Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall reunite in Coming 2 America first look
Welcome back to Zamunda — and Queens.
Thirty-two years after Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall became movie royalty in Coming to America, Prince Akeem and his trusty friend Semmi are reuniting in the first look at Coming 2 America, which arrives March 5, 2021 on Amazon Prime Video.
Above, check out EW's exclusive photo of Akeem and Semmi making a return to their friendly neighborhood barbershop (is Soul Glo still in business?!). Yes, get ready to see Murphy and Hall reviving a few more memorable Coming to America characters.
But what brings them back to Queens? As Akeem prepares to become king, he learns that he fathered a son (Jermaine Fowler) with a local woman (Leslie Jones). Joining Fowler and Jones as newcomers to the series are KiKi Layne, Tracy Morgan, Rick Ross, and Wesley Snipes, while returning alums include Shari Headley, Paul Bates, John Amos, and James Earl Jones.
To coincide with the Coming 2 America first look, EW picked up some rose petals of information on the film from director Craig Brewer, who reteamed with Murphy, his Dolemite Is My Name star.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It's finally almost time for the world to reunite with Akeem and Semmi.
CRAIG BREWER: We need it.
Long before you worked with Eddie or signed on for Coming 2 America, what was your relationship with the original? Was this a big touchstone for you?
Oh yeah. I’m a kid of the ‘80s, and so that means I’m a student of Eddie Murphy. I try to explain to young people what that moment was like when Eddie came onto the scene. It has not been equaled; he was electrifying. Every movie he was in I went to go see, all of the Saturday Night Live episodes I not only watched them, I taped them on my Betamax and watched them back again. So Coming to America was that movie for my dad, and even my grandmother. She would always tell people, before [Brewer's Oscar-nominated film] Hustle & Flow came along of course, “Coming to America is my favorite movie, but don’t tell anybody what my second favorite movie is. It’s that Dirty Dancing.” [Laughs]
A really important movie in my growth as a young filmmaker was The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller. It was about the making of Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" video and that’s when I got to learn who [Coming to America director] John Landis was. My dad and I started doing filmmaker festivals, and so we got The Blues Brothers, Kentucky Fried Movie, American Werewolf in London. And Coming to America was a big movie for us to see because, just like with Trading Places, it collided with Eddie Murphy who we were enormous fans of. So Coming to America, the works of John Landis, and the artistry of Eddie Murphy are all really important to me and who I am. You can even see it in my movies a little bit.
Eddie is someone that you've now worked very closely with on two films, but what were your conversations like in preparation for this and making sure you did it justice? You guys want to get every film right, but I'm sure Coming to America holds an extra special place in Eddie's heart, not to mention yours.
The conversations that Eddie and I were having was just about, where does Coming to America sit in people’s hearts? Because it’s not just a movie, it’s a cultural touchstone for a lot of people. Luckily I’ve laid myself on the tracks before with doing a remake of Footloose, so I kind of knew we can’t be paralyzed by what people are going to want. People will shout on the streets to us, like, “Is Cleo [Amos] going to be in? McDowell’s better be in it or there’s going to be trouble!” So you’re going to get everyone’s opinions towards what it is, but we needed to get down to the essence of what’s going to bring people into this movie — in addition to the comedy. It’s such a nostalgia celebration, especially for people our age. Even in the opening couple shots you’re just smiling, because you’re like, “Oh, that’s right, I forgot about rose petals.” But we’ve got to have a heart in it. We’ve got to have something that Akeem is dealing with, and I think what is particularly special about our movie is the dynamic that is happening with the audience and the characters. This would be very different if there was a Coming to America that came out the year after Coming to America, right? I think Eddie and I were excited and challenged to make it meaningful as well as hilarious.
What can you say about where we pick up with Akeem and what he will be dealing with?
It’s 30 years later and Prince Akeem is preparing for life as a king. Without me giving away too much, there’s trouble on the horizon with a neighboring country because of something Akeem did or did not do in the first movie. And he finds out that he has a son in America that he did not know he had. He has three daughters with Lisa (Headley) and now there’s this blended family that is happening. Prince Akeem now needs to be a king and have children of his own and find out how to rule his kingdom with these old laws. He’s got some problems he’s got to figure out and he’s got a little bit more depth in this particular one. Not to take away from the original, because we never will.
We talked about how big a movie the original was for you, so what was it like as you’re sitting there in the director’s chair and call action for the first time on Eddie and Arsenio as Akeem and Semmi?
It was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life, being able to watch them come back into these characters. [Co-writer] Kenya Barris is one of the most powerful men in entertainment, and we’re sitting there on set and when Eddie and Arsenio walked into the barbershop as the old barbershop characters, we giggled like school children. [Laughs] We just dropped all sense of maturity and decorum. It was like, “Can you believe that we are doing this? Can you believe we’re at the barbershop? There’s Clarence [Murphy] for God’s sake!” And it was just infectious. The crew grew up on Coming to America so they’re trying to be professional but they’re just trying to bite their cheeks so they don’t smile the whole time. And you’ve got to remember that Eddie and Arsenio haven’t done this in more than 30 years, and now they’re just cracking jokes and having a blast — and this is even after they’ve been in eight hours of makeup.
I'm sure you were having a lot of reactions like that on this one.
Nothing is going to equal working with John Amos and James Earl Jones. I mean, that was a big deal on the set. When James Earl Jones came onto the set and [costume designer] Ruth Carter put that original crown on his head and said, “Ladies and gentleman, James Earl Jones,” the crew just erupted in this applause. And he’s just smiling because he gets to play this king one more time. It’s emotional. I know we’re making a comedy but it’s bigger than a comedy. We really just were all so touched to be working on it.
As you said, we've waited over 32 years for this film, so what is your message to fans as we approach the release?
I would say that what we all want everyone to do is to be safe, first and foremost. But know we designed this movie to push some buttons, but we also designed it to be a family viewing thing. My 12-year-old watched it the other day and loved it. It’s for the whole family. The thing about Coming to America is it's been on TV so much that a lot of kids have seen it even though the movie was rated-R. The night before, do Coming to America if you haven’t seen it already, but you don’t need to. And we just hope everybody comes together and has a great time with some old friends. Definitely in the world, we’re living in right now we could use some Akeem and Semmi in our lives.
It’s funny you say that because I interviewed you last year for Dolemite and we briefly talked Coming 2 America, and you said the same thing about us needing them and somehow that sadly feels even truer now.
Right? Who would have thought that things could have gotten worse since you and I last talked? [Laughs] But we really do need them now more than ever.