Oscar Actors: Abdi, Barkhad–Background, Career, Awards

Research in Progress (July 15, 2020)
Barkhad Abdi Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Nationality: Somali, then Yemen

Social Class: middle; father teacher



Education: Minnesota State University


Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut: Captain Phillips, 2013; age 38

Breakthrough Role: Captain Phillips, 2013; age 38

Oscar Role: Captain Phillips, 2013

Other Noms:

Other Awards:

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image: character actor

Last Film:

Career Output:

Film Career Span:





Barkhad Abdi (Somali: Barkhad Cabdi) (born April 10, 1985) is a Somali-American actor and director.

He made his acting debut alongside Tom Hanks in the Paul Greengrass film Captain Phillips (2013), for which he received great critical acclaim as well as a British Academy Film Award win in a Supporting Role. He also received Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.

Abdi’s other film roles include Gavin Hood’s Eye in the Sky (2015), the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time, and Dennis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 (both 2017).

He is also known for his roles in TV, including main role on the Hulu series, “Castle Rock.”

Abdi was born in Mogadishu, Banaadir. Around the age of six or seven, when the Somali Civil War broke out, he and his family moved to Yemen to join his father, who had taken up teaching.

In 1999, Abdi and his family relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where there is a large Somali community. He  attended Minnesota State University Moorhead.

The name Barkhad in the Somali language means cistern with water representing life.

Before entering the film industry, Abdi sold mobile phones at his brother’s shop at a mall in Minneapolis. He also worked as a limousine driver at a relative’s chauffeur company and as a DJ.

Abdi made his debut in the 2013 film Captain Phillips, playing ship hijacker and pirate leader Abduwali Muse.

He was cast after worldwide search for the lead roles. Abdi and three other actors were chosen from more than 700 participants at a 2011 casting call in Minneapolis. He was paid $65,000 for his appearance in the film and returned to working in his brother’s shop afterwards.

For his work, Abdi was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor, the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and Golden Globe. He won a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Abdi’s experience in Captain Phillips was his first in the film industry.

In 2015, Abdi appeared in an episode of the series Hawaii Five-0, playing former warlord Roko Makoni.  He then began work on the comedy film Trainwreck, though he did not appear in the finished film. He also appeared in the 2015 thriller “Eye in the Sky,” playing Jama Farah, and he had a role in The Brothers Grimsby.

In the 2017 film, The Pirates of Somalia, Abdi played the Somali government-sponsored local agent and translator for Canadian freelance journalist Jay Bahadur. His character coordinates interviews between local pirate leaders and Bahadur, who records the motivations of Somali piracy in the weeks leading up to the Maersk Alabama hijacking.

In 2017, Abdi featured in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, in a minor role of a scientist. He shared one scene with Ryan Gosling, providing him information on where to go next.

Abdi made his directorial debut with the Somali film Ciyaalka Xaafada, and he has also directed several music videos.

In 2013, Abdi began to serve as an Ambassador for Adeso, a non-governmental organization founded by the Somali environmentalist Fatima Jibrell.

Abdi resides in Los Angeles, California, and Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The notable lump on his forehead comes from car accident prior to auditioning for Captain Phillips.