It was 1988 when Eddie Murphy’s iconic comedy Coming to America took the cinema world by storm. Now, over 30 years later it’s time to return to the royal country of Zamunda in Coming 2 America.
The newly-crowned King Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and his trusted aid Semmi (Arsenio Hall) embark on a new adventure. They return to Queens, New York, to find Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), the son Akeem never knew he had. Fortunately for the audience, that discovery comes with the boy’s mother, Mary (Leslie Jones) and uncle, Reem (Tracy Morgan), who travel to Zamunda to be with Lavelle.
Wesley Snipes joins the cast as General Izzi. Returning from the last movie are Shari Headley as Queen Lisa and James Earl Jones playing King Jaffe. John Amos is back as Cleo McDowell, Akeem’s father-in-law and former employer. Eddie and Arsenio also reprise several beloved characters they created for the first movie – including respectively, soul singer Randy Watson and preacher Reverend Brown.
Members of the cast spoke with journalists about the new movie, which premieres on Prime Video on March 5, 2021.
It took Five Years
You’ve been working on this sequel for five years. Talk about the journey to this moment.
Eddie Murphy: About 3 drafts of the script in we got it where the structure and the narrative thread was strong enough to (say), ‘Okay, we have a movie here. Now we just have to bring a younger writer in and put that modern spin on it.’ Enter Kenya Barris (Black-ish).
There are a lot of characters from the first movie that you’ve brought back.
Eddie: We wanted to bring everybody back from the original. We have to bring back (the characters) from where the story left off. Who would make the most sense and how can we connect the dots to this? It was like, ‘It would be funny if McDowell (John Amos) opened a McDowell’s (restaurant) in Africa. It was so he could be there. That’s how we picked who would be in the movie.
Arsenio Hall: There was a night when Eddie did a scene with John Amos at the McDowell’s. It was the first time I walked into a room and saw John. It was a real special feeling.
What John has done for black people in Hollywood; when I was growing up, the dignity that he displayed as a man, I love him forever. And seeing him really warmed my heart, as Leslie might say.
Leslie, you have a more daunting task. You’ve got to put yourself in iconic moments from the original in those flashback scenes. What was that like?
Leslie Jones: First of all, I don’t know what comedian didn’t write themselves into the original Coming to America. I (imagined I was) Samuel Jackson’s sister.
The first day of shooting to me was the one that put the goose bumps on me. When Eddie walked in dressed as the King. It’s almost like the movie had just continued. He walked in like he has walked off another scene from the original movie. I don’t think he knew that everybody (gasped). That’s when it started becoming real.
Eddie: That’s how it always be when I walk in a room! (they all laugh)
You are so funny in this movie, Leslie.
Eddie and Arsenio, I know the make-up aspect of doing all those characters is better now, but still difficult sitting in those chairs.
Arsenio: Yeah, it’s less abrasive to your skin these days, the chemicals are better, but it’s still 4 to 6 hours.
Which character were you most excited to revisit?
Arsenio: I love when the preacher (Arsenio) and Randy Watson (Eddie) are together in any situation. Mr Murphy was going to do the Witch Doctor. You should let him tell you that story.
Eddie: Originally I was going to play the Witch Doctor and I was going to play Wesley Snipes’ character, General Izzi. But then I started thinking about how long it would be to do these make-ups. The Witch Doctor was six hours. Arsenio was like, ‘I’ll do it.’ (I said) ‘Alright, you are going to do it?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ One night he has that make-up on. It’s 4:30 in the morning and everybody’s leaving and he has 2 hours of breakdown. They’ve got to take it off for 2 hours. He’s sitting in the make-up chair. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘My eye is tearing.’ But he was crying. (Eddie laughs) You did a wonderful job as the Witch Doctor.
Leslie, you have so many one-liners in this one. Is it just you adlibbing?
Leslie: Yeah, pretty much. The character is me. So ghetto. ‘You ain’t gotta take care of me, I’ll take care of me. I don’t need no prince to raise my son. You see, I ain’t called you.’ (Eddie laughs) It was so easy to play because it was one of those characters that you do embrace. I love these types of characters in a movie that is going to join everybody together – just carefree.
Eddie: We had five or six drafts; from the third draft we were writing for Leslie.
Arsenio: Leslie is hilarious. There were a lot of stand-ups on the movie and we’re on the Tyler Perry lot which was magical. There were days I’m standing with Tracy Morgan and Leslie laughing my ass off. It was the greatest experience. They didn’t have to pay me for this one, because I had a great time.
What new things are you excited about with this sequel?
Arsenio: I think the message of female empowerment. There’s no timing like the timing of God. And that message is so important and perfect for this moment. What it says about women is incredible.
Eddie, what was it like working with James Earl Jones and Shari Headley again?
Eddie: (With) James Earl Jones we had to shoot his stuff separately because James can’t travel. He shot his (scenes) in New York. So I didn’t get to shoot with him, (but) you could never tell.
Shari, it was a trip, because we’re in this movie that’s on television all the time, so you see her all the time. I hadn’t seen her in 30 years and you’re back on the set. I was kind of surreal.