Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall open up about expectations for ‘Coming 2 America’: ‘I wanted to do a good movie’
EXCLUSIVE: 'We worked on the script for four years before we got it right,' says Murphy
Coming to America may be a cult classic, but it’s legendary status didn’t intimidate Eddie Murphy when it came to developing the sequel.
The Oscar-nominated comedian, 59, told theGrio exclusively that he didn’t feel any pressure to live up to the original 1988 film, instead viewing the 2021 sequel, Coming 2 America, as an opportunity to show off the cast’s many talents.
“I wanted to do a good movie. I didn’t want to do a movie that didn’t capture the spirit of the first movie. We worked on the script for four years before we, you know, got it right,” Murphy explained. “It was process. From the very beginning though, it was wanting [the sequel] to be good, but it wasn’t a pressure thing.”
Murphy’s co-star Arsenio Hall, however, felt a little differently. The 65-year-old talk show host said he did feel some nerves about returning to his role as Semmi—especially after seeing the fandom extend to Hollywood royalty like Beyoncé.
“Eddie is good at not letting this stuff bother him. But I heard a comment as we were heading into the shoot, and somebody said, ‘Don’t mess up our movie.’ First of all, it’s our movie too,” Hall said with a laugh. “There were people actually who was saying, ‘Oh god, you shouldn’t do it.’ It didn’t create pressure, but it’s a speed bump that makes you think for a moment. Wow, we really got to come with this. This is a part of people’s childhoods.”
He continued, “There were times when I would see different versions of what Eddie was working on with the script and I would tell him, ‘Hey, Fat Sal’s decorated their restaurant as McDowell’s today for Halloween.’ Then I’d get a call from Beyoncé and Beyoncé would say, ‘We’re having a party, everybody’s dressing like Coming to America characters.’ Then I get a call from Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys and they’re like, ‘We’re doing one of those Coming to America parties. Are you gonna be on the East Coast?’ That makes you realize the quality of the film and that’s incredible.”
Murphy went on to elaborate that the original film’s cult status and popularity made him “kind of excited” to dive back into the world of Zamunda.
“[Coming to America] really has the same stuff that cult movies have with the fans, the way they feel about those movies. This movie is like that. It just actually got me kind of excited. It was like, ‘Wow, people are invested in it like that.'”
The sequel sees Murphy’s Prince Akeem step into his role as King amid the discovery that he fathered a son in Queens during the events of the first film. With this new knowledge, Akeem travels back to America to retrieve his son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), and bring him back to Zamunda to become his heir. Along the way, he must juggle his role as a father to three princesses, including Kiki Layne‘s Princess Meeka, and as a husband to Queen Lisa (Shari Headley).
“Getting back into the character, for me, I’ve always been able to just turn it on and off when I’m doing characters,” Murphy explained about returning to the role of Akeem. “These characters—this movie is on so much, it’s kind of like, it’s in the background and you see it. The characters are just around so it was easy to just jump back in.”
Hall agreed, adding that “Eddie reminded me of something that I really didn’t think about. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, these guys are so much older, it’s 30 years.’ But Eddie reminded me that they weren’t that old when we started.”
Murphy and Hall’s appearances don’t stop at Akeem and Semmi, however. The pair have also brought back several of their now-iconic characters from the original film, including Randy Watson, Mr. Clarence and Saul (all played by Murphy) and Reverend Brown (played by Hall). So, who was their favorite character to revist?
“For me, it was the most fun to revisit the king because all I had to do was put on a robe,” Murphy jokingly said. “But doing those characters, it’s so much. It’s so much time in the makeup chair and the stuff that you usually see—it’s like 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and we’re doing that stuff because it’s always a long day. It’s really, really hard stuff to do those characters.”
“The second funniest moment for me on stage, on set shooting this, was Randy and the Reverend in the end,” Hall added. “That was fun.”
Coming 2 America premieres on March 5 on Amazon Video.
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