Coming to America is full of comedy heavy hitters and a handful of up-and-coming comedy stars. But one of the film’s supporting cast members wasn’t originally intended to be in the movie until Paramount Pictures forced them into it. Since nearly the entire cast of Coming to America was Black, the studio wanted a white actor with a somewhat prominent role in the movie. And that’s how comedian Louie Anderson ended up working alongside Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall at McDowell’s.
Louie Anderson wasn’t exactly a comedy star in the 1980s, but he was fairly well-known on the stand-up comedy circuit. Though he made a bit appearance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in 1986 (which ended up being reduced in the editing room), Coming to America was a big breakthrough for the actor. But as Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall recalled while appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, it was a casting decision that came from the studio brass.
The conversation in question starts at the 8:21 mark in the interview above, but if you can’t watch, here’s what Murphy and Hall had to say about Louie Anderson ending up in Coming to America:
Arsenio Hall: I love Louie [Anderson,] but I think we were forced to put Louie in it. I think we were forced to put in a white person.
Eddie Murphy: Paramount was like, because the whole cast was Black and this was back in the ‘80s. So it was like, ‘We have to have a white person. There has to be a white person in the movie’… So who was the funniest white guy around? Louie, we knew was cool, so that’s how Louie got in the movie.
Louie Anderson wasn’t the only choice to fill that role. Hall recalled receiving a list of three white actors to take the role, and since both he and Murphy knew Anderson from the comedy scene, he was their favorite. The rest is history, and now Louie Anderson reprises his role in Coming 2 America, where he’s hopefully become at least assistant manager by now.
In recent years, Louie Anderson garnered acclaimed for his supporting role in Zach Galifianakis’ FX series Baskets, and he’s also been appearing on Search Party. He’s also taken the path of many comedians by having his own short-lived sitcom called The Louie Show, as well as a more successful animated series called Life with Louie, based on his real childhood.
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