Barkhad Abdi (Somali: Barkhad Cabdi) (born April 10, 1985) is a Somali-American actor and director. He made his debut in the film Captain Phillips (2013), for which he received a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, as well as Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. More recently, he has played roles such as Abdi in The Pirates of Somalia and Wiraj in The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir.
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 subsequently attended Minnesota State University Moorhead. 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 following a worldwide search for the lead roles. Abdi and three other actors were subsequently chosen from more than 700 participants at a 2011 casting call in Minneapolis. According to the casting director, the four were selected because they were “the chosen ones, that anointed group that stuck out”. 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 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and a Golden Globe Award. 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. Later that year, he 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 October 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 organisation founded by the Somali environmentalist Fatima Jibrell.
Abdi resides in Los Angeles, California, as well as Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis, Minnesota. The notable lump on his forehead comes from a car accident he was in prior to auditioning for Captain Phillips.