When Coming 2 America star Jermaine Fowler landed the leading role of Lavelle (the son of Eddie Murphy’s original character Prince Akeem) in the upcoming sequel, a life-long dream came true in the process.
The 32-year-old Washington, D.C. native who first gained recognition for doing stand-up comedy, has since gone on to add actor, writer, and producer to his ever-growing resume, with an impressive filmography that includes appearances in Guy Code, Family Guy, Sorry to Bother You, Judas and the Black Messiah and more. Now he can add ESSENCE cover star to his list of accomplishments, appearing alongside Coming 2 America co-stars Murphy and Arsenio Hall on our March/April issue and landing a digital cover all on his own.
As a relatively new talent in the industry, you may not know just how much Fowler has accomplished since he left his hometown and headed for New York City twelve years ago. Here are six things you should know about the man whose face you’ll be seeing much more of on the big and small screen in the very near future.
He Has a Twin Brother
Jermaine and his fraternal twin brother Jerome were born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Hyattsville, Maryland, along with their two other siblings.
He Was the First Black Sitcom Lead on CBS in a Generation
From 2017 to 2018, Fowler starred in the CBS sitcom Superior Donuts. In doing so, he became the first Black lead to star in a prime time show on the network in a generation (the previous longest-running show was Cosby, which ran from 1996 to 2000).
He Was the Emmy’s First Black Announcer
In 2017, Fowler’s hilarious off-the-cuff commentary
captured audiences during the Primetime Emmys when he served as the first African-American announcer of the award show.
He Got His Start Doing Standup
Before his big break, the comedian dropped out of college at age 20 and moved to New York City to perform stand-up. From there, he toured comedy clubs, colleges, and made one of his first big television appearances on MTV’s Guy Code. The career path almost mirrors one of his inspirations and now co-star, Eddie Murphy, who also famously made a name for himself on the comedy circuit before acting.
Coming 2 America Casting Was a Full-Circle Moment for Him
Not only does Fowler note that he was born the year the original film made its debut (1988), but he’s stated that he felt a personal connection to the movie as a long-time fan and would even recite memorable lines and replay particular scenes. Landing the role of Prince Akeem’s son makes it all the more a full-circle moment for the actor.
“I was born in ‘88 when Coming To America came out. I’m sure there was a nurse quoting Randy Watson during my delivery,” Fowler joked in an interview with PEOPLE. “When I got old enough to sneak the VHS from my parents’ bedroom, I would always repeat the barbershop scene when they’re talking about Martin Lutha The King punching Clarence in the chest. Simply a classic. It’s truly an honor to be a part of one of the most legendary films ever made.”
He’s Working on a Comedy Focused on Biggie
What Fowler describes as a “dark comedy” centered on a group of teens investigating the 1996 murder of Brooklyn rapper Biggie Smalls has been reportedly ordered as a series by Showtime. Alongside fellow writer and stand up comedian Moshe Kasher, the actor will serve as both a writer and producer, according to Deadline.