Oscars 2014: Barkhad Abdi reacts to his Best Supporting Actor nomination

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There are several first-time Oscar nominees in the acting categories this year, but Barkhad Abdi is the ultimate rookie phenom: Before being cast as the Somali pirate leader Muse in Captain Phillips, Abdi had never acted at all, period. So it’s understandable that he’s having a little trouble wrapping his head around his Best Supporting Actor nomination for Captain Phillips. “I’m in a state of shock,” Abdi says. “I couldn’t sleep much last night and I watched [the nominations] on TV. My little sister called first, and then after that the phone just started ringing so much the battery died on me. I’m just trying to comprehend everything that’s going on.”

Abdi, who was born in Somalia and emigrated with his family to Minneapolis at age 14, was working as a cab driver when director Paul Greengrass cast him in Captain Phillips. “I wasn’t sure of myself,” he says. “I wasn’t a complete actor. I was just auditioning with no previous experience. Paul Greengrass gets all the credit, honestly. He’s the one that believed in me and pushed me and, any time that I messed up, he was the one that would find a way to make me understand it so I could be that character.”

It’s been a head-spinning few months for the 28-year-old Abdi, who plans to move to L.A. soon to pursue more roles. “It’s been a really wild ride,” he says. “Every time it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and now it’s an Oscar nomination. It’s just a little too big to comprehend. But that’s life. I’m just looking forward to the next adventure.”


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