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'Coming 2 America' stars talk about what the first film meant to Black families

Kiki Layne and Jermaine Fowler, two young stars of the sequel "Coming 2 America," spoke about how the 1988 comedy classic "set a standard."
/ Source: TODAY

Kiki Layne wasn't even born yet and Jermaine Fowler was only a few months old when Eddie Murphy's "Coming to America" became an instant comedy classic in 1988.

However, the hilarious fairy tale of Prince Akeem of Zamunda finding his queen in Queens quickly became a beloved part of their childhood. Now Layne, 29, and Fowler, 32, are part of the story themselves as new characters in the sequel "Coming 2 America," which was released on Amazon Prime over the weekend.

Layne and Fowler spoke with Al Roker on the 3rd hour of TODAY Tuesday about what the original comedy meant to them growing up, while Murphy talked about working with the next generation of talent on the sequel.

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"It's a movie that my family watches together all the time," Layne said about the first film. "And I mean, I wasn't around yet when the first one came out. Obviously. So I probably watched it when I was a little too young to really know what was going on, but it's definitely something that brought my family together a lot."

In the sequel, Layne plays Meeka, the eldest daughter of Prince Akeem and his wife, Lisa, played by Shari Headley, who reprises her role from the first movie.

Fowler, who plays Akeem's long-lost son, Lavelle, remembered watching "Coming to America" as a kid.

"When I first saw it, I was like, 8 or 9. It was one of those movies that just stuck with me," he said. "Everything about it just stuck with me, especially the barbershop scenes."

Murphy, 59, was asked by Al how it felt to hear that from Fowler.

"I feel old, that's how I feel," he replied, laughing. "My back started hurting when he said it."

"Your knees pop?" Fowler joked.

Murphy also had "a proud papa moment" in the film because his daughter Bella, 19, one of his 10 children, has a role in the film as one of Prince Akeem's daughters.

Fowler is one of the legion of comedians who have been inspired by Murphy's films and stand-up comedy performances over the years.

"It set a standard for like, Hollywood," Fowler said. "It was just missing so much in like the representation. And that movie just sets such a standard and still does to this day. So, the movie means everything, man."

Layne, who is best known for her performances in 2018's "If Beale Street Could Talk" and last year's "The Old Guard," was excited to be part of the next chapter of a classic film.

"It blew my mind," she said. "It still blows my mind honestly, just because I feel it's the first thing that I booked that my family has such a personal connection to."

The two actors were also grateful to get a first-hand look and instruction from a legendary actor and comedian.

"Eddie's a master of this craft," Layne said. "And even just what it means to work with someone who really spearheaded Black artists and creators getting on the other side of the table creating projects, producing projects."

Fowler agreed, "It's masterful man, watching him in his zone. It's beautiful to watch."