Kennedy London, Arts & Entertainment Editor
The one thing a King cannot afford to leave behind is a tainted legacy. Not only must he strive to protect his country and his people, but he must instill this philosophy with his heir when it is his time. With Coming 2 America, Eddie Murphy’s King Akeem Joffer is faced with this dilemma with plenty of mishaps in his way.
Coming 2 America, directed by Craig Brewer (Dolemite Is My Name), finds the newly crowned King Akeem going back to Queens to find his long-lost son (Jermaine Fowler), to groom him to become the prince of Zamunda. Akeem must face opposition from his family, his enemies, and even his son to ensure Zamunda has a sustainable future. The star-studded cast includes Murphy, Fowler, Arsenio Hall, Leslie Jones, Wesley Snipes, Tracy Morgan, Kiki Layne, Shari Headley, Rotimi, James Earl Jones, and John Amos.
Coming 2 America aims to branch out and create its path in the realm of comedy while learning from the original. The film also wants to drive home the theme of legacy through its characters. During a recent roundtable that included Murphy, Hall, Morgan, Fowler, and Rotimi, that was further echoed as a major component of the film.
Fowler’s character, Lavelle, is a mirror image of his father. Lavelle sees that for his future to be unique, he cannot be restricted by the older generation’s stubbornness. With Lavelle’s life experience being molded by growing up in Queens, he brings plenty of new tricks and perspectives to a kingdom that may need them.
In terms of carving out a legacy for Coming 2 America, Fowler stated, “What was more important for this movie was that it expands on what the original set up for it…..They did a great job of mining out what is so cool about Zamunda’s culture, from the currency, to the food, to the animals.” Fowler later said, “You can’t just rely on what made the original so good. You just gotta make sure you’re moving things forward, and growth and progress are so important for a follow-up.”
The intention of the sequel to be purposeful instead of parasitical was essential to communicate. Coming to America remains a relevant film in pop culture in the years post-release. Being a part of such a well-revered cast like this may seem like a daunting task in and of itself.
However, being a part of this cast did not create pressure for some, it only enhanced the moment that was being created. Rotimi, for example, has been a part of a handful of ensembles, including the television series Power and Boss and the first Divergent film. Being a part of this particular cast, for him, carries a special kind of weight.
“From top to bottom, from one to ten on the call sheet is legend, legend, legend, legend.. I’ve never experienced something like that. This could be something that people watch 15 years from now and be like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know he was a part of this.’ Everyone can be a part of something that can define your life, so it’s a beautiful thing,” said Rotimi regarding the experience of being in the film.
Legacies for some of the younger cast can become magnified when being one of the moving parts to a grand machine. Not only is Coming 2 America reaching for new ground, but the film can also allow the new generation to further create their imprint on the culture.
When it comes to Eddie Murphy, he has a different perspective on a legacy. With over 40 years of comedic experience under his belt, Murphy has that legacy cemented in stone. To him, what he leaves the world with goes beyond his resume.
“My legacy is not my movies, my legacy is my children. My legacy is my family and my kids. My movies are just some things that are how I keep the lights on,” said Murphy regarding the film.
Arsenio Hall, concerning Murphy’s children, added to this by saying, “Speaking of his kids, Bella Murphy was incredible in this, and it reminds me of what Kenya Barris did to bring the female-empowering message through, and how we as a people, and we in cultures all around the world, has to change as to how we feel about our women.”
Times change first, then mentality slowly brings up the rear. Not only does this apply to the thematic essence of Coming 2 America, but it reflects the filmmaking business as a whole. Over a hundred years of cinema has existed, and the mentality of pushing the culture forward only happens in gaps within those years.
With King Akeem Joffer’s time as prince neared its end, his mentality mirrored that of his father. Only through his son, Lavelle, can Akeem possibly develop a new perspective for the kingdom of Zamunda.