living conditions in their country. Critical praise was near-universal for his debut performance, which netted Abdi a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, as well as Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and an array of supporting actor awards from various film critic societies.

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