It’s been over thirty years since the vivacious laughter and unparalleled humor of Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem Joffer graced our screens. As he navigated through the bustling streets of Queens, New York, in pursuit of true love rather than royal obligation, audiences worldwide were captivated. Released in 1988, Coming to America was not merely another comedic flick. It soared beyond the realms of humor, embedding itself as a cultural phenomenon that has since withstood the test of time. Its delightful mix of romance, comedy, and a tad of drama, peppered with memorable quotes, has made it a movie that is often quoted, referenced, and celebrated.
The film, set against the backdrop of New York’s diverse tapestry, managed to touch on themes of identity, love, and self-discovery in a way that was both humorous and heartfelt. It wasn’t just about the laughs, though there were plenty; it was also about the emotional journey of its characters. And as we inch closer to another significant anniversary of this cinematic masterpiece, it’s only fitting to remember the charm and wit of its narrative and the characters that made it so beloved.
So, where are these iconic figures today? From Eddie Murphy’s charismatic prince to Arsenio Hall’s multifaceted Semmi and the entire ensemble cast that brought the world of Zamunda to life, fans are eager to know. Let’s journey back, reminiscing about the movie’s highlights, and catch up with the illustrious cast members, seeing where fate has led them in the subsequent decades since the film’s release.
Eddie Murphy: The Crowned King of Comedy
While Eddie Murphy first burst onto the entertainment scene with his sharp wit and impeccable comedic timing as a stand-up comedian, it was his subsequent stint as a remarkable SNL cast member that gave a hint of the powerhouse talent he possessed. However, it wasn’t until the release of Coming to America that he truly solidified his status as a Hollywood A-lister, transitioning from the comedic circuits to the red-carpeted boulevards of Hollywood with seeming ease. In this iconic film, Murphy showcased his unparalleled versatility by donning multiple roles. Beyond the lovable and naïve Prince Akeem, he immortalized characters like the self-assured Randy Watson and the hilariously out-of-place Jewish customer, Saul.
As the calendar pages turned into the ’90s, Murphy’s meteoric rise only continued, hitting the box office jackpot with classics like Boomerang and Life. However, his magic touch was not limited to just the cineplex. Dabbling in the world of melodies and harmonies, the Emmy-winning actor-turned-singer wooed the music aficionados with three chart-topping albums. His infectious track Party All the Time remains a testament to his musical prowess. Awards and accolades naturally followed; from securing a Golden Globe for his soulful portrayal in Dreamgirls to being recognized by the Academy with an Oscar nomination, Murphy’s trophy cabinet stands as a testament to his talent.
Peeling back the curtain on his personal life, Murphy has been just as animated and diverse. Currently engaged to the stunning Australian model Paige Butcher, their love story has been adorned with the birth of two children. Murphy’s paternal instincts don’t stop there. With a brood of 10 children, he once jokingly remarked about needing a mini-van for family outings. His heartfelt declaration at the 2023 Golden Globes, where he referred to his children as “amazing,” showcased a side of Murphy that many often overlook – that of a doting and proud father. All said and done, Eddie Murphy is not just a star; he’s an institution in the world of entertainment.
Arsenio Hall: From Sidekick to Talk Show Maven
Playing the role of Akeem’s loyal confidante Semmi in the timeless comedy, Arsenio Hall delivered unforgettable comedic moments that have since become etched in cinematic history. This was particularly evident in his transformations into the hilariously opinionated elderly barber and the flamboyant Reverend Brown. Following the tremendous success of this film, Hall once again teamed up with Eddie Murphy in the crime-comedy, Harlem Nights. This venture further solidified their comedic chemistry on the silver screen.
However, it wasn’t just films that showcased Hall’s talent. He ventured into the world of late-night television with The Arsenio Hall Show. This was no ordinary show – it presented a fresh, charismatic take on celebrity interviews and performances, often highlighting figures from the African-American community and pop culture. This unique angle not only brought him multiple Emmy nominations but also solidified his iconic status in the entertainment industry.
Outside of his on-screen presence, Hall’s personal life had its share of headlines. Notably, he was caught in a public legal tussle with the acclaimed Irish singer, Sinead O’Connor. This lawsuit, which garnered much media attention, was eventually dropped, sparing both artists further controversy.
In his private moments away from the spotlight, Arsenio Hall relishes his role as a father. He is deeply devoted to his son and often shares heartwarming anecdotes about their bond. Today, as he looks back at his illustrious career, Hall remains an enduring figure in the world of entertainment, celebrated for both his contributions and his resilience.
Shari Headley: A Regal Journey
Making her captivating big-screen debut as the charming Lisa McDowell, Shari Headley wasn’t just a character in a film; she was the beating heart and soul of the romantic plotline, providing depth, grace, and undeniable chemistry. With her enchanting presence and acting prowess, it’s no surprise that she quickly became a sought-after actress in Hollywood. Following her breakout role, she clinched starring roles in films such as the critically acclaimed The Preacher’s Wife, sharing screen space with legends like Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington. Her versatility as an actress also became evident as she graced the small screen, becoming a familiar face in numerous soap operas, where she portrayed a range of characters, each with their own intricacies and challenges.
But for fans of the original film, the nostalgia hit hard when Headley’s journey in cinema came full circle. She once again stepped into the shoes of Lisa McDowell, bringing a mix of nostalgia and fresh energy, in the much-anticipated sequel, Coming 2 America. It wasn’t just a return to a character but a testament to her enduring charm and talent that stood the test of time.
Outside of the limelight, Headley leads a rich personal life. She has a son with the iconic Christopher “Play” Martin of the famous hip-hop duo Kid ‘n Play, adding another layer to her already fascinating life story. Their union and the birth of their son is a cherished chapter in her life, showing that beyond the camera and the red carpets, she values the simple joys and challenges of motherhood.
James Earl Jones: The Voice of Cinema
James Earl Jones, an undeniable titan of the film industry, began his cinematic journey long before assuming the role of Prince Akeem’s commanding father. This illustrious actor had already left an indelible mark on audiences worldwide, not only with his unparalleled acting prowess but also with his unmistakably deep voice, especially in the Star Wars saga. It’s no exaggeration to say that Jones’s portrayal of Darth Vader, thanks solely to his powerful vocal cords, is one of the most iconic villainous roles in film history.
His extensive portfolio, laden with monumental works, highlights his versatile talent. Films like The Lion King, where he lent his voice to the wise and noble Mufasa, and Field of Dreams, a poignant tale about second chances, showcase the sheer breadth of roles he has brought to life. Yet, in a surprising turn of events for fans, it was revealed that Jones’s iconic voice for Darth Vader in the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi series was synthesized using artificial intelligence, debunking prior reports that suggested he had returned to the recording studio.
Outside of his celebrated career, Jones is one of the rare luminaries to achieve the coveted EGOT status – winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award. Yet, life hasn’t always been a string of successes for this legend. In 2016, he faced a heart-wrenching personal tragedy with the passing of his beloved wife, Cecilia Hart. Through the peaks and valleys of his life and career, James Earl Jones remains a beacon of inspiration and an emblem of resilience and talent.
Rounding Up The Royal Entourage
Eriq La Salle, who brilliantly portrayed the self-centered boyfriend of Lisa, has proven his versatility and staying power in Hollywood over the years. After his memorable role alongside Lisa, he catapulted to even greater fame as Dr. Peter Benton on the critically acclaimed medical drama, ER. La Salle’s portrayal of Dr. Benton showcased his ability to delve deep into complex characters, earning him a spot among television’s most recognizable figures.
Apart from his acting prowess, La Salle has ventured behind the camera as well, directing episodes for various TV series. His contributions to the entertainment industry are vast and varied, and he remains a respected figure both in front of and behind the lens.
John Amos, the iconic actor who has graced our screens for decades, once again donned the hat of the McDowell patriarch, captivating audiences with his performance in the 2021 sequel. This, however, is just a glimpse into the depth of his illustrious career. Many might remember Amos from the adrenaline-pumping action flick, Die Hard 2, where his commanding screen presence was undeniable.
He also showcased his versatility in the satirical comedy series, The Righteous Gemstones, proving that he could navigate between genres with seamless ease. Beyond these roles, Amos has been a cornerstone in entertainment, continuously impressing both critics and fans alike with his talent and dedication to the craft.
Louie Anderson, a name synonymous with heartwarming humor and unparalleled comedic talent, reprised his memorable role as Maurice in the much-anticipated sequel. This was not the first time Anderson showcased his versatility and range as an artist. Before gracing the big screen once again, Anderson was widely celebrated for his Emmy-winning animated series, Life with Louie.
The show, which drew inspiration from his own childhood experiences, resonated with audiences of all ages, underlining his ability to touch hearts with stories that were both poignant and hilarious. Beyond his achievements in television and film, Anderson’s stand-up career was equally commendable, filled with anecdotes that made audiences both think and laugh. Sadly, the entertainment world suffered a great loss when Anderson passed away in 2022. Yet, his legacy remains immortalized through the countless laughs he provided and the numerous artists he inspired.
Samuel L. Jackson, who captured audiences’ attention with a brief yet unforgettable role in Eddie Murphy’s classic Coming to America, has undeniably cemented his place in the annals of cinematic history. This versatile actor, with his iconic voice and magnetic screen presence, has delivered a plethora of memorable performances throughout his illustrious career. From his Oscar-nominated turn as the philosophizing hitman Jules Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino’s groundbreaking Pulp Fiction to embodying the ever-watchful S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury in the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jackson has demonstrated an unparalleled ability to immerse himself in a vast array of characters.
His contributions to the world of film have not gone unnoticed. In 2022, in recognition of his decades of cinematic excellence and his indelible impact on the industry, he was fittingly honored with the Oscar’s Honorary Award. This accolade is just a testament to how Jackson’s work has not only entertained but also left a lasting imprint on audiences worldwide.
Lastly, the incredibly talented Garcelle Beauvais has had a remarkable journey in the entertainment industry, transitioning from her early days as a royal rose bearer to firmly establishing herself as a Hollywood mainstay. Over the years, she has showcased her versatility as an actress with roles in blockbuster hits like White House Down and the much-acclaimed Spider-Man: Homecoming. But Beauvais isn’t just an accomplished actress; she’s also a gifted writer.
She penned a heartfelt memoir that gave readers an intimate look into her life, and also authored celebrated children’s books that resonate with both kids and adults. Off-screen, Garcelle takes on the most significant role of all: being a mother to her three beautiful children. Throughout her journey, she’s faced her fair share of ups and downs. However, with unwavering determination and grace, she’s navigated both personal and professional challenges, serving as an inspiration to many who admire her resilience and spirit.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been three and a half decades since audiences were first introduced to the iconic and humorous world of Coming to America. In that time, the ensemble cast, led by the incomparable Eddie Murphy and the charismatic Arsenio Hall, has made a lasting impression on moviegoers all around the world. From their impeccable comedic timing to their unforgettable characters, this film has cemented its place in cinematic history.
Through the years, each cast member faced their own set of trials and tribulations, both on and off the screen. Yet, they navigated their careers with grace, resilience, and unwavering dedication to their craft. It’s not just about the laughs they’ve provided, but also the deeper messages of love, identity, and cultural exploration that resonated with so many.
Audiences have seen these actors grow, evolve, and dive into diverse roles, yet their performances in Coming to America always hold a special place in our hearts. They’ve gifted fans with not just a movie, but a tapestry of memories, quotable lines, and scenes that have become an intrinsic part of pop culture lexicon.
As we look back, it’s clear that the legacy of Coming to America is more than just its box office numbers or its critical acclaim. It’s about the stories that continue to be told, the laughter it still evokes, and the way it brings people of all ages together. Cheers to the exceptional cast, their indomitable spirit, and the timeless tales they’ve weaved into the fabric of film history.