Like any long-awaited follow-up to a beloved comedy, Coming 2 America boasts a fair number of appearances by some of the original film’s funniest fan-favorite characters, many of them played, once again, by Eddie Murphy. However, more glaringly recognizable is the absence of actors such as Samuel L. Jackson and several others from 1988’s Coming to America cast.
Director Craig Brewer’s Amazon Prime original sequel introduces a slew of new characters, such as the long lost son of Eddie Murphy's King Akeem Joffer (played by Jermaine Fowler), his boisterous mother (Leslie Jones) and uncle (Tracy Morgan), and a heavily made-up Arsenio Hall as Baba. The sequel even relishes in some eye-opening cameos by Morgan Freeman, En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, and Gladys Knight (all in the same sequence, too). However, despite what these newcomers and surprise guests brought to the film, you have to wonder if they could have left some room for a few Coming to America stars to reprise what some would call their best-known roles.
Thankfully, we can provide insight as to why some actors from the classic, John Landis-directed hit did not make it into the new movie, but can only ponder over the reason for others. The following are seven of those celebrities I was optimistically keeping an eye out for while watching Coming 2 America, but to no avail, starting with one whose legacy of glorious onscreen intimidation may have begun with Coming to America.
Samuel L. Jackson (Hold-Up Man)
Six years before his Oscar-nominated performance as a smooth-talking hitman who thwarts a restaurant robbery in Pulp Fiction, a relatively unknown Samuel L. Jackson literally burst onto the scene in Coming to America, tohold up McDowell’s with a shotgun before Akeem and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) come to the rescue. It would have been fun to see the 72-year-old actor (who worked with Coming 2 America director Craig Brewer on Black Snake Moan) come back for another fast food hold-up, and as Eddie Murphy told Hip Hollywood, that was, apparently, the plan. Unfortunately, Jackson’s schedule would not allow time for the cameo, which is not too surprising for the famously busy MCU actor, anyway.
Cuba Gooding Jr. (Boy Getting Haircut)
Coming to America is also remembered as the feature-film debut of Cuba Gooding Jr., who is seen receiving a haircut from Eddie Murphy’s Clarence, as Akeem and Semmi first step into his Queens barber shop. The Academy Award-winning actor would later reveal to AriseEntertainment 360 in 2014 that his brief, wordless role originally had dialogue, in which the young customer fails to talk himself out of paying for the haircut, until the moment was taken out of the final cut. Coming 2 America could have been a great opportunity to give the People vs. O.J. Simpson star a line this time around, but “Boy Getting Haircut” must go to another shop these days, for whatever reason.
Eriq La Salle (Darryl Jenks)
Speaking of Clarence’s barber shop, upon Akeem and Semmi’s visit in Coming 2 America, viewers may have noticed an ad for “Soul Gro” in the background, which one might assume was just a funny callback to the first film’s parody hair product, Soul Glo. Actually, as the sequel’s co-writer David Sheffield told Rolling Stone, they intended to bring back Akeem’s romantic rival and Soul Glo heir Darryl Jenks (played in Coming to America by Eriq La Salle), now promoting “Soul Gro” as a baldness cure after losing his Jheri curl. However, the former ER actor turned down the cameo, which sounds like it could have been really funny and, not to mention, a good way to reintroduce another scene-stealer.
Allison Dean (Patrice McDowell)
Darryl Jenks was last seen dumped and seemingly starting a new romance with Patrice McDowell, whom fans were openly disappointed to see absent from the sequel, especially with the major returns of her older sister, Lisa (Shari Headley), and restaurateur father, Cleo (John Amos) making major returns. The spunky, stylish Coming to America character was the debut role of Allison Dean, who led a modestly successful career following the hit comedy (including appearing in Speed 2: Cruise Control, and a recurring spot on Girlfriends) before taking a break from 2007 until only recently. Why the actress did not reprise the memorable role she is best known for in Coming 2 America remains a mystery.
Frankie Faison (Landlord)
It is less of a mystery, but still not confirmed, why Frankie Faison did not come back to play the no-nonsense owner of the rundown, rat-infested apartment building where Semmi and Akeem stay in Coming to America. The 71-year-old (also known for Do the Right Thing, The Wire, and the Netflix original Marvel series Luke Cage) revealed to the Daily Press that, to maintain his reputation as a dramatic actor, he initially tried to distance himself from what would still end up becoming one of his most famous roles to date. Plus, the gentrification of that same Queens neighborhood which Coming 2 America makes note of could mean Faison’s Landlord character has since moved his business elsewhere.
Vondie Curtis-Hall (Basketball Game Vendor)
Another Netflix Marvel series star (in this case Daredevil’s Ben Urich) who had his first taste of fame in Coming to America is Vondie Curtis-Hall, who made a brief, but quite memorable, appearance as a native of Zamunda who recognizes Akeem at a basketball game. Considering his success in following years (also including roles in Die Hard 2 and 2019’s Harriet more recently), I am surprised that the 70-year-old Emmy nominee was not asked back in some capacity, such as a cameo revealing he was promoted to a more esteemed position at Madison Square Garden. On the other hand, Coming 2 America’s predominantly Zamundan setting could have seen him return to his homeland for an even more intriguing reprisal.
Madge Sinclair (Queen Aoleon)
The one Coming to America character whose absence in the sequel makes my heart the heaviest is Akeem’s mother, Aoleon, played by Madge Sinclair. The Jamaican-born, Emmy-winning actress, who would later play James Earl Jones’ royal spouse once again in The Lion King, was unable to reprise her role after having passed away in 1995, at the age of 57, after years battling leukemia. It was uplifting, however, to see Coming 2 America pay tribute to the former Zamundan queen with John Amos’ Cleo McDowell referring to her as “the wisest of the Joffers.”
I believe that Aoelon’s wisdom was made clear in the winning moment from Coming to America when she tells James Earl Jones’ King Jaffe to “put a sock in it” when he forbids Akeem to go after Lisa. Even though her marriage was the product of royal tradition, she could understand and support the fact that true love was important to her son, as it should be for anyone. That timeless message is why this comedy is remembered as one of the finest and most heartfelt of its kind and is also the source Coming 2 America’s more endearing moments.