Think of your favorite movie from childhood. Now imagine you’re on-screen next to those iconic characters. That’s what happened to Jermaine Fowler, who stars alongside Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in Coming 2 America, the sequel to the 1988 comedy classic. “Coming to America was a movie I watched every day when I was a kid,” says 32-year-old Fowler, a Maryland native who now lives in Sherman Oaks. “I would quote it in school, in church.”
The sequel, which hits Amazon Prime Video on March 5, tells the story of Prince Akeem (Murphy) returning to America to find a son he didn’t know he had, a street-smart New Yorker named Lavelle (Fowler). Arsenio Hall reprises his role as Semmi, Akeem’s sidekick.
“Being on that movie set was extremely surreal,” Fowler says. “Eddie and Arsenio have such a great rapport and history. Sometimes I’d forget I had a line because I was watching and admiring Eddie in his zone. It felt like I was dreaming.”
Like Murphy, Fowler got his start doing stand-up comedy and has been performing onstage for 15 years. When the young actor met the legend, the two immediately started talking about their comedy idols.
“He asked me what I thought the best comedy special ever is,” Fowler says. “I thought that it was a trick question, because it’s Richard Pryor: Live in Concert. But I’m in Eddie’s house, so I had to tell him my second favorite, which is Eddie Murphy: Delirious. He goes, ‘Really? ’Cause I think it’s Richard Pryor: Live in Concert.’ I’m like, ‘Fuck!’ I told Arsenio that story and he said, ‘Hey, look, Eddie’s always going to admire the truth.’ ”
Unlike Murphy, who left stand-up comedy behind to pursue acting, Fowler says stand-up will always be a part of his artistic expression. “I performed a couple of weeks ago at a parking garage in Van Nuys,” he says of the COVID-safe show. “It was pretty awkward. But I was just happy to be outside, performing again. This is not a hobby for me.”
In addition to more stand-up, Fowler has a dream project in mind for the future.
“I hope one day that there’ll be a proper Richard Pryor biopic,” he says of the comedy legend who, yes, made the greatest stand-up special ever. “That’s a role you’ve got to get right, and I’d love to play him.” Fowler pauses, and then adds, “And, of course, Eddie should play his dad.”
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