Eddie Murphy’s return as Prince Akeem Joffer in “Coming 2 America” (streaming now on Prime Video) brings the comedy franchise back to the fictional Zamunda, home to the royal family and her future heir.
Much of Zamunda’s set was recreated in Georgia, with the palatial palace hosted by rapper Rick Ross, opening the doors to his estate on the outskirts of Atlanta to the film’s production crew.
According to production designer Jefferson Sage, “Our big problem was, where could we find a house that had the scale of possibilities for a very lavish palate?”
Sage and his team spotted several locations before focusing on Ross’s estate, which would serve as the bones of the lush royal palace.
The 45,000 square foot mansion in Fayetteville, Ga. Spans 235 acres and was previously owned by boxer Evander Holyfield. With 12 bedrooms and a dining room for up to 100 people, it had the scale manager that Craig Brewer and Sage were looking for.
“This entrance hall with the large two-story interior and the double spiral staircase was perfect,” says Sage. “Apart from that there were two beautiful large rooms with giant windows and 18 foot ceilings. We used five key spaces that we transformed into Zamunda. “
These spaces have been converted for the main sets of the film, including the king’s bedroom and the dining room. The main chamber of the palace belonged to Ross. The rapper says that 1988’s “Coming to America” may be his all-time favorite movie and that he was delighted to see Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall stroll through his estate.
“They changed the wallpaper in the dining room, so I asked them to keep it up there,” Ross laughs. “They also created this huge dining table for a dining room that can seat 50 to 60 people, and they left that to me as a gift. It’s enormous.
Set designer Douglas A. Mowat is to be commended for showcasing Ross’ real pieces. To transform the master bedroom, he opted for the existing color – warm white – but brought in blue and silver to “make the room stand out and give it more dimension”. Mowat took the lead by adding silver leaf to the canopy above the bed.
Sage made sure to honor the original film by keeping a similar color scheme, “but we tweaked it a bit,” he says. “We took the bones from the original set with the idea that they were regularly renovating and improving.”
Elsewhere, Sage built the Ballroom and Throne Room on external sound stages, but the mansion’s architecture served as the basis for the design. “We did it so that we always felt in the same building,” adds Sage.
The Ross Mansion had a white interior with gold ceiling trim throughout, so when it came to those exterior decors, Sage accentuated and embellished gold leaf throughout. “We used so much gold leaf that we bought the country’s supplies for at least two months,” he cracked.
He relied on visual effects to sublimate the silhouette of the film. During one streak, a campanile bell rings, and while the actual set is small, Brewer and Sage inserted the shot into a bird’s eye view of Zamundan’s palace and residence. “It was our time to sell the place as a little fancy and show where they live and bring out the fairytale quality of it all,” Sage says.
Creating the iconic My-T-Sharp barber shop for a streak was Sage’s favorite. He searched for all the information on the original set created by Richard Macdonald. He researched and studied the pictures on the wall, focusing on signed photos of baseball stars and boxers. Sage adds: “We went to great lengths to find as many as possible, and we got just about everything. The feeling of coming back to this whole is a connection to the original and brings the two films together. “