Movies

Nomzamo Mbatha made Eddie Murphy realise how awful his African accent is

While reprising his iconic role in 'Coming 2 America' is no stretch for this star, the comedian has changed radically since he made the original film, writes Margaret

28 February 2021 - 00:02 By Margaret Gardiner
Eddie Murphy as King Akeem Joffer of Zamunda in the 'Coming to America' reboot 'Coming 2 America'.
Eddie Murphy as King Akeem Joffer of Zamunda in the 'Coming to America' reboot 'Coming 2 America'.
Image: Quantrell D Colbert/Amazon Studios

“She's a wonderful actress. Beautiful. We had a great time working together. She made me realise how shitty my African accent is; I thought it was good but she came with a real one and I realised that mine is horrible,” says Eddie Murphy, speaking from Los Angeles about South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha.

In the Coming to America reboot Coming 2 America, Murphy, as King Akeem of Zamunda, now with three daughters and no male heir to inherit his title, tracks down his long lost American son and brings him to Africa to succeed him on the throne.

Director Craig Brewer predicts stardom for our South African star, saying: “She has what it takes to go all the way.”

The movie is an easy romp with Murphy recreating and playing multiple characters — some of which were established in the original film. It also explores cultural and gender stereotypes.

WATCH | The trailer for 'Coming 2 America'

“I've done many sequels; revisiting a character is common, it's just another day at work for me. I find it easy,” said Murphy, currently working on another sequel, Beverley Hills Cop.

While revisiting iconic roles is no stretch, Murphy has changed radically since he made the initial film.

“When I made Coming to America, I had no children. I was 27 years old. Now I'm 59 years old, I have 10 children. I'm a different person. Being a dad influences the way I respond to things. I'll read something now that will make me cry whereas 20 years ago I wouldn't have reacted. Being a dad rounds you out emotionally.”

But there are limits to his duties as a father: “I don't change diapers but I do everything else. I wouldn't do a good job in the diaper department — my kids deserve better,” he said.

“My family, my children, are my biggest accomplishment. Like King Akeem, my children are my legacy. They're good people and smart.”

WATCH | Margaret Gardiner in conversation with Margaret Gardiner

Are any likely to follow in his footsteps? “Three of my daughters and three of my sons are interested in acting. Two of my daughters write. One of my daughters paints. I'm an artsy dad and they're in an artsy surrounding. It makes sense. Also, humour is an important part of everything. For me, it comes from the inside. I'm very funny, even when I'm not on camera.”

This has allowed him to make the best of lockdown. “I've spent more time than usual with my family — I'm a homebody anyway.”

I've carved out my own space. There isn't a long list of African-American actors who have such a global audience
Eddie Murphy

The Golden Globes winner for Dreamgirls is aware of his place in history. “I'm on a short
list of black actors with a global audience. Most films that African-Americans make aren't successful outside the US. Many of them aren't escapism — they have heavy themes that don't travel around the world. Japan and Italy, for example, don't give a shit about the Civil Rights movement. They have their own issues with which to concern themselves.

“For movies to succeed internationally they have to be relatable. You have to have universal themes — which is what I do. When my movies work in the States they also work around the world. I've carved out my own space. There isn't a long list of African-American actors who have such a global audience.”

• 'Coming 2 America' debuts globally on Amazon Prime Video on March 5.

 Entertainment journalist Margaret Gardiner is a former Miss SA and was the first South African woman to win the Miss Universe Pageant. Follow her on YouTube or Instagram.