Abdi, of Minnesota, Minneapolis, was working as a humble cabbie when he chanced upon a news item detailing how producers were casting Somalis for new film Captain Phillips.
Despite having no acting experience, Abdi headed to the auditions the next day and eventually won a major role as a pirate in the movie, which charts the story of the 2009 hijack of U.S. cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama.
He was even more surprised when he landed the part and discovered three other major roles in the movie had been won by his pals Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, and Barkhad Abdirahman.
Hanks tells British Tv show Lorraine, "He was just sitting at home one day and he saw on the local Tv news that they were casting Somalis for this movie that was coming out and he went in the next day with about 800 other people and he just kept graduating.
"And he actually knew the other three fellas... and they got together and formed a little bit of a team and worked it for quite a while. They had a huge amount of work on the open water in skiffs (small boats)... They went through a lot of training but they are extraordinary guys."