James Earl Jones in Coming 2 America

Warning: Spoilers for Coming 2 America are in play. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, hold off on reading the following royal details until you’ve caught up.

In the era of pandemic filming, movies and television shows have gotten pretty creative with how they socially distance cast members. In some cases, productions like Coming 2 America will film actors in various locations, and string them together through technical magic. Despite the fact that the Eddie Murphy sequel filmed months before in the pre-pandemic world, the lessons from how James Earl Jones took part in this long awaited legacyquel are still pretty wild.

During his sit down with the ReelBlend podcast, director Craig Brewer was on hand to discuss the impressively seamless process. While the bulk of Coming 2 America was filmed in Atlanta through 2019, James Earl Jones’s reprisal of his role as King Jaffe Joffer was shot in a totally different state. Brewer explained the process behind how he got Jones’s performance, and the surprisingly emotional result, as follows:

James Earl Jones and Eddie and Arsenio, they were never in the same room. I had to go to New York and film with James Earl Jones. I was Eddie and Arsenio all day. I acted all day with James Earl Jones. ... The funeral [scene], too. I get emotional every time I watch the funeral sequence because on the day, I was there with James Earl Jones as he was talking to Eddie. … And I couldn't help it. I mean, I was raised on Star Wars and The Lion King and Claudine. And so I remember him saying his lines to me, you know? He's not saying it to Eddie. And I couldn't call cut because my lip was quivering, and I had a lump in my throat.

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With the late King Jaffe wanting to hold his royal funeral while he’s still alive, a huge set piece of Coming 2 America’s first act sees James Earl Jones’s character passing away during the actual event itself. But before doing so, he has a heartfelt moment with his son Prince Akeem, right before he passes in an upright coffin. So naturally, to feel a bit misty eyed when the voice behind Darth Vader and Mufasa is delivering such a humorous and touching moment, is absolutely human.

But the process is even more impressive when you consider the first big scene that sees James Earl Jones appearing as the soon to be former king of Zamunda in Coming 2 America. Not only do we see wide shots that establish Eddie Murphy and Jones are sharing the space of the royal bedchamber for his father, but there’s also two different Arsenio Hall characters in the mix as well. While Prince Akeem and King Jaffe are having their heart to heart, both Semmi (Akeem’s loyal friend and right hand man) and Baba the witch doctor are present as well.

If anything, this new filming method is the ultimate tribute to the ingenuity that saw multiple characters of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall’s taking up the same space in the past. Just as the iconic My-T-Sharp barber shop came to life with numerous personas played by those very actors (both in the original Coming To America, and its sequel), a long distance connection between on screen father and son was able to be made. Coming 2 America, currently available on Prime Video, is an example of just how technology, and clever editing, can make anything possible; and as you watch the film yourself, you might still be surprised with the results you see on screen.

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