Jermaine Fowler, Teyana Taylor talk following in co-stars’ footsteps in ‘Coming 2 America’
EXCLUSIVE: The actor and the singer both took inspiration from their co-stars who starred in the original 1988 film
Jermaine Fowler is ready for this moment.
The 32-year-old D.C. native has been building his career for years, first performing stand-up at comedy clubs and then securing roles in hit movies like 2018’s Sorry to Bother You. Now, Fowler is taking on the role of Lavelle Junson, Prince Akeem’s long-lost son, in Coming 2 America.
The highly anticipated sequel gave Fowler the opportunity to work with several of his childhood idols—an experience he told theGrio was grounded in “respect and [comedic] chemistry.”
“We all just love each other’s work and the respect for the original film helped too. We wanted to bring what we do best to it,” he explained. “I’ve been such a fan of Tracy [Morgan‘s] since Martin, Leslie [Jones] since probably Lottery Ticket, like she’s been awesome in everything she’s ever done. I was a little giddy being around them, but they were so welcoming.”
He added, “I think they brought a lot of comfort for me when I was there. We just wanted to make the film elevated with what we do best. I was astounded to be in that company [with them and Eddie Murphy]—very honored to be in that company.”
Fowler’s brought his own brand of humor to film, explaining that he improved a lot of his scenes with the cast.
“When you get a bunch of comedians on one set, and an array of amazing actors, you’re going to experiment with a lot,” he dished. “What’s most important is that, in that improv, you know where the scene is gonna go because you still got a movie to shoot. We got a story to tell.”
Fowler wasn’t the only cast member influenced by a fellow co-star. Teyana Taylor also felt a connection to Vanessa Bell Calloway‘s character, Imani, who was Akeem’s “queen to be” in the original 1988 film. Taylor’s character, General Izzi’s daughter Bopoto, takes on a similar role for Lavelle in the 2021 sequel.
“That was some big shoes to fill,” the singer said about Calloway. “I mean, it was amazing and I’m so excited. I actually got to meet her and I was so nervous. I want to be perfect for her and for everybody. [The ‘queen to be’ scene] was actually one of my favorite scenes—my favorite character in the original. So to be able to have that role was crazy to me.”
Taylor was also able to bring her own beautiful brand of artistry to the film, singing and dancing in a special, laugh-out-loud funny performance.
“That performance came about because that was kind of like what they wanted, but originally the performance wasn’t in there when I read the script. Once we started getting into fittings and really sort of locking everything in is when they added the performance,” the “We Got Love” singer explained. “I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna be dancing?’ So I was going to the studio.”
She continued, “I remember I picked this bomb outfit. It was so good—the shoes, everything. They was like, ‘Okay, cool. You’re gonna be performing in this.’ I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m gonna be dancing in heels—I picked the wrong heels!’ But it all worked out and I’m excited to see how it came out.”
While both Fowler and Taylor’s characters are following in others footsteps, co-star Nomzamo Mbatha is treading a unique journey of her own in real life. The 30-year-old made the leap from her native South Africa—where she is hugely popular with 3.6 million Instagram followers—to Hollywood to film the sequel.
She told theGrio that her transition to Tinsel Town has been “literally my ‘Coming to America’ story, through and through.”
“It’s been the most interesting thing, just being on set and getting the Black American experience,” Mbatha shared. “Watching everyone, like, play old school songs, how everybody would interact with each other, the culture, the language, the texture, the people—it was really, really beautiful.”
She continued, “I think there’s something really incredibly amazing that’s happening right now in terms of how the two worlds are colliding. You know, in the first film, we got to see everybody go to Queens, and it’s gonna be an awesome experience to see everybody go to the continent [of Africa].”
Coming 2 America is now available to stream on Amazon Video.