Coming 2 America, the much-anticipated sequel, is set to premiere globally this March after 30 years of the original movie Coming To America.
The comedy, which is set in the lush and royal country of Zamunda follows the everunfolding story of the Joffers, the royal family of the land of Zamunda and the newlycrowned King Akeem (Eddie Murphy). While the passage of time has resulted in a few changes in the country, some traditions, especially inside the palace, are stuck in the past. As King Jaffe Joffer nears the end of his life, the spotlight turns to Prince Akeem and the inevitable transfer of power. There is also the burning question of who will become his heir.
Akeem and Lisa have settled into a cozy life, but like most families, there are the occasional disagreements to settle. Akeem and Lisa’s evolution as husband-and-wife, parents and soon-to-be elders is both relatable and universal.
“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 is 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,” Eddie Murphy says. “This film is a really cool continuation of that story and I want people to have a great experience while watching it.”
Craig Brewer, the director of the movie, is among the many people who still love the first film.
“The real benefit of making a sequel to a classic like Coming To America 30 years later is that you get into the territory of your characters having lived lives,” notes Brewer, who saw the original film, which was his grandmother’s favorite, in theaters as a teenager. “With Akeem, he is watching his kids grow up and have their own opinions and also, he now carries the weight of being the king of his own castle. I knew those were interesting elements that we could bring to the story, along with the laughter. What might surprise many people is that there’s a lot of heart and soul to the movie.”
In life, as in art, timing is key. According to Kevin Misher, producer of the movie, the sequel came together when Murphy felt the time was right. “When taking on the sequel to a legendary property like the original Coming To America, there is a certain obligation as a filmmaker because you have multiple generations of people who both revere it and regard it as their own,” he says. “So, you cannot think about doing anything related to COMING TO AMERICA unless Eddie Murphy decides that it is time to tell the story. And at this point, he decided that the time had come to revisit Akeem as an older man with a family.”
The journey to bringing Coming To America to fruition began with a phone call from Murphy to 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. In addition to Coming To America, on which they served as co-producers, the duo also penned screenplays for Murphy’s box-office hits including Boomerang, The Nutty Professor, The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. For Coming 2 America, Murphy created the characters, while Blaustein and Sheffield crafted the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Kenya Barris.
“I got a call from Eddie, out of nowhere, and he said, I think I have a way of doing the sequel,” remembers Blaustein. “After he gave me a brief synopsis of the idea, I was interested, and he said, “I want you and David to write it.” That was four years ago.
David Sheffield remembers their initial conversations with Murphy, about shaping the story. “Early on, we talked about how everyone would want to see what’s going on with Akeem and Lisa and we decided that they should be happily married, and we gave them three daughters,” he notes. “We also planted the seeds about there being a feminist statement with the oldest daughter assuming her rightful place and Kenya Barris took that and ran with it. He did such a great job and we’re honored to share a credit with him.”
Barris recalls his fondness for the first film. “Eddie was one of the biggest stars in the world when Coming To America came out and he took the opportunity to create a land where Black people were grand,” Barris adds. “The film is a Black fairytale and it pays tribute to our lineage, our heritage and the royalty and realness of who we are, which means a lot. Then, of course, there’s the fact that it was one of the funniest and most beloved movies of all time.”
The goal was to expand the story, yes, but also bring back as much of the original cast as possible. “For Eddie and Arsenio, I think the film just builds off of the friendship they’ve had forever. It was also fun trying to figure out how to put all the different characters back in there and we tried to include everybody. If you were in the original movie for five seconds, we thought, ‘We will try to get you in there,’” laughs Blaustein.