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HBO Sets Cast for ‘Mogadishu, Minnesota’ Pilot

HBO has set the cast for its drama pilot “Mogadishu, Minnesota,” which hails from executive producer Kathryn Bigelow and writer K’naan Warsame, Variety has learned.

The large ensemble features nine series regulars, mostly made up of newcomers. Among the cast is “American Crime” star Elvis Nolasco, Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede and Somali-born British stand-up comedian Prince Abdi.

“Mogadishu, Minnesota” is a family drama that grapples with what it means to be American, among the Somalis of Minneapolis. Somali Canadian rapper/singer Warsame wrote the pilot and will direct. He serves as executive producer, along with with Bigelow and Carolyn Strauss.

The “Mogadishu, Minnesota” pilot will shoot this October in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

See below for the full cast, plus character descriptions:

Ezana Alem will play Sameer, the Somali all-American boy, who is described as a handsome, excellent student who is planning to go away to college with his beautiful girlfriend, Lacy.  He is devoted to his parents, yet pressured by their hopes and dreams for him.

Hanad Abdirahman Abdi will play Ali, a bright, likeable young man who is polite and respectful to his family, and loyal to his best friend, Sameer (Alem).

Selam Tadese will play Bisbaas, a renowned gangster with a friendly laugh and a surprising violent streak. Beloved by his nephew Ali (Abdirahman Abdi), he returns to the neighborhood after years of banishment by his sister and brother.

Rif Hutton will play Afrah, Sameer’s (Alem) father, a former professor in Somalia who works at a rental car company since immigrating to the United States, and is preparing to take the American citizenship test. His experience has given him a detached wisdom and a wry sense of humor.

Prince Abdi will play Big Man, a spliff-smoking petty thug, who takes care of his blind grandmother.  He has filled the void left by Bisbaas’s (Tadese) banishment and is now threatened by his return.

Elvis Nolasco will play Liban, Ali’s (Abdirahman Abdi) uncle and proud owner of Liban’s Classy Hookah. He’s an upright citizen who prizes the family’s reputation above all else. He is not pleased when his brother, Bisbaas (Tadese), returns to town. Nolasco is repped by APA and Silver Lining Entertainment.

Yusra Warsama will play Hawo, Sameer’s (Alem) mother who is a hard-working and loving parent.  She holds fast to traditional Somali family values, which often conflict with the agenda of an American teenager.

K.C. Collins will play Jamal, who is described as street-wise, mysterious and handsome with an effortless charisma. He fashions himself after revolutionaries and tries to live his life by the book.

Liya Kebede will play Maryam, Ali’s (Abdirahman Abdi) mother who is strong-willed, vivacious and is the glue holding her family together. She is deeply troubled by her quarreling brothers.

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