'Coming to America:' See the Cast Then & Now

Eddie Murphy and his costars reflect on their hit films — and their enduring friendship, 34 years later

01 of 09

Eddie Murphy, Prince Akeem Joffer

Eddie Murphy 
Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection; Paramount Pictures

The Oscar nominee is proud of what Coming to America, released in 1988, meant to many. "It was the very first comedy with an [almost] all-Black cast that was successful around the world," he told PEOPLE. "Usually when we're telling our stories, it's about civil unrest or local problems. But Coming to America was about love, family, tradition and doing the right things. These are universal themes."

The sequel Coming 2 America dropped on Amazon Prime Video in December 2020.

02 of 09

Arsenio Hall, Semmi

Arsenio Hall
Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection; Paramount Pictures

"I think the reason Arsenio and I are so good on screen together is because ... I've seen Arsenio two, three times a week for the last 40 years," Murphy told PEOPLE of his costar, who plays his best friend in the films. "He's my kid's godfather and he's a really close friend. And so I think that we're really friends in real life and that we're really around each other in real life that comes across on screen."

Known for his eponymous late-night talk show, Hall has appeared in everything from Martial Law to The Mayor.

03 of 09

Shari Headley, Lisa McDowell

Shari Healdley
Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection; Paramount Pictures

Then Prince Akeem's well-to-do bride in her very first feature film role, Headley moved on to TV work — notably a handful of soaps — before rejoining her costars for Coming 2 America.

04 of 09

James Earl Jones, King Jaffe Joffer

James earl Jones
Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection; Paramount Pictures

Jones already had three Star Wars films under his belt when he joined the cast, showing his comedic side as Prince Akeem's disapproving dad. He's since gone on to star in endless movies and theatrical works, and just turned 91 this year.

05 of 09

Eriq La Salle, Darryl Jenks

Eriq LaSalle
Paramount/courtesy Everett; KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP/ Getty

Before ER fame the classically trained actor played Headley's egotistical boyfriend.

06 of 09

John Amos, Cleo McDowell

John Amos
Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection; Paramount Pictures

"It was like being in a time machine," Amos told PEOPLE of returning for the sequel as Lisa's father and the owner of McDowell's. "To see all those people again is rare in this industry."

07 of 09

Louie Anderson, Maurice

louie anderson
Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty; Paramount Pictures

"It was really a great experience that stuck with me and I still am very friendly with Eddie. It's a friendship that stayed there too with Arsenio and John Amos, those guys; I really feel kinship to them," comedian Anderson, who played a McDowell's employee in the film and went on to tackle numerous other roles, told PEOPLE.

Anderson died of complications from cancer in January 2022.

08 of 09

Samuel L. Jackson, Hold-Up Man

Samual L. Jackson
Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection; George Pimentel/Getty

Now an Avengers megastar, the actor tried to rob fast-food joint McDowell's before being thwarted by Murphy and Hall's characters in the first film. This year, he earned an honorary Oscar, his first.

09 of 09

Garcelle Beauvais, Rose Bearer

Garcelle Beauvais
Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection; Paramount Pictures

Now a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star and former host of The Real, Beauvais' one-liner role had her dishing out rose petals for Murphy to walk on in the 1988 original.

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