'Captain Phillips': A First-Time Actor, Opposite Tom Hanks | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

'Captain Phillips': A First-Time Actor, Opposite Tom Hanks

Play associated audio

Before landing a role opposite Tom Hanks in the film Captain Phillips, Barkhad Abdi had never acted.

"This was my first time acting, or even thinking about acting," Abdi tells NPR's Arun Rath.

Captain Phillips is based on a true story: the hijacking of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama. Hanks stars as the title character, Capt. Richard Phillips, and Adbi plays Muse, the man who leads the charge against ship and crew.

Abdi was born in Somalia and lived there until he was 7. At 14, Abdi moved from Yemen to Minneapolis, Minn., which is home to tens of thousands of Somalis. He learned about the role from a local TV ad. He says close to 800 people were at the audition. After a long day of waiting, he was asked a few questions and finally was handed a script for the character Muse.

Though some people in his life were worried about how the film would portray Somalia, Abdi says he had to take the opportunity. "I knew it was a true story, so it was just a chance that I could take," he says.

"I hope people understand the culture clash between these very, very different characters, Capt. Phillips and Muse," Abdi says. "One had just, the normal life, you know, he went to school, college, graduated, family, and now he [has] a job. And the other one is just someone that grew up in a war-torn country, that had no hope, no school, no job, no government, nothing."

For his role, Abdi trained for over a month to learning how to handle weapons, maneuver the tiny skiff boat, and, most importantly, he says, to swim. Learning to act was a challenge, too.

At first, Abdi says, it was difficult to relate to Muse, until he dug deep to realize what they had in common. "When I really thought of the actual character — he's a very desperate guy that had this only chance to be something. I relate to him simply because I was born in Somalia."

As a child in Somalia, Abdi says he witnessed a whole year of the civil war, which began in 1991. "I was really blessed to have parents that got me out. Certainly [Muse] did not have that."

"I look at him as someone that had nothing to lose, a ruthless man who has nothing to lose. A man who has nothing to lose is dangerous," Abdi says. "So, that's how I became his character."

As for working with Hanks, Abdi says it was an honor. "I did not expect him to be that nice, honestly," Abdi says. "He's a very humble guy and he's a hardworking man."

Abdi's performance in the film has been praised by critics. It's inspiring for the first-time actor, but he's cautious. "You know, that's what I want to do. I want to give it a chance, and I want to see if this was the only character I can act, or [if] I can act."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Church Of Scientology Calls New HBO Documentary 'Bigoted'

The filmmaker says Going Clear, harshly critical of the Church of Scientology, is about the dangers of "blind faith." The church has hit back with an aggressive public relations effort of its own.
NPR

Think Nobody Wants To Buy Ugly Fruits And Veggies? Think Again

Remember that old movie trope, in which the mousy girl takes off her glasses to reveal she was a beauty all along? A similar scenario is playing out among food waste fighters in the world of produce.
NPR

Amazingly, Congress Actually Got Something Done

The leaders and members must, in a word, compromise. And on this occasion, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did just that, with skill and savvy.
NPR

Can Republicans Get Ahead In The 2016 Digital Race?

When Sen. Ted Cruz threw his hat into the ring, it happened first on Twitter. Political news is breaking more and more on social media, and both sides face different challenges in reaching out.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.