TODAY   |  October 10, 2013

First-time actor: I was a ‘little scared’ to meet Tom Hanks

Barkhad Abdi plays a modern-day pirate leader in the fact-based film “Captain Phillips,” and the first-time actor, who came to the United States from Somalia at age 14, says it was a little intimidating playing opposite Tom Hanks. Barkhad tells TODAY’s Matt Lauer he read a lot of pirate stories and used his imagination to prepare for his big-screen debut.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> had to go.

>> nobody gets hurt.

>> hey! look at me.

>> sure.

>> look at me.

>> sure.

>> i'm the captain now.

>> good morning, nice to see you.

>> good morning.

>> i have been waiting to do this interview for a week sense i saw this movie. you are extraordinary in this. i want to say right off the bat so people at home know you never acted before?

>> yeah, i never acted before.

>> you are a limosine driver in minneapolis, right?

>> that's right.

>> you answered a casting call . tell me about. i answered the casting call . it came on the local tv channel. so i go there, i give eight shot. there was a lot of people there the first time and they asked me simple questions, what's your name? how old are you? where were you born?

>> you were born in somalia .

>> mogadishu somalia .

>> you came to this country when you were 14 and you thought it would be cool to be in a movie with tom hanks ?

>> absolutely.

>> what happened here, paul greengrass , once he cast you as the lead pirate, he decided he didn't you to meet tom hanks until the very moment that you shoot the scene where you take over the bridge of the miersk alabama, so the first time you laid your eyes on tom hanks was when you shot that scene, were you disappointed you didn't get to meet him beforehand?

>> i was a little scared, disappointment. me and my friend, too, we wanted to see tom. i understood the situation of the scene like how important it was for the director. so i just took it.

>> and paul greengrass said to you, when you enter this bridge and shoot this scene, you into ed to own this scene.

>> yes.

>> so you are acting. you have never acted before, you are acting opposite one of the greatest actors of our time, how did you own the scene?

>> i had to come out with all i got. i used a lot of imagination, i know where he's coming from. i talked to a lot of people that came back from somalia and i read a lot of pirate stories and i let it be. i used my imagination.

>> you say you used your imagination, that line we saw in the opening clip, you look at tom hanks and you go, "i'm the captain now," that wasn't in the script? you ad libbed against one of the great actors there is.

>> i didn't ad-lib, i became the character, you know, i tried to get, you know, to be that guy for that moment.

>> now, tom hanks , by the way, he said when he first laid eyes on you coming in that bridge shooting that scene, he called you the skinniest most terrifying guy he had ever met. you have a lot of pressure on you, not only as a first time actor, but you also were a little concerned at how this movie would portray somalis and how they would be perceived in the community where you lived.

>> absolutely. i'm just a person, you know, i live in america . so i just wanted to do the best i can. you know, i love acting. i just wanted to swhee i can do as an actor.

>> i think it's important to note even though this movie or as this movie is getting academy award buzz, people are talking about your performance and tom hanks ' performance. at the moment, you are back driving a limo in indianapolis.

>> i'm not sure, i moved on to my brother's store.

>> you moved on to your brother's store, you want to continue to act?

>> i will continue to act.

>> you think can you find roles?

>> i hope so.

>> you are amazing in this movie and i think, you know, no offense to tom hanks , in some ways you stole this film. so congratulations.

>> tom helped me a lot to get the part out, you know, he would motivate me in a lot of ways, paul, too.

>> thank you so much.

>> thank you, what a pleasure to meet you. captain philips hits theaters tomorrow t. real captain philips, by the way,