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Eddie Murphy breaks down legacy of Coming to America franchise ahead of sequel premiere

New York, New York - There’s a reason Coming to America remains a king among comedies for Eddie Murphy.

Coming 2 America starring Eddie Murphy will return to the screens March 5.
Coming 2 America starring Eddie Murphy will return to the screens March 5.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Press

"The original Coming to America is the first movie in the history of movies that had an all-Black cast that was successful all around the world," Murphy said of the 1988 movie during a recent press conference.

"All around the world, the very first one ever. And there’s just a handful of movies that have had all-Black casts that have been successful all around the world."

While the original was a huge international hit that grossed nearly $290 million worldwide, its sequel Coming 2 America will debut Friday on Amazon Prime Video, a result of the pandemic’s shuttering of movie theaters across the country.

It arrives more than three decades after audiences were first introduced to Murphy’s Prince Akeem Joffer of Zamunda, who travels from his fictional African kingdom to New York in order to find a wife.

Murphy (59) said much of the universal appeal of the original was the way it features "these amazing images of Black kings and queens and princesses" on screen – long before a recent blockbuster based on a Marvel superhero also became a global hit.

"Black Panther did it – the second movie that had Black kings and black (queens)," Murphy said. "The very first one is Coming to America. And the third one is (the new) Coming 2 America."

"We wanted to bring everybody back from the original"

The 1988 original Coming to America was the first successful movie with an all-Black cast.
The 1988 original Coming to America was the first successful movie with an all-Black cast.  © IMAGO / Everett Collection

The sequel has Prince Akeem come back to Queens to find his long-lost son, played by Jermaine Fowler.

Returning alongside Murphy are Arsenio Hall, who stars as the prince’s trusted aide, Semmi; Shari Headley as Akeem’s wife, Lisa Joffer; and James Earl Jones, who portrays King Jaffe Joffer.

Big names to join the cast include Wesley Snipes, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan and KiKi Layne, but Murphy’s goal for the sequel was to incorporate as many aspects of the first film into the new one.

"We wanted to bring everybody back from the original," Murphy said. "It was like, OK, we have to bring it back from where the story left off... how do you connect the dots?"

"It’s beautiful that we had a chance to do something like that, and also I got a chance to work with all of those great actors," Snipes, who plays General Izzi, an eccentric autocrat from Zamunda’s neighboring land of Nextdoria, told the Daily News.

"I checked off about 20 of the iconic African American actors. Maybe 40. In one movie," added Snipes, who grew up in the Bronx and said the first "America" holds a special place in his heart.

"Originally, it was one of the first films that displayed African excellence and African beauty and royalty and the beauty of the golden age of African culture on screen in a very, very long time," Snipes said.

"It was funny. It had family. It brought the family from abroad to the family in Queens, so being a New Yorker and being an original Bronx boy, all of that meant a lot to me."

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Press

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