As anticipation builds for Coming 2 America, the sequel to the hit 1988 film Coming To America starring Eddie Murphy in multiple characters, we’re re-discovering all the reasons why we fell in love with this film. This movie was not only a staple in Black cinema history, but a paradigm-shifting pop culture moment that showed the breadth and depth of Black comedy.
The plot follows Prince Akeem, a determined heir to the throne who defies the arranged marriage set up by his parents and ventures to Queens, New York to find true love. He’s accompanied by his confidante Semmi, who cringes at Prince Akeem’s determination to live in squalor despite his riches. The film gave birth to so many catchphrases, moments, and iconography like “Sexual Chocolate!” and “SOUL GLOW!” that have taken on lives of their own – and it also showed that there isn’t a role Murphy can’t master.
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There are also little known gems about the making of Coming To America, directed by John Landis (a longtime collaborator with Michael Jackson) that you may not have known. You might be surprised at where certain scenes were filmed, who almost made the cast and why the Coming To America series never made it to your TV screens.
Tommy Davidson Was Going To Star In A “Coming To America” TV Spinoff
Believe it or not, there was a plan in the works to turn Coming To America into a TV series. The plot of the show was supposed to focus on Prince Akeem’s problem child younger brother Tariq, who would be sent to Queens College in New York. Tariq would have been played by In Living Color actor Tommy Davidson. According to Shadow & Act, Ken Hecht, who had written other successful sitcoms like Diff’rent Strokes and Webster, was behind the pilot, which never got picked up.
Paula Abdul Choreographed the Opening Dance Scene At The Palace
Singer-songwriter and dancer Paula Abdul choreographed the iconic wedding scene in Coming To America – a fact many people still aren’t aware of. According to Yahoo, Abdul was working as a choreographer for Janet Jackson and the Los Angeles Lakers when she got the call from director John Landis asking her to come work on the film. “John Landis wanted to meet with the girl who choreographed Janet Jackson,” Abdul told the outlet. “And I just remember coming in very businesslike with a briefcase that all I had in it was my taped Laker Girl routines and Janet Jackson’s — a couple of her videos, that was it. But I remember [thinking], ‘This could be really exciting.’”
McDowell’s Was Actually Filmed Inside A Wendy’s
McDowell’s, the restaurant Prince Akeem worked for while pretending to be a foreign exchange student, was actually filmed inside a Wendy’s restaurant in Queens, New York. It even had its own Yelp page at one point. According to Gothamist, the building was demolished to make way for a $105-million, six-story luxury apartment building. The fascination with McDowell’s still lives on. Back in 2018, Los Angeles restaurant Fat Sal’s turned their eatery into McDowell’s pop up restaurant, which was a hit.
Michael Jackson And Prince Almost Made A Cameo Appearance
A longstanding rumor has been floating around that Michael Jackson and Prince were set to make cameos in a dance-off scene, but that it never happened due to their jam-packed schedules. Its also worth noting that Coming To America director John Landis also directed Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” video.
Queens Was Not Really Queens
When Prince Akeem and Semmi first arrive in America, they’re put up in a shabby apartment in Queens, New York (a place Prince Akeem thinks is a logical place to find his future bride because of its name.) What we didn’t know at the time is that the apartment wasn’t actually located in Queens, but in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In fact, many of the film’s locations including the barbershop and subway stations were also filmed in Brooklyn (except for McDowell’s.)
Sidney Portier and Vanessa Williams Were In The Running For Major Roles
According to IMDB, legendary actor Sidney Portier was originally being considered for the role of King Jaffe, which ended up being portrayed by James Earl Jones. Similarly, actress and former Miss America Vanessa Williams was in the running for the role of Lisa, which went to actress and model Shari Headley.
This Was Eddie Murphy’s First Time Playing Multiple Characters In One Film
Prior to Coming To America had never played more than one role in a film. But in this 1988 film, he absolutely crushed it. Multi-character portrayal eventually became Murphy’s trademark, which he went on to do in films like The Nutty Professor, Norbit and Vampire In Brooklyn.