How James Earl Jones Appeared in ‘Coming 2 America’ Without Ever Being On Set with Eddie Murphy

Coming 2 America reunited the cast of the comedy Coming to America, and not just Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. Shari Headley, Vanessa Bell Calloway, John Amos, Louie Anderson and Paul Bates all return, as does James Earl Jones. However, Jones did not join the cast at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. 

[Spoiler alert: This article includes spoilers from Coming 2 America.]

James Earl Jones wearing a crown
James Earl Jones | Paramount Pictures/Amazon Studios

Murphy and director Craig Brewer revealed how they kept Jones in the movie without having him on set. Murphy spoke at a press conference and Brewer spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet one on one. Coming 2 America is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Who was the king in ‘Coming to America’?

Jones played King Jaffe Joffer of Zamunda. In Coming to America he allowed his son, Akeem (Murphy) to travel to Queens. In Coming 2 America, King Jaffe knows it’s time to pass the kingdom onto his son. Jones turned 90 this year so travel was not feasible. Murphy didn’t even travel to work with Jones.

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“James Earl Jones, we had to shoot his stuff separately because James can’t travel,” Murphy said. “So we shot his stuff in New York so I didn’t get to shoot with him. You could never tell though.”

Putting James Earl Jones and Eddie Murphy together 

Coming 2 America has two major scenes between Akeem and Jaffe. In one, Akeem and Semmi (Hall) visit Jaffe in his bedroom. Brewer only had to shoot Jones lying in bed, and cut to Murphy on the set from Atlanta. 

“One of the great things about this movie is that I got to not only direct James Earl Jones, but I acted with him all day long,” Brewer said. “I was his eyeline off camera reading the scene with him and working the scene. So I can now live a life knowing that I’ve both directed and acted with James Earl Jones.”

That scene was further complicated by Hall playing two roles. Jaffe’s witch doctor Baba is in the scene, and since Hall played both Baba and Semmi, there were very few shots where any actors were really together.

Coming 2 America witch doctor Arsenio Hall with Jermaine Fowler and Eddie Murphy
L-R: Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler and Eddie Murphy | Quantrell D. Colbert/Paramount Pictures/Amazon Studios

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“I think that there’s only one moment where Eddie and Arsenio are Semmi and Akeem,” Brewer said. “Otherwise, no one’s in the same room with each other. Baba is played by Arsenio which means we had to double that up. Not to mention James Earl Jones wasn’t there. There was plenty of nights I was stressed going, ‘Is this all going to cut together and work?’ Luckily, it does.”

The second James Earl Jones scene was more complicated

Knowing the end is near, King Jaffe decides to have his funeral before he dies. The funeral scene is a bit more elaborate, with performances and a cast of extras celebrating Jones. Brewer said it wasn’t much more difficult to insert Jones into that scene.

“Not really because we put him in this upright coffin and I told him what would be happening,” Brewer said. “I think that was before we even shot the funeral. It was just some trick photography and then putting him back into the scene digitally.”