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Coming 2 America: 'People still want to believe in a fairytale'

Coming to America is a cult romantic comedy that's finally being revisited. Stellar cast members discuss the film's longevity


Stirring the pot: actors Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy in Coming 2 America

Stirring the pot: actors Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy in Coming 2 America

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Stirring the pot: actors Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy in Coming 2 America

It is more than three decades since Eddie Murphy introduced Prince Akeem Joffer to the silver screen. And now the character is getting another outing, as a highly-anticipated sequel lands on Amazon Prime Video.

Once again set in the lush and royal country of Zamunda, the new film, Coming 2 America, sees newly-crowned King Akeem and his trusted confidante Semmi (Arsenio Hall), make another hilarious trip to New York from their great African nation.

Many familiar faces from the original movie are returning, such as James Earl Jones and Shari Headley, but there are some new cast members too - Wesley Snipes, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Jones, Jermaine Fowler and Teyana Taylor to name a few.

For Florida-born Wesley Snipes, the role has been a long time coming.

"I auditioned for a part during the original and didn't get it - lost out to the great Eriq La Salle, who's also a friend of mine," says the 58-year-old, who plays General Izzi in Coming 2 America.

"I lamented over the fact that I wasn't cast but loved the movie, loved the regalia, loved the production, loved the acting, loved seeing Africa in that light, in that way. And, yeah, it was a wonderful thing.

"Never thought it would come around again, and I get a chance to make up for that. It all worked out wonderfully."

Back to the plot of Coming 2 America and, as King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) nears the end of his life and talk turns to heirs to the throne, he reveals some shocking news to his son. It turns out Prince Akeem, who now has three beautiful daughters with his wife Lisa (Shari Headley), has a long-lost son in Queens.

And so, he must return to America.

It is always a treat to witness 59-year-old Murphy on screen.

He actually plays four characters in Coming 2 America - Prince Akeem/Clarence/Saul/Randy Watson - a film which, according to producer Kevin Misher, only came together when Murphy felt the time was right.

The actor rang up screenwriter Barry W Blaustein - who, along with his writing partner, David Sheffield, has collaborated with the actor since his early days on Saturday Night Live -and explained his idea to revisit Akeem as an older man.

"In Coming To America, an African prince travels to America to find a regular girl and he brings her back to make her his princess. It's a modern fairytale that a lot of people love and, also, it was the very first time they ever had a movie with black folks, where you had kings and queens," says Murphy.

"This film is a really cool continuation of that story and I want people to have a great experience while watching it."

Coming 2 America also shows a different side to Snipes - who is known for dramatic roles on Broadway, as well as films White Men Can't Jump, Demolition Man, and the Blade trilogy - as we see him flex his comedic muscles.

The Joffer family has a long-standing rivalry with neighbouring nation Nexdoria, since Akeem left General Izzi's sister, Imani, at the altar 30 years ago and jetted off to America to find his true love.

And the fearless general stirs the pot at each and every opportunity, with plenty of humorous moments.

"I'm such a fan of Eddie and have seen so much of his work that I have some familiarity of his tones and his paces," notes Snipes. "I tried to find some harmony with that and not laugh while we were shooting our scenes."

We are much more used to seeing comedy from New York-born Morgan (52), star of the award-winning sitcom 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, and his very own series, The Tracy Morgan Show. But still, he never expected the Coming 2 America opportunity to come his way.

The comic plays Uncle Reem, whose nephew, Lavelle Junson of Queens (Jermaine Fowler), is Akeem's long-lost son.

"I didn't audition for the first one [Coming To America], I was in ninth grade, I was young!

"I didn't think it was going to come around either, but to be a part of number 2? That's big in my life," quips Morgan.

"To be able to share a screen with all the greats from the first cast, the new people, Leslie (Jones) and Jermaine (Fowler), it was wonderful for me, very inspirational for me, to be a part of this. I can say, 'I was in part 2' - I'm happy."

When we revisit classic comedies with a 2021 perspective, things can look a little different through the lens. How do they think the 1988 film stands up now?

"I think it holds up pretty well," says Snipes. "I think there are still some relevant issues - themes that were expressed in the original film, that are relevant today."

He continues, thoughtfully: "I'm quite confident people know just as little about Africa now as they knew about it then. So, some things didn't change, unfortunately."

"But this will help," follows Morgan, smiling. "People still love fairytales, people still want to believe in a fairytale. It's the same fairytale."

Coming 2 America is available on Amazon Prime Video

Belfast Telegraph

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