- 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.