We all need some lighthearted feel-goodery right about now. And, that means a return to Zamunda. The highly anticipated sequel to the 1988 hit film Coming To America, Coming 2 America, will be released on Amazon Prime Video March 5. But it took time, 32 years to be exact, to find the right team of writers and creatives to take on the challenge of this film. “It was about three drafts of the script in that we got it to where the structure and narrative thread were strong enough,” says Eddie Murphy of the film’s sequel. “We just needed to put a modern spin on it. We wanted to bring back everyone from where the story left off and connect the dots. Like wouldn’t it be funny if McDowell’s opened in Africa?” In the film, Akeem, played by Eddie Murphy, is looking for a successor to the throne of Zamunda and returns to New York City to find his heir.
The 29-year-old KiKi Layne, who shot to fame in the 2018 Barry Jenkins film If Beale Street Could Talk (based on the James Baldwin novel), plays Murphy’s kick-ass daughter Meeka, the heir to the Zamunda throne. “I’m so glad to be a part of something light right now that brings laughter and happiness to all of us,” says Layne. “It’s perfect timing for this film to come out.” We talked to the Cincinnati-born actress about taking on this iconic sequel and what else she has coming up.
In Coming 2 America, you play Meeka, who is initially cast aside by her father (Murphy) in favor of a male heir. Have you ever been underestimated as a woman?
Oh, of course. That’s something that we all as women experience. Even if it just starts in grade school with not being chosen for sports teams. And being in the entertainment industry, of course you see it. But, recently women are speaking out demanding things like proper treatment and equal pay in Hollywood.
What appealed to you about this role?
The opportunity to work with these people and the role of Meeka specifically. She’s got so much strength and fight in her. She stands up for herself and lets that be known. She wants to please her parents and respects the laws of the country that she loves but realizes how unfair it all is. She has a lot of heart.
What was it like to play this heroine and badass woman?
That felt really good and it’s what drew me to the character. She really fights for what she thinks is right. She supports Lavelle and she understands what her country seems to need even though these traditions don’t serve her. That fight and determination really came out in the choreographed fight scenes.
What was it like working with the cast of Coming 2 America who, for the most part, had some level of comfort from working together 30 years ago. Was it daunting?
It definitely felt like being invited to the family reunion but it felt like a family. Across the board, everyone was so excited to get back into telling this story. It was beautiful energy on set and everyone was warm and welcoming.
What did you learn from Murphy on set? Do you have a favorite memory of being on set together?
It was my first time meeting and working with Eddie. One of the biggest things I took away was watching someone who is truly a master of his craft and a genius at comedic storytelling. He never does too much in a scene. I took away this feeling of ‘you don’t have to do so much all the time.’
What was it like being on set with all those comedians like Arsenio Hall, Tracy Morgan and Leslie Jones?
We had a blast. Filming the final scene, everyone was on set together and it was such a fun time.
Did you bond offscreen with any of the new cast members?
Mostly with Jermaine (who plays Lavelle) and Nomzamo (who plays Mirembe) since we’re the same age. We definitely had some fun in Atlanta.
You just wrapped filming Olivia Wilde’s 1950s psychological thriller, Don’t Worry Darling. What was that experience like?
It’s fun playing with different costumes and diving into these twists and turns, which my character Margaret is a part of. It’s something that’s going to keep people on their toes. It’s super exciting to work with and get to know Olivia. I really enjoyed how she created an energy where we just got to play. She made space for me to try scenes in a whole new way.