Image Credit: Getty Images
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.
With the recent news that he’s making a sequel for the classic “Coming To America”, Murphy has 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. Yesterday we learned that Murphy was bringing on more talent for the sequel, including Wesley Snipes and rapper, Rick Ross.
According to Shadow & Act, 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). No word yet as to who Rick Ross will be playing.
While this great news, and hopefully the news will be even greater if Murphy can get James Earl Jones and John Amos to return, the real story in all of this is Murphy’s position in Black Hollywood.
There is no questioning Murphy’s comedic genius and entertainment legacy, but many times that talent and lengthy resume has 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 some their big screen shots 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, it appears that Murphy got on the phone as Snipes will now be a part of a sequel to one of Murphy’s biggest, and most memorable, movies in his career, 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 watch for more names to join “Coming to America 2”, such as “She’s Your Queen” singer Paul Bates, remember to acknowledge and appreciate Murphy for the pathway to success that he’s helped construct for Black Hollywood.