Wesley Snipes auditioned for the first 'Coming To America' but missed out on memorable role

Ben Arnold
·Contributor
·2 min read

Watch: Coming 2 America trailer

Wesley Snipes was all up for the first Coming To America movie, and even snagged himself an audition, more than 30 years ago.

Eddie Murphy's 1988 classic, about an African king running away to America to find a bride, preceded Snipes' big screen breakthrough in 1991's New Jack City by several years.

Read more: First look at Coming 2 America

But things could have panned out differently had Snipes snared the role he went for in the John Landis-directed comedy.

Coming To America (Credit: Paramount)
Coming To America (Paramount)

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Snipes revealed: “I auditioned for the first Coming to America, but I didn’t get to audition in front of Eddie.

“After three call backs, I ended up losing the role to Eriq La Salle.”

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 05: Wesley Snipes attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Wesley Snipes (Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

La Salle, who went on to star in medical drama ER with the young George Clooney, played Darryl Jenks in Coming To America.

Darryl was the preening, feckless boyfriend of Shari Headley's Lisa McDowell, the heir to the Soul Glo hair treatment empire, and the suitor favoured by John Amos's Cleo McDowell over Eddie Murphy's incognito Prince Akeem.

Coming To America (Credit: Paramount)
Coming To America (Paramount)

Snipes went on: “Working with him was surreal, joyful, hilarious, and, at times, a little scary, because you know he lives in the world of funny and you want to at least be in the room. I don’t know if it was toe to toe, I’d characterise it more like riding along, and, in some cases, hanging on.

“If you watch his films over the years, you can tell that a lot of the comedians in some way have a residue of Eddie’s style, and I even think some of us actors from that era. He’s so great that you pick up little things, maybe it’s timing or a little look. Eddie can convey the subtleties and humour in life and materialise our inner thoughts. He can say all of the stuff that we wish we had the nerve to say.”

Teyana Taylor and Wesley Snipes in Coming 2 America (Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert/Amazon Studios)
Teyana Taylor and Wesley Snipes in Coming 2 America (Amazon Studios)

Coming 2 America finds Snipes playing military dictator General Izzi, neighbour to Akeem's Zamunda.

Returning are Arsenio Hall as Semmi, Headley as Lisa, Amos as Cleo and James Earl Jones as King Jaffe Joffer, while Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Teyana Taylor and Tracy Morgan all join the new cast.

It lands on Amazon Prime on 5 March.

Watch: John Landis on working with Eddie Murphy