Are you ready to go back to Zamunda? On March 5th Amazon Prime Video will premiere Coming 2 America, the long-awaited sequel to the classic 80’s comedy, Coming to America. Directed by Craig Brewer (Dolemite Is My Name) and written by Kenya Barris (Black-ish), the new film features returning stars Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, John Amos, and James Earl Jones, as well as new additions to the cast including Leslie Jones, Jermaine Fowler, Kiki Layne, Tracy Morgan, and Wesley Snipes.
Coming 2 America picks up thirty years after the first film, with Prince Akeem (Murphy) and Lisa (Headley) now happily married with three daughters in Zamunda. However, the country is on the verge of war with General Izzi (Snipes), and Akeem is about to become King with no male heirs to inherit the throne. Semmi (Hall) soon reveals that Akeem did have a son from a one-night stand in Queens right before he met Lisa. Now, Akeem and Semmi must travel back to America and find his son, Lavelle (Fowler), and return to Zamunda with him to save the kingdom. Along the way, they also meet Lavelle’s mother, Mary Junson (Jones), and her brother Reem (Morgan), as well as many familiar faces from the first film, such as Queens barbers Mr. Clarence (Murphy) and Morris (Hall), their friend Saul (Murphy), Reverend Brown (Hall) and the lead singer of Sexual Chocolate, Randy Watson (Murphy).
We Live Entertainment recently had the pleasure of attending three different virtual press conferences for Coming 2 America, including cast members Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Wesley Snipes, John Amos, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Garcelle Beauvais, Bella Murphy, and more. Here are the top ten things we learned about Coming to America and its new sequel at the Coming 2 America press conferences.
1. Coming to America paved the way for Black Panther’s worldwide success
2018’s Black Panther was a groundbreaking global box office hit and received a Best Picture Oscar nomination. But according to actor and producer Eddie Murphy, none of that would have been possible without 1988’s Coming to America, which was also a groundbreaking global box office hit that was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Costume Design and Best Makeup). “The original Coming to America is the first movie in the history of movies to have an all-Black cast that was successful all around the world,” explained Murphy. “It was the very first one ever. There are just a handful of movies that have had all-Black casts and have been successful worldwide. Actually, you can count them on one hand, and you would have fingers left over. It was the only movie that had these amazing images of Black Kings and Queens. Black Panther did it. But it was only the second movie to have Black Kings and Queens. The very first one was Coming to America, and now the third one is Coming 2 America.”
2. Every actress auditioned for Lisa in the original Coming to America
Actress Shari Headley, who played Akeem’s love interest, Lisa, reprises her role from the first film in the series. But, as we learned from the press conference, Headley was not the only actress to audition for the role. Apparently, every actress of a certain age that was up for the original movie had auditioned for the part of Lisa. Garcelle Beauvais, who was eventually cast as the Royal Rose Bearer, and Vanessa Bell Calloway, who went on to play Imani Izzi, both reprise their roles in the series and also revealed that they too originally auditioned to play Lisa. “I don’t know if anybody knew, but I had auditioned for Shari Headley’s character, which I had no business doing because I was so green,” explained Beauvais. “I auditioned for Lisa too,” exclaimed Calloway. “Because back then, Black women didn’t have a lot of parts. There weren’t a lot of options to audition for stuff. So, everybody auditioned for Lisa.”
3. Why Darryl Jenks and Patrice McDowell don’t return for the sequel
In addition to the return of Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, Vanessa Bell Calloway, and Garcelle Beauvais, the sequel will also bring back James Earl Jones as King Jaffe, Paul Bates as royal servant Oha, Clint Smith as Sweets the barber, John Amos as Cleo McDowell and Louie Anderson as his employee Maurice. But two major characters from the original not returning for the sequel are Darryl Jenks and Patrice McDowell, played by Eriq La Salle and Allison Dean, respectively. “We wanted to bring everyone back from the original, but we had to bring them back from where the story left off,” Murphy explained. “The Eriq La Salle character and Lisa McDowell’s sister, the last time you saw them he was soaking wet, and she said, ‘I’m going to get you out of these clothes.’ That implied that they were going to be together, and me and Lisa went off happily ever after. It was like, how do you connect the dots with who could come back? So, it was who makes the most sense (to bring back) and how do we connect the dots.”
4. John Amos loves working with Eddie Murphy
Without a doubt, one of the most popular characters from the first film was McDowell’s owner Cleo McDowell, played by John Amos. While he may be most recognizable to audiences for his Coming to America role, Amos is a veteran actor of more than fifty-years having appeared on such seminal sitcoms as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Good Times, groundbreaking dramatic shows like The West Wing and Roots, as well as playing the villain in Die Hard 2. Of all the legendary performers Amos has had the pleasure of working with over the years, Eddie Murphy is his favorite, and the actor explained why. “Working with Eddie for my money is easy because he is always on point,” said Amos. “He seems to know intuitively exactly what he wants to do with his character. He goes along with you and listens to the dialogue, so all you need to do with your character is be reactive. He knows how to let you do what you want with your character and the dialogue. So, it was a blessing, but that is the gift of working on an Eddie Murphy movie. He seems to know exactly how a scene should be played out in advance of any rehearsal or anything else. He’s quite a talent.”
5. James Earl Jones shot separately from the rest of the cast
Legendary actor and iconic voice of Darth Vader, James Earl Jones, returns in Coming 2 America as Akeem’s father. But unfortunately, Murphy didn’t have an opportunity to work with the veteran actor face to face. “With James Earl Jones, we had to shoot his stuff separately because James can’t travel,” explained Murphy. “So, we shot his stuff in New York, and I didn’t get to shoot with him, but you could never tell.”
6. Eddie Murphy was originally going to play General Izzi and Baba the Witch Doctor
Hot off his brilliant comedic turn in Dolemite Is My Name, Wesley Snipes takes on the role of Coming 2 America’s villain General Izzi, while Arsenio Hall plays new character Baba, who is a witch doctor working for the royal family of Zamunda. But according to Hall and Murphy, Eddie almost played both roles. “Mr. Murphy was going to do the witch doctor and Wesley’s role,” revealed Hall. “Then I started thinking about how long it would be to do all that makeup,” confessed Murphy. “It would take six hours to do it, and Arsenio said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I said okay, and one night after everybody was leaving at 4:30 in the morning, he had to do two hours of makeup breakdown. He was sitting in the makeup chair with a tissue. He said his eye was tearing, but he was crying. He was crying at Tyler Perry Studio at 4:30 in the morning!”
7. Before Arsenio Hall decided to play Baba, the role was almost taken by Dave Chappelle
While discussing why Murphy decided not to play Baba, Hall also revealed that there was another extremely iconic comedian who wanted to play the part before he took on the role. “Dave Chappelle played in Cleveland, and Arsenio and Chris Rock were on the show,” Murphy explained. “Arsenio told Dave we were going to do another Coming to America. He was like, ‘What? If you guys are doing Coming 2 America, then I want to be in it.’ Then it didn’t work out because of scheduling, but we thought he was going to do it for a second.” But Hall added that even if Chappelle had taken the role, it might not have worked out as well for a very particular reason. “The problem is that you wouldn’t have known it was him playing the witch doctor, and it’s kind of like getting Dave but not getting Dave,” said Hall.
8. Bella Murphy beat up Blade
With ten children of his own, it only makes sense that Eddie Murphy would look no further than his own home and cast his real-life daughter Bella Murphy as Akeem’s daughter Omma in Coming 2 America. The young actress has a fight scene in the film with Wesley Snipes and admitted that she was worried about hurting the Blade star. “I remember when we were doing that scene, I actually got to act out that whole stunt. I was nervous because I was twirling my stick around, and I didn’t want to hit Wesley Snipes in the head,” she said. “That’s not a good impression. So, I was really nervous, but it actually turned out really well.” However, Snipes had a different account of shooting the fight scene. “I don’t think she cared about hitting me at all,” joked Snipes. “From what I remember, and the Bengay, she gave it to me with great enthusiasm.”
9. Leslie Jones basically plays herself in Coming 2 America
SNL alumna Leslie Jones plays the mother of Akeem’s son, who was conceived in an off-screen scene that took place during the events of the original movie. The character is very similar to Jones’ own larger-than-life comedic persona, and the actress explained how much she related to her Coming 2 America role. “The character is me,” said Jones. “Seriously, the character is so free of life. She’s like, you don’t have to take care of me, I’ll take care of me. It was just so easy to play because it was just one of those characters that you do embrace. I love those types of characters in movies that enjoy everybody and are just carefree.”
10. Tracy Morgan drew inspiration for his performance from the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Another SNL alumnus joining the cast of Coming 2 America is Tracy Morgan, who plays Mary’s brother and Lavelle’s uncle, Reem. Anyone familiar with Morgan’s comedic work knows that he is quite a unique and eccentric character, to say the least. So, it should be no surprise to anyone that Morgan looked no further than his favorite musical group and one performer in particular for inspiration playing his role. “I thought about myself on set as the Ol’ Dirty Bastard of Wu-Tang,” explained Morgan. “Everyone has that one person in their family that keeps everybody together.”