Eddie Murphy talks ‘Coming to America’: Hear the juicy cast secrets
Remember the first time you saw Coming to America? It starred two comedic giants, Eddie Murphy & Arsenio Hall, with a cast of iconic support actors. It was a funny fantasy with heart – and lots of jokes. Murphy & Hall truly showed their professional chops with the myriad characters they played. Now, the 21st century sequel of the movie, Coming 2 America, will be gracing Amazon Prime Video this Friday.
Eddie Murphy & Arsenio Hall revealed a few secrets about the Coming to America cast on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Kimmel asked them about comic Louie Anderson‘s involvement in the franchise, Murphy & Hall revealed that Anderson was tapped because Paramount Pictures insisted on including a white actor in the cast. In the film, Anderson plays Maurice, an employee at fast-food restaurant McDowell’s.
“I love Louie, but I think we were forced to put Louie in it,” Hall said. “We were forced to put a white person.”
“[T]he whole cast is Black — and this was back in the ‘80s — so [Paramount] was like, ‘We have to have a white person! There has to be a white person in the movie,’” Murphy added. “So it was, ‘Who’s the funniest white guy around?’ And Louie, we knew him. We was cool with him. So that’s how Louie got in the movie.”
According to Hall, Paramount presented them with a list of three white performers and said, “Who would you rather work with?” Asked by Kimmel if he remembered the other two options, Hall laughed and said, “Oh, yeah. But I can’t say.”
On Feb. 24th, Anderson responded to a similar anecdote Murphy shared with NBC’s Today show. “Wait what?” he tweeted.
New cast members
New to the royal saga cast are Leslie Jones & Tracy Morgan. Morgan was originally cast as Prince Akeem’s son before it was decided that he, at fifty-two, was too old to play the onscreen child of Murphy, fifty-nine. “We wrote two, three versions of the script, and then we started thinking . . . ‘Will people believe that Tracy is me & Leslie’s child?” Murphy said. “He looks like he’s our age. And then we started thinking about it differently.”
“And Jimmy, I would drop hints because I never liked that idea,” Hall added. “I love Tracy. I wanted him in it. But I would say to Eddie, ‘Hey, maybe for the third one, Morgan Freeman can be your son.’”
Arsenio Hall gets how fans revere 1988’s Coming to America. Hall jumped into an explanatory story with USA Today in which he & Eddie Murphy made a royal visit to their local Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf just after announcing their Coming 2 America sequel.
“As we’re leaving, this guy says, ‘I heard you’re doing a sequel. Don’t (expletive) it up,’” Hall said over Zoom, showing the impossibly youthful smile that beamed into America’s homes. “What is that about? It’s like, let us do the movie. It didn’t bother Eddie, but it kind of scared me. People are so invested. Like the movie is important to them.”
“It’s become a cult thing. The first time I got a call from Beyoncé’s office, she was having a ‘Coming to America’ party, dressing as the characters. They wanted me to come and surprise Jay-Z. Alicia Keys did a party like that,” Hall said. “We were in this mindset that the movie was great, leave it.”
What’s comin’ in Coming 2 America
But no, they didn’t leave it – thank goodness! Continuing the tradition of multiple characters, Hall plays Semmi while also disappearing into roles as barber Morris, the flamboyant Rev. Brown, and a new character, ancient shaman Baba.
Murphy had eyed the Baba part but dropped out when he found the role required six hours in the makeup chair and painful contact lenses. On the Atlanta set, Murphy playfully taunted Hall, saying he was going home to “chill out” at 10 p.m. before Hall’s night shoot had even begun.
“Eddie says, ‘Are you crying?’ “ Hall recalled. “I said, ‘No that’s the contacts and my allergies.’ He’s like ‘No, you’re crying because you’ve been sitting here for six hours. Call me tomorrow.’ And he leaves.”
Stealing the scene
Yet, bringing the scene-stealing, impish character to life was worth it, despite the layers of nasty prosthetics. “I love seeing it now,” Hall said. “But doing it was (challenging). And that stuff never comes off. You wake up in the morning and there’s little brown glue boogers behind your ear & stuff on the pillow.”
One Semmi scene was never going to make a return: that shirtless, playboy-in-the-hot tub moment from the original movie. Call it a concession to the passing of time. “I worked out and lost 17 pounds for that scene,” Hall recalled. “This time around, at 65, I ain’t losing 17 pounds to take off my shirt. At 65, no man should take off his shirt. Even alone. I shower with a T-shirt on.”