Captain Phillips Co-Star Takes Big Chance

Can you imagine going from driving a limo to co-starring in a film with Tom Hanks in just a matter of days? Barkhad Abdi can. It’s his story.

The Somalia-born actor, never stepped foot in front of a camera with a script in hand before he signed on for Captain Phillips, which hits theaters this Friday, October 11.

In fact, he had never even acted. But when he saw a commercial about a film director scouting Somali actors for a new project, he jumped at the chance.

“I was at my friend’s house in Minneapolis and an ad about a Tom Hanks movie came on the local TV, so I went to check it out,” Abdi recalls.

When he arrived, there were more than 700 men auditioning to play the Somali pirates in the film that tells the real-life story of the 2009 hijacking of the US flagged MV Maersk Alabama.

“I thought, ‘I’m not going to get this job,'” the 28-year-old remembers.

But he was wrong. He, along with the three friends he auditioned with, beat out hundreds of contenders and snagged the role.

With a new job in tact, Abdi now faced a new challenge – getting comfortable in front of the camera and with his character, Muse, the lead pirate.

His co-star Tom Hanks, who plays Captain Richard Phillips, helped guide him, but his director, Paul Greengrass, gave him some sound advice that stuck with him throughout the entire production.

“He takes me to the side, and he says ‘you know the similarity between you and the real Muse?’ I was shocked that he saw similarities between us. He said, ‘he was taking a big risk with the pirates thing, and he failed. And now you’re taking a big risk with this whole acting industry. If you don’t do it right, you will fail.'”

“That motivated me,” Abdi says.

The newcomer, who came to America at 14 years old, also used his past experiences in Somalia to trigger the emotions he needed to carry out the part.

“When I was age 6, the war started. All I heard was gunshots and killing, and there were dead people everywhere,” he describes. “Muse’s been in Somalia for the last 24 years. He knows there are no jobs and no hope. He sees this [piracy] opportunity as the only way to get out of his lifestyle.”

But Adbi doesn’t want the world to think only bad comes from his native country. He says there are good stories, too.

And he’s one of them. The rising star went from driving limousines to riding in them.

“Always believe and keep it going. You never know what’s next.”