by Landon Johnson 24 February, 2021
In 1988, filmmaker Eddie Murphy changed the game for the comedy genre when he gave us Coming to America. The film quickly became an instant classic and is still one of the most quoted films of all time. Now, over 30 years later, Murphy gives us Coming 2 America, and the laughs are still there! Along with some familiar faces.
The original cast’s return is nothing short of nostalgia meets pure comedic genius that’s entertaining to all. This time, when African Prince Akeem (Murphy) learns he has a long-lost son in America, he travels to America to try and establish a relationship with his heir.
But there are also a few newcomers that make the film surpass all audience expectations. Leslie Jones, for example, is a show-stealer. Also the spectacular wardrobe and costumes gaining a lot of praise across critic circles -- but what more could we expect from Oscar-winner Ruth B. Carter?
At a recent press day, Screen Picks got to hear from the star-studded cast about the reunion and tackling one of the most successful sequels in the entire history of the genre... here is what we learned.
The original cast spoke how much fun it was returning to make the sequel. John Amos said that he did not think the sequel could quite achieve the success as the first. But then again, “Eddie (Murphy) is a genius,” he commented. “With Eddie, we might even do better,” he continued. He went on to throw more accolades towards Murphy. “This is genius. This is a master of drama and comedy; the whole nine yards,” Amos insisted.
Louie Anderson then spoke up to comment on how shocked he was to see Amos onset after 33 years. “When I walked onto the set and saw John, I said, "Oh my God, look how young John looks," he recalled.
“You know what I mean? Because I did not... I mean, I look okay, but John looks like... I go, "What kind of serum are you taking to look this young?" he joked.
Vanessa Bell Calloway chimed in on the impact of the first film’s success by saying how many people have come up to her to re-enacting her role. “If I had a nickel for every time someone came up to me and said, ‘whatever you like,’ or ‘bark and hop like a dog,’ I’d be a very rich woman,” Calloway joked.
“It was just such an honor to be in the first production and then to have a phrase that was coined by everyone.” She continued to explain how she appreciates people who dress up like her character for Halloween and weddings.
Garcelle Beauvais also said that she will likely never live down her role in the first either. “This was historic,” Beauvais said. “I had no idea it would turn out to be what it turned out to be,” she explained.
Beauvais also recalled, “I don't know if anybody knew, but I had auditioned for Shari Headley's character, which I had no business doing. I was so green. I didn't know anything. I didn't know mark, I didn't know rolling, action, I didn't know any of that so to even be in the movie was truly a gift from God,” she said.
“And I was just so happy that I was on a set with so many black people and all the women were gorgeous. Everywhere you looked, there was a beautiful girl. I had no idea that it was going to turn out to be what it turned out to be and what a blessing for all of us, but truly for me, because I didn't know anything. I was just a little baby.”
She then went on to speak about how it felt to shoot the sequel at Tyler Perry Studios aka Black Hollywood. “When production picks you up to take you from the hotel to the set, and being on the highway and seeing the exit sign that says Tyler Perry Studios was really... It just caught me off guard and it was bigger than I ever thought,” she elucidated.
“And to be in a studio where a black man owns, and we are now providing content to that, it's everything. It's exceptional. It just shows where we been and now where we are. It was really tremendous,” Beauvais explained.
Paul Bates agreed, saying: “To walk out of your soundstage, to the Harry Belafonte, and to see the Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis soundstage over there, and the Sydney Poitier is down there, and the Whoopie Goldberg is down there. You say, this is not what it used to be. This is the new world, and this is good.”
Eddie Murphy then spoke about the development of the second installment in the franchise, and how he took time with it until all it needed was a younger writer to help “put a spin on in... Enter Kenya Barris,” he said.
Murphy went on to speak about bringing most of the original cast back. “We wanted to bring everyone back from the original because we had to bring back from where the story left off. The Eric LaSalle character and Lisa McDowell’s sister. Last time you saw them, they were in wet clothes and implied that they were going to be together. And it seemed like me and Lisa ended up together,” the Golden Globe-winning actor explained.
“So, it would be kind of funny if McDowell opened a McDowell’s in Africa, and we thought. “who would make the most sense and how to connect the dots, that’s how we chose who came back.”
Arsenio Hall chimed in to recall the first time he came to set and saw some of the old cast members shooting, saying it was kind of a “special feeling.”
Hall went on to commend Amos for all the work he did for black people in Hollywood growing up. “The dignity he displayed as a man, I love him forever." Hall continued by saying that seeing Amos back on set “warmed his heart.”
The hilarious, scene-stealing Leslie Jones then chimed in to speak about the pressure of having to live up to the comedic standard of the original. “First of all, I don’t know why black comedians didn’t write themselves into Coming to America,” she joked. “It may not have been the same part, but they decided to write it this way.”
Jones also recalled the goosebumps she felt on the first day of filming, saying, “When Eddie walked in dressed as a king like he has just walked off a scene from the original movie so I don’t think he knew everyone like, ‘Wow!’”
Murphy proceeded to joke, “that’s how it always be when I walk in the room, though. You are so funny in this movie, Leslie,” Murphy said to Jones. “I’m glad they didn’t put have the stupid stuff I did in the final cut," Jones replied.
Miss Bella Murphy recalls seeing the original when she was around 10 or 11. “It was cool to see my dad like that,” the young actor said. “That was the first time I saw images of black royalty onscreen so it was cool and even cooler that it was my dad. I felt really empowered,” she added.
Akiley Love agreed and spoke about having both Zenuda and Wakanda to grow up with. “It was great to play a character that’s from Africa and to play a princess? That was really fun!” She continued, “I just hope that everyone who sees it that looks like me would just realize that they’re like that too. The movie actually shows what black people are and that’s the reason I was so proud to be a part of it.”
Coming 2 America hits screens soon and it’s the comedy of the year. A truly perfect film for a virtual watch party.