When Coming to America was released in the summer of 1988, Eddie Murphy was on top of the world, having experienced a stratospheric rise to the peak of the Hollywood A-list. His stand-up specials Raw and Delirious had established him as one of the era’s defining comedians, while he enjoyed huge critical and commercial success after moving into feature films thanks to 48 Hrs., Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop.
Murphy developed the story for Coming to America, and played four characters in the movie, setting a precedent that would become a regular fixture of his career. Once again reaffirming the actor’s star power and box office name value, the story of Prince Akeem would go on to earn over $288 million globally on a budget of $36 million, and it’s still regarded as one of his most popular efforts over 30 years later.
Long-awaited sequel Coming 2 America is heading exclusively to Prime Video on Friday, with Murphy hoping that it continues the comeback that was ignited by his acclaimed turn in Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name. In a new interview to promote the follow-up, though, the leading man revealed that the studio forced him to add a white character into the original, fearing an all-black cast would hurt the film’s prospects.
“Paramount was like, because the whole cast was black and this was back in the 80s. So it was like, ‘There has to be a white person in the movie’. I was like, ‘What?’. So who was the funniest white guy around? We knew Louie was cool, so that’s how Louie got in the movie.”
It’s incredible to think that Paramount didn’t believe Coming to America would succeed without having at least one white actor in a decent-sized role, especially when Murphy’s track record of headlining financially successful movies was already more than established by that point, but it’s not as if Louie Anderson’s Maurice dominates the proceedings or steals much in the way of screen time from the rest of the ensemble, making it a trivial concern in hindsight.