Vital Thrills recently got a chance to talk to the Coming 2 America cast via a virtual press conference for the anticipated sequel. Coming 2 America will launch on Amazon Prime Video in over 240 countries on March 5, 2021.
Original cast favorites returning from Coming to America include King Akeem (Eddie Murphy), Semmi (Arsenio Hall), King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones), Queen Lisa (Shari Headley), Cleo McDowell (John Amos), Maurice (Louie Anderson) and the motley barbershop crew.
Joining the Coming 2 America cast are Wesley Snipes, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Jermaine Fowler, Bella Murphy, Rotimi, KiKi Layne, Nomzamo Mbatha, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Paul Bates, and Teyana Taylor.
Jermaine Fowler spoke about playing Eddie Murphy’s son and where he finds himself in the film. “What I go through with my situation with Mirembe [Nomzamo Mbatha], he [Murphy’s character, Akeem] slowly gets reminded about what brought him to Queens and his love for Lisa [Shari Headley].
“All that comes back to him. But it’s something you learn throughout the movie. Without my family, my aunts, my uncles, my mom, and Mirembe that we all start to realize this movie is just a reminder of what true love is.
“Sometimes you’ve got to get bumped in the head a little bit to just remember that.” Mbatha, who plays Mirembe, royal hairdresser and Lavelle’s love interest, added, “Or get chased by a lion,” which happens in the film.
Mbatha spoke about the many women in the sequel and female empowerment in the film. She said, “For me, there’s going to be so many people that are going to witness so many different central themes to this film.
“There’s the central theme of identity, the search for identity, the search for purpose, the search of leaving everything that you’ve always known behind and going into the new. But one of the most leading and on the pulse things about this film is a central theme around just the power of the female voice and the power of female empowerment.
“That’s what I love about the sequel. The finger is on the pulse. They read the room when they were writing the script.
“Craig Brewer read the room when he was directing those powerful scenes and gave that agency for women to just have agency on set, for women to just have agency with the roles.”
She continued, “For me, it was also important because the film wasn’t going to Queens. It was coming to Zamunda.
“So it was about what I as an African woman am able to bring in terms of the nuances, in terms of the truth, and rooting it in so much texture and culture and seeing ourselves just… I mean, Mirembe’s witty. She’s smart. She’s sassy.
“She also brings a lot of grounding, and that’s the thing about comedy that we never give credit to. Comedy, there’s so much drama.
“There’s so much human connection that we can truly, truly learn. So I’m really just excited for everyone, every Brown girl, every little girl around the world to just see themselves, to hear themselves through the central theme.”
Tracy Morgan, who plays Lavelle’s Uncle Reem, added: “On that same note, if you look at the movie from you, your character, his daughters to his wife to his mother, all the way up to the point where John Amos says, ‘I always thought the queen was the smartest of them all. What do you think your mother would say, Akeem?,’ that right there was it for me.”
Teyana Taylor plays General Izzi’s (Wesley Snipes) daughter Bopoto and spoke about doing a complicated dance number and following in the footsteps of the last film. She said, “Yeah, it definitely was a lot.
“I think the singing, the big performance was added on a little bit later. So it was just like when I heard I was doing it, I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got way too many big shoes to fill.’
“Now, I mean with that scene it’s also like reenacting the original. So it was kind of like, ‘Damn. I’m going to do … Oh my God. This is too much.’ But I pulled through.”
Rotimi, who plays General Izzi’s son Pretty Iddi, talked about working with iconic choreographer Fatima Robinson who is known for choreographing the “Remember the Time” video. He said, “Hell yeah, it was intimidating – I’m not even going to front.
“No, it was cool, because it was a collaborative thing. We had to figure it out really, really quickly.
“So she had an idea. I had an idea. But she was like, ‘Ultimately, just do what you feel,’ and it just came together so perfectly.
“When you’re working with the best in anything, man, you can just feel that aura and feel the energy. So I was like, ‘Let me just trust what she’s saying,’ and it was really dope.”
Snipes talked about his favorite sequence, saying, “I have to admit that in the original, I was most impressed and most delighted by the opening sequences of the African dance scenes, or the African dancers… I love that. That stood out most to me.”
John Amos, reprising the role of Cleo McDowell, said of the original film, “My opinions of Coming to America, the original, have been echoed by so many people that it was an incredible experience. The choreography, the costumes, the script, and of course, the fact that you had Eddie Murphy, who for my money is a consummate actor, comedian. It all came together in a wondrous way and quite frankly, I’m doubtful that we’ll be able to repeat that success to that degree. But then again with Eddie, we might even do better.”
Vanessa Bell Calloway, who is reprising the role of Imani Izzi, said: “Girl, if I had a nickel for every time somebody came up to me and said, ‘Whatever you like’ or ‘bark and hop like a dog,’ I’d be a very rich woman. But it’s the gift that keeps giving because I didn’t have children. I got married the year that Coming to America came out. It came out in June and I got married that September so my 30-year old and my 26-year old weren’t in existence yet. So I was able to get a whole new generation of fans just from that movie alone.”
Louie Anderson is reprising the role of Maurice and said: “I just think that this movie brought so much joy and all of us, I know for me, but I’m not trying to speak for everybody, but I think everybody feels the same way. We did the first one and for 30 years we’ve been asking about doing the second one, are we going to do it? So this thing is alive and well and I think people are really anxious and are really going to love it.”
Star Eddie Murphy worked for five years on this film and spoke about when it first came together. “Well, it was maybe about three drafts of the script in we got it to where the structure and the narrative thread was strong enough to… I was like, okay, we have a movie here, and now we just have to bring a young writer in and put that modern spin on it. Enter Kenya Barris.”
He continued, “We wanted to bring everybody back from the original. Actually, we wanted to… Where the story left off. It was like, okay, we have to bring back from where the story left off. The Eric 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 imply 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? It was like, it would be kind of funny if McDowell opened a McDowells 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.”
Arsenio Hall, who again plays Semmi (as well as a host of other characters like Eddie Murphy does) said, “Hey, there was a night when Eddie did a scene with John Amos at the McDowell’s, and it was the first time I walked into a room and saw John Amos and Louie Anderson. It was a real special feeling, especially for John. I mean, I love John. 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, it warmed my heart, as Leslie [Jones, who plays Mary Junson] might say.”
Jones spoke about the iconic status of the first film. “Well, first of all, I don’t know what comedian didn’t write themselves into the original Coming to America. So I was already in the movie. So I don’t know what you’re talking about. I had did a whole different character though, but I was Samuel Jackson’s sister, you know what I’m saying? And we decided to get a job at Modales. You know what I mean? But they decided to write this way, that’s cool. It’s cool. It worked out. It worked out their way.”
She continued, “I’m going to tell you the first day of shooting to me was the one that put the bumps, the goosebumps on me. When Eddie walked in, dressed as a king. It was almost like the movie had just continued. He walked in, he just walked off another scene from the original movie. So it was just like everybody… I don’t think he knew everybody was like, ‘Oh my God.’ And that’s when it really started becoming really real.”
Set in the lush and royal country of Zamunda, newly-crowned King Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and his trusted confidante Semmi (Arsenio Hall) embark on an all-new hilarious adventure that has them traversing the globe from their great African nation to the borough of Queens, New York – where it all began.
Coming 2 America is directed by Craig Brewer and comes from Paramount Pictures in association with New Republic Pictures. The film is produced by Eddie Murphy Productions and Misher Films.
The screenplay is written by Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, with story by Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield and Justin Kanew, based on characters created by Eddie Murphy.