- Family fled war-torn Somalia when he was 7; spent the next seven years in Yemen before moving to Minneapolis at age 14.
- Worked as a disc jockey and a limo driver.
- Had never acted before when he answered a local casting call for Captain Phillips (2013).
- Didn't meet his Captain Phillips co-star Tom Hanks until they filmed the scene where their characters met.
- Was named an ambassador for Adeso, a humanitarian organization in Africa, in 2013.
- 2014, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Nominee
- 2014, Critics' Choice Movie Awards — Best Supporting Actor: Nominee
- 2013, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role: Nominee
- 2013, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Nominee
- 2014, BAFTA Film Awards — Best Supporting Actor: Winner
- Attended Minnesota State University, Moorhead, Minnesota, United States