Though it was directed and written by white people, Coming to America is one of the most thoroughly black Hollywood blockbusters of the late ‘80s. Star Eddie Murphy (who’s also credited with the story) wasn’t paired with a Nick Nolte or Dan Aykroyd; he wasn’t followed around by Judge Reinhold and John Ashton. Instead just about every major and minor character is black. One notable exception is Louie Anderson — but, as Murphy and costar Arsenio Hall recently revealed while promoting its belated sequel, he was only in it because the studio thought it didn’t have enough white people.
Mind you, Murphy and Hall weren’t complaining that they had to work with Louie Anderson, who played the small but very funny role as Maurice, a coworker at the McDonald’s competitor McDowell’s. Quite the contrary. “I love Louie, but I think we were forced to put Louie in it,” Hall revealed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! “We were forced to put a white person.”
“[T]he whole cast is Black — and this was back in the ‘80s — so [Paramount] was like, ‘We have to have a white person! There has to be a white person in the movie,’” Murphy added. “So it was, ‘Who’s the funniest white guy around?’ And Louie, we knew him. We was cool with him. So that’s how Louie got in the movie.”
Anderson was one of three white options Paramount gave them, who Hall said asked them, “Who would you rather work with?” When Kimmel asked him if he could remember the other two, Hall replied, “Oh, yeah. But I can’t say.”
Murphy actually told the story during an earlier press appearance, which prompted Anderson — who reprises his role in 2 — to reply with what seemed like mock surprise.
#Coming2America March 5th @PrimeVideo wait what? pic.twitter.com/s8znlIkBLz
— Louie Anderson (@LouieAnderson) February 24, 2021
For the record, Anderson isn’t the only white person with a key role in the original Coming to America. Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy reprised their roles as scheming wealth monsters Mortimer and Randolph Duke from one of Murphy’s first hits, Trading Places.
You can watch the full Kimmel-Murphy-Hall interview in the video above. Coming 2 America hits Amazon Prime on March 5.
(Via The Los Angeles Times)