Barkhad Abdi, 28, was driving cabs and limousines in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when one open casting call in 2011 changed his life.
“I answered a casting call that was on a local TV channel. So I go there to give it a shot, there were a lot of people there the first time,” Abdi told Matt Lauer on this morning’s “Today Show” of the audition process for “Captain Phillips.” “They asked me simple questions like ‘what’s your name?’ and ‘where were you born?'”
A few more rounds of auditions later and the Somali-born Abdi landed the role of “Muse,” the pirate ringleader in the Tom Hanks-starring film out Friday.
The Paul Greengrass-directed film is the true story of Somali pirates who hijacked the U.S. cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, and held its captain hostage in 2009.
The film doesn’t hit theatres until Friday, but Abdi is already
generating supporting actor Oscar buzz for his performance.
“I became the character. I tried to be that guy in that moment,” Abdi told Lauer about his first time acting gig. “I had to come out with all I got. I used a lot of imagination. I talked to a lot of people who ame back from Somalia and I read a lot of pirate stories.”
Abdi, who moved to the U.S. from Somalia when he was 14, says he didn’t meet his co-star Tom Hanks until the cameras rolled on their first scene together.
Eventually, “Tom helped me a lot to get the part out and would motivate me in a lot of ways.”
Abdi got so into his character he started ad-libbing, coming up with the much-hyped line: “I’m the captain now.”
While Abdi is now back in Minnesota helping run his brother’s store, he does say “I want to continue to act.”
“At the end of it I’m a Somali person,” Abdi told Lauer. “But I love acting and I just wanted to show what I could do.”
Watch Abdi tell his story on this morning’s “Today Show”:
Watch the trailer for “Captain Phillips” below:
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