Now that the Oscars are over, many actors are returning to set. But Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi is an example of what it’s really like to be an actor in Hollywood.
The Captian Phillips co-star disclosed that despite an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, like many Americans, he struggles financially.
The Somali American says he that for his BAFTA award winning role in Captain Phillips he received $65,000 two years ago from the film’s $55 million budget. The Business Insider put that salary in perspective with Jonah Hill who received the same salary, an industry minimum, for The Wolf on The Street. Median income estimates for an American household is $51, 017, while Blacks’ household income totals $33, 300 a year.
After being booked for the role of Somali pirate “Muse,” Abdi quit his job as a limo driver in Minnesota to shoot the film. After production ended, he sold cell phones in his brother’s mobile phone store but quit when promotion for the film started last October.
During promotion of the film he subsisted “on a per diem, good at the Beverly Hilton, where the studio likes to put him up. The town car is available only for official publicity events. His clothes are loaners.”
Since shooting the film, he has been “out of work.” With the exception of a possible starring role based on life of South African marathon legend Willie Mtolo, Abdi has not been offered anything else from Hollywood. He says “I’m reading some scripts now.”
Other actors are also coming forward about the reality of being a “working actor” versus being successful.
Hosea Chanchez told Arsenio Hall before booking the role of “Malik” on the BET hit show The Game, he lived in his car for 30 days in Riverside County, California. “The good thing is that I was always faith filled and I knew I was gonna be okay. Failure wasn’t an option for me,” he told the late night audience.
I applaud the transparency of Hollywood actors who can tell the reality of reaching your dreams beyond the helpful but generic message of “Never give up.” With many creative arts jobs slashed in front as well as behind the cameras, many are realizing that there may be years before that next Hollywood check clears.