On June 29, 1988, the Eddie Murphy- and Arsenio Hall-starring comedy Coming to America opened in movie theaters, ultimately earning $289 million at the global box office.
The Paramount film follows young Prince Akeem, played by Murphy, as he travels from his wealthy African country to Queens with his best friend Semmi (Hall) in tow, as he seeks to escape his arranged marriage and find true love.
Murphy spearheaded the project, on which he has a story credit, with director John Landis and screenwriters David Sheffield and Barry W. Blaustein.
The cast features both established stars and actors who would go on to have successful careers. James Earl Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Garcelle Beauvais, Eriq LaSalle and a young Cuba Gooding Jr. all appear in the movie, with Murphy and Hall playing multiple roles.
A sequel is even in the works, in which Murphy is expected to star, with Jonathan Levine set to direct from a script penned by the writers of the original and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris.
To celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary, The Hollywood Reporter breaks down what its stars have been up to since.
Along with playing Akeem, Murphy plays three other characters, with the comedian taking on other roles in what would become a hallmark of his films. Murphy also plays Randy Watson, the singer from R&B group Sexual Chocolate as well as barbershop owner Clarence and customer Saul.
The successful comedian, who also starred in the Beverly Hills Cop films, has gone on to star in movies like the Nutty Professor remakes (again playing multiple characters), the Doctor Dolittle films and the Shrek franchise (voicing Donkey). He was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for his role as James “Thunder” Early in Dreamgirls. He recently starred in awards hopeful Mr. Church. He’s set to star in and produce the upcoming Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name.
In Coming to America, comedian Arsenio Hall played Akeem’s right-hand man, Semmi. Semmi dislikes the American lifestyle and certainly prefers living like a king in the fictional country of Zamunda. Like Murphy, Hall played other roles, taking on the parts of Reverend Brown, Morris the barber and the female clubgoer who hits on Semmi and Akeem.
Since Coming to America, Hall is best known for hosting the late-night Arsenio Hall Show, which ran from 1989 to 1994 and from 2013 to 2014. More recently, Hall guest-starred on ABC’s short-lived series The Mayor.
Prince Akeem’s father, King Jaffe Joffer, is played by James Earl Jones. The king is a traditionalist and longs for his son to have an arranged marriage.
Jones, known for his distinctive voice and work as Darth Vader, has racked up scores of film and TV credits and will also be playing an African king in the upcoming Lion King remake, where he is reprising his role as Mufasa.
John Amos played the protective father of Lisa, Akeem’s love interest. He owns the restaurant McDowell’s, the film’s version of McDonald’s.
Amos has played numerous roles across television and film. He portrayed Percy Fitzwallace on The West Wing, Buzz Washington on Men in Trees, and had roles on Two and a Half Men, 30 Rock, and, more recently, The Ranch.
Lisa is the oldest daughter of Cleo McDowell. Akeem instantly feels an attraction to her, but she has a boyfriend, Darryl Jenks, keeping them apart. Once Lisa and Akeem start dating, he tells her that he comes from a poor family to make sure she loves him for him.
Shari Headley continues to act. Recently she was in The Haves and the Have Nots and Switched at Birth.
Eriq La Salle played Lisa’s obnoxious boyfriend, Darryl Jenks. She breaks up with him after he announces their engagement without even asking her. His father owns the hair perm company Soul Glo.
La Salle has continued his acting career and is arguably best known for his multi-season role as abrasive surgical resident Dr. Peter Benton on NBC’s hit ER. He was recently in the Hugh Jackman-starrer Logan and on the small screen on CBS’ Under the Dome in 2015 and has stepped behind the camera to direct episodes of Chicago PD, where he also serves as co-executive producer, and The Night Shift, among other series.
Mr. Townsend was Akeem’s and Semmi’s landlord in Queens. Faison has since been on Grey’s Anatomy, Banshee, The Good Wife and One Life to Live.
Samuel L. Jackson played a robber attacking McDowell’s. Akeem and Semmi save the day, impressing Lisa in the process. Jackson has gone on to have a full career, appearing in movies like Do the Right Thing; Pulp Fiction, for which he was nominated for an Oscar; Die Hard With a Vengeance; A Time to Kill; Jurassic Park; The Negotiator; Shaft; Unbreakable; the Star Wars prequels; the infamous Snakes on a Plane; and numerous Marvel movies, where he’s played Nick Fury. Currently in theaters as the voice of Lucius Best / Frozone in The Incredibles 2, Jackson in 2019 is set to reprise two of his best-known roles, in Glass and Captain Marvel.
Vondie Curtis-Hall played a vendor at a basketball game in Coming to America. Curtis-Hall has since become a recognizable face, appearing in movies like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet and Come Sunday as well as TV shows like For the People, Daredevil, ER and Chicago Hope.
Before she became well-known for her role on The Jamie Foxx Show, Garcelle Beauvais played a rose bearer in Coming to America, throwing flowers on the floor ahead of King Jaffe. In 2017, she played Doris Toomes in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Recent credits also include roles in White House Down and on TV shows The Arrangement and Franklin & Bash.
Cuba Gooding Jr. made his film debut in Coming to America. He was credited as “boy getting haircut.” He just sits in the chair while Clarence the barbershop owner argues about boxing.
His career has taken off since this film: He starred in movies like Boyz n the Hood, As Good as It Gets and Jerry Maguire, for which he won the best supporting actor Oscar. More recently, he played O.J. Simpson in American Crime Story and had a role on American Horror Story.