Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall are Coming 2 America one more time in their respective roles as Prince Akeem of Zamunda and his trusted associate Semmi, and not just to America, but Queens, N.Y., where it all began.
The trip becomes necessary when Akeem becomes the newly crowned King of Zamunda but has no sons to follow him onto the throne. A son is deemed necessary as an heir to avoid a hostile take over of the country by General Izzi, a warlord from a neighboring country, who’s also the older brother of Akeem’s former would-be bride Imani (Vanessa Bell Calloway), who Akeem cast aside when he fell in love with Lisa (Shari Headly).
Akeem learns from his ailing father King Joffer (James Earl Jones) before he passes that he has an illegitimate son back in America, so he and Semmi head to America in search of Akeem’s heretofore unknown “b*****d son,” Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler).
Eddie Murphy did a Zoom junket to promote the film, and following is what he had to say about the long-awaited sequel.
Monsters & Critics: It’s more than 30 years since the first film, and now six years of work to bring this to the screen. What was your first thought to get this going?
Eddie Murphy: Well, it was maybe about three drafts of the script in when we got it to where the structure and the narrative thread was strong enough to say, “Okay, we have a movie here, and now we just have to bring a young writer in to put a modern spin on it.” Enter Kenya Barris.
M&C: Who from the cast is back from the original film?
Eddie Murphy: We wanted to bring everybody back from the original. It was like, “Okay, we have to bring back everyone from where the story left off.” The Eriq LaSalle character and the Lisa McDowell sister. The last time you saw them, he was soaking wet. She said, “We got to get you out of these clothes,” and implied that they were going to be together. And me and Lisa went off happily ever after.
So, it was like, “Okay, how do you connect the dots?” [We thought] it would be funny if McDowell opened a McDowell’s in Africa, and it was so that he could be there. It was like, “Who would make the most sense? And how can we connect the dots the best?” That’s how we picked who would be in the movie.
M&C: We hear there is a story behind the Witch Doctor.
Eddie Murphy: Originally, I was going to play the Witch Doctor and I was going to play Wesley’s character, General Izzi. But then I started thinking about how long it would be to do these makeups. And I was, “The Witch Doctor is going to take six hours to do.” And Arsenio was like, “Well, I’ll do it.” And I was “Okay. You go do it.”
So, we’re doing the movie, and then one night after everybody was leaving. It’s 4:30 in the morning and everybody’s leaving, and Arsenio’s got two hours of breakdown. It takes two hours to take it off. He’s sitting in the makeup chair. He had a tissue. I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “My eye is tearing.” But he was crying. He was crying. Water’s running out. He was crying at Tyler Perry Studios at 4:30 in the morning.
M&C: Talk about the legacy of the movie. Where do you feel the legacy lives? And what do you really want folks to take away, not just with the first chapter, but with the second one?
Eddie Murphy: The legacy of both movies? The original Coming to America, the very first one, is the first movie in the history of movies that had an all Black cast that was successful all around the world. The very first one ever. There’s just a handful of movies that have had all Black casts that have been successful all around the world.
Actually, you could count them on one hand, and you’ll have fingers leftover. The legacy of Coming to America and Coming 2 America is that they’re accessible to all audiences. They’re about family, love, doing the right thing, and tradition. That’s what the movie is about.
It’s these amazing images of Black kings, queens, and princesses. Black Panther did it. The second movie that had Black kings was Black Panther. The very first one was Coming to America, and the third one is Coming 2 America. It’s like the only time we’re seen like this, just telling this story about human beings that everybody can relate to.
The themes are timeless. Love and marrying somebody who you really love. Fiddler on the Roof has a lot of similar images and similar themes to Coming to America.
M&C: Did you chat with Lizzo about Soul Glo when you were hosting Saturday Night Live? Because Lizzo’s Juice video is an ode to Soul Glo. It’s a complete homage.
Eddie Murphy: No, I didn’t even know. What you just said about Soul Glo, that’s indicative of the fact that Coming to America became a cult film. That’s just one aspect of one of the things that started out in Coming to America that’s in the culture now. Questlove has a band called the Randy Watson Experience. “Sexual Chocolate” became a catchphrase. The mic drop … the very first mic drop is Randy Watson. On Halloween, people get dressed up as characters from the movie. And VH1 played Coming to America 24 hours straight over Christmas. It’s a cult film. And all that stuff is part of it.
Coming 2 America is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.