When Eddie Murphy set out to make Coming to America, he hoped to hire an all-black cast of actors for the John Landis directed comedy. Paramount didn’t see eye-to-eye with that idea, and according to both Murphy and his onscreen partner Arsenio Hall, the studio forced them to cast a white actor in the movie. Given three names to choose from, the pair decided that Louie Anderson would fill the role.
Louie Anderson plays the character Maurice in Coming to America, who is one of Prince Akeem and Semmi’s co-workers at the fast food restaurant McDowell’s. Maurice returns in the upcoming sequel Coming 2 America as well, still working at McDowell’s, with the restaurant relocated to Zamunda. The character of Maurice was originality intended to be played by a black actor. Speaking out on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall broke down the sad story behind Louie Anderson’s casting, indicating that he was not supposed to be in the movie.
Coming 2 America will be released later this month on Amazon Prime, and Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall have been doing press rounds to promote the movie. Right away, the pair admits that they love actor and comedian Louie Anderson. But he would not have been Murphy’s first choice for the role of Maurice. Arsenio Hall was the first to let it slip that Paramount forced their hand in hiring the iconic ’80s comedian in the role. Hall says this.
“I love Louie, but I think we were forced to put Louie in it. We were forced to put in a white person.”
Eddie Murphy backs up this claim, saying that executives from Paramount insisted they not have an entirely black cast for Coming to America. This rankled both Murphy and Hall as they were attempting to move forward with shooting the legendary comedy back in 1987.
“They were like, ‘There has to be a white person in the movie.’ I was like, ‘What?’ So who was the funniest white guy around? We knew Louie was cool, so that’s how Louie got in the movie.”
Arsenio Hall went onto explain that Paramount Pictures had given them a list of white actors to choose from, and it contained three different names. One of them being Louie Anderson.
“It was official. I had a list. They gave me a list with three white guys. They said, ‘Who would you rather work with?’ I said, ‘Louie.'”
And so that’s how Louie Anderson wound up being the only white actor cast in the movie. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall obviously enjoy working with Anderson, as all three comedians came up on the stand-up circuit around the same time. Maurice was invited back for several key scenes in Coming 2 America, which will stream exclusively on Amazon Prime video starting March 5, which is this weekend.