Eddie Murphy Almost Played One Of Arsenio Hall’s Characters In Coming 2 America

Craig Brewer’s Coming 2 America wouldn’t have felt right if Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall weren’t back playing multiple characters, but fortunately that is a bar easily cleared by the upcoming comedy sequel – as has been confirmed by the movie’s trailer. And not only are both of the stars reprising all of the parts that they took on in the original Coming To America, but a new one is being introduced into the mix as well.

In the follow-up, Hall adds a fifth character to his repertoire of roles in the series bringing to life a witch doctor named Baba – but there’s a funny story behind how it was almost a character that Murphy played instead.

As captured in the video above, I had the remarkable pleasure of interviewing Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall earlier this month during Coming 2 America’s virtual press day, and the majority of our conversation was dedicated to a discussion about the parts they play in the movie not named King Akeem and Semmi. The actors spoke about how the approach first came together, with Murphy giving a great deal of credit to John Landis for the idea, but it was while talking about a theoretical opportunity to switch roles that they revealed a funny behind the scenes story.

According to Eddie Murphy, there was initially an expectation that that he would play the role of Baba in Coming 2 America, but there was a point when he balked at the approach due to how much time in the make-up chair it required. With the role vacated, Arsenio Hall volunteered to take it on, but apparently it wasn’t a fantastic experience. Said Murphy,

Originally I was going to play the witch doctor role, but it was too much. It was like a six hour makeup, and I was going, 'Man, I do the six hour make-up...' Arsenio was like, 'Well, I'll play him!' And say, 'Okay!' And then he wound up doing that shit. And I actually saw him cry one day.

Anyone who is familiar with Eddie Murphy’s career knows that he has more than a little inside knowledge about what it’s like to wear heavy makeup and prosthetics, and it sounds like he had a kind of sixth sense warning about the hardship of playing Baba. And when you take a look at the character as he appears in Coming 2 America, it’s not exactly hard to grasp why that instinct kicked in:

Not only does it take a crazy amount of time to apply movie make-up like that, but it’s also a time consuming process to take it all off – and it was during such a period that Eddie Murphy saw Arsenio Hall getting a bit emotional. Hall has excuses, but Murphy says he saw what he saw. He continued,

Everybody was leaving. It was 4:30 in the morning. And he was sitting in the make-up chair. It takes like an hour, two hours to take that stuff off. And Arsenio, he denies it, but he was crying. He had a little tissue. He said his eye was tearing from the contact lenses, but those tears don't just keep running down.

Whether or not he actually cried, Arsenio Hall most definitely showed dedication to his craft taking on the role, and that’s always going to be something that an audience appreciates.

Fans will get to meet Baba – and reunite with the My-T-Sharp crew, Randy Watson, and Reverend Brown very soon, as Coming 2 America is just a few weeks away from arriving on Amazon Prime. The film will be available to start streaming on March 5, and be sure to check out our full 2021 Release Schedule to see what else will soon be available!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.