Eddie Murphy is ‘on a different level’
It's probably a good thing Jermaine Fowler already knew Eddie Murphy when he was cast opposite him in Coming 2 America.
Otherwise, it might have been all too overwhelming.
"When you see Eddie get into Eddie mode, it's like Jordan, it's like watching Jordan just kill it on the court," Fowler excitedly told news.com.au. "There's no one like that. It's a different energy, it's a different aura, it's a different level of talent. He's just on a different level.
"I watched him and soaked it all in. At times I forgot I had to do lines because I'm looking at him like 'ohmigod, you're my dad'. I couldn't handle myself sometimes. The dude is truly an icon and my hero."
Luckily, Fowler was already friends with Murphy's son Myles, so he was already in the cult.
"I met Eddie at his house a couple of years ago and we would just watch fights and hang out and watch TV in the living room. When I got the news [about the role] I wasn't nervous to be around him, or I didn't think I would until I saw him in his element."
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Fowler is a newcomer to the Coming 2 America universe, along with Leslie Jones, Tracey Morgan, Wesley Snipes and KiKi Layne, who join returnees Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, Shari Headley and John Amos.
Fowler plays the on-screen son to Murphy's Prince Akeem in the sequel to the 1988 classic comedy about an African prince who travels to New York City to find the woman of his dreams.
In the long-awaited sequel, premiering on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, Akeem discovers he has a son he didn't know about. That son, Lavelle (Fowler), decides to go to Zamunda to learn about his royal heritage - special bathing privileges and all.
There are many in-jokes and references to the original film, which will undoubtedly satisfy the movie's many fans, which, of course, includes Fowler. Being involved in something he loved didn't disappoint.
"It was such an inviting, welcoming environment," he said. "Eddie, the whole original cast, gave us the space to be ourselves because Tracey, Leslie, me and KiKi, the first one meant so much to us, it means so much to us. So, we just wanted to make him proud and make the fans proud. I'm sure we did; I'm very proud of the film."
He was particular proud when he improvised lines that made Murphy laugh.
"One of the first times I made him laugh was an improvised line that I threw at Arsenio when I said, 'You look like a slave from the future,' and after they yelled 'cut', I heard Eddie go, 'slave from the future' and I was like 'Ah!' It was so cool."
Coming 2 America is a significant role for Fowler, whose most high-profile previous work was on American sitcom Superior Donuts. He's been popping up more and more in recent years - a supporting role in Sorry To Bother You, a small role in the upcoming Judas And The Black Messiah - but starring opposite Eddie Murphy could be a game changer for him.
He revealed the audition process was an emotional one, and that after the second audition when director Craig Brewer had told him he gave them everything they wanted to see, he walked outside and had a moment.
"I couldn't get two feet from the door of the exit before I started crying," he said. "It's been 15 years of me working my arse off - writing and developing, from pilot to dead pilot, from TV show to cancelled TV show, amazing films, losing people in my life, to kids.
"It's been a beautiful life and a tragic life and an awesome life and just a great time to be alive. So, to get the news that I got Coming 2 America, everything just came full circle."
"Boots called me," Fowler recalled. "He said, 'Hey, Jermaine, I got news for you, man, you didn't hear it from me, but you might've booked Coming 2 America.'
"And I said, "Whoa! How the hell do you know that? Who told you?'"
As it turned out, Riley was at a film festival in Miami, and he had heard it from one of the movie's producers.
Fowler pops on the screen in Coming 2 America and he even pops on this zoom call. He has an irrepressible enthusiasm for his work and just for the fortuitous position he's found himself in.
Reflecting on being cast in the sequel to a movie he's loved for so long, he said with an infectious smile, "When I think about it, it's funny, it's crazy, it's insane, it's so many things and I'm just so happy. I'm so happy."
Coming 2 America premieres on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, March 5
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Originally published as Eddie Murphy is 'on a different level'