Eddie Murphy has been in the game for more than four decades.
From bursting on to the scene on “Saturday Night Live” in 1980 and making his movie debut in “48 Hours” in 1982 to voicing Donkey in the “Shrek” series, Eddie Murphy has been acting, writing and making audiences laugh for almost forty years on TV and the silver screen.
Eddie Murphy fans and fans of Black comedians, in general, are anxiously awaiting the March 5th release of the sequel for the classic “Coming To America.”
Ever since Murphy announced Coming To America 2, he’s been back in the headlines and has fans gassed up over the news.
One of the first moves was to secure the key faces from the original movie, which he did by announcing that old friend, Arsenio Hall, would be reprising his role as Semmi.
Murphy went all out and made it a cultural cinematic reunion tabbing Wesley Snipes and returning stars, James Earl Jones and John Amos for roles.
Snipes will be playing the role of General Izzi, a ruler of a nearby African nation. In the original film, Colonel Izzi (Calvin Lockhart) was the father of Imani Izzi (Vanessa Bell Calloway), who was supposed to be Prince Akeem’s (Murphy) wife before he went to Queens and found his bride, Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley). Calloway and Headley are returning in the same roles.
Other celebrity appearances include a cross-generational list of singer/actor Rotimi, rapper Rick Ross, Teyana Taylor, Louie Anderson, Tracy Morgan and Luenell, just to name a few. I have a feeling this sequel is going to shatter some records.
At the very least, this movie has brought some great talent back to the big screen. Actors who have unfathomably been ignored by Hollywood since the smashing success of the first film — which initially didn’t get the mainstream critical acclaim it deserved.
Murphy’s comedic genius and entertainment legacy’s unquestionable, but many times that talent and lengthy resume have overshadowed Murphy’s position as one of Black Hollywood’s biggest supporters and leaders.
After paying his dues, and proving his box office drawing power in films such as “48 Hours”, “Trading Places” and “Beverly Hills Cop”, Murphy opened the doors up to Black talent, giving future stars the chance to shine, even in small, yet highly recognizable, roles.
Chris Rock was a parking valet in 1987’s “Beverly Hills Cop II” and the majority of the casts in classic Murphy hits such as “Coming to America” in 1988, “Harlem Nights” (1989), “Boomerang” (1992) and “Life” (1999) were Black.
Murphy has kept Black actors employed. He gave many new actors of color their big screenshots and reintroduced others to a generation that hadn’t seen them before. Names like the aforementioned Chris Rock, Arsenio Hall, Martin Lawrence, Eriq LaSalle, John Amos, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Della Reese, Lela Rochon, Jasmine Guy, Thomas Mikal Ford, Eartha Kitt, Grace Jones, Jada Pinkett-Smith, as well as family members Charlie Murphy and Uncle Ray Murphy, all benefited from memorable roles in his films.
Even minor roles for actors like Cuba Gooding Jr. (“Coming to America”) helped lay the bricks down on their paths in the cut-throat business of acting.
With “Coming to America 2”, Murphy has reminded everyone of his long-standing commitment to helping Black talent thrive. When Marvel announced that Mahershala Ali would now be playing Blade instead of Wesley Snipes, Murphy got right on the phone and secured one of the most successful Black actors in history, giving Snipes another opportunity to return to the silver screen. He’s also giving Ross the opportunity to flex his acting muscles, enabling the Miami rapper to further build his resume outside of the rap game.
So as we await March 5th and get our Amazon Prime subscriptions in order for what is sure to be a wild ride and a trip down memory lane, appreciate Murphy for the pathway to success that he’s helped construct for Black Hollywood.