'Coming 2 America' legend John Amos says that sentimental kitchen scene was his favorite in the star-studded sequel

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jason Guerrasio
·7 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
John Amos Coming 2 America Quantrell D Colbert
John Amos in "Coming 2 America." Quantrell D. Colbert/Amazon Studios

  • Amos talks about working with Eddie Murphy again and the comic's seamless talent.

  • He explains what led to Norman Lear firing him on "Good Times."

  • The actor recalls doing a screen test to play Chubbs in "Happy Gilmore."

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

For over 50 years John Amos has been a fixture in the acting world. He's been part of landmark television, having starred in "Good Times," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," and 1977's "Roots" miniseries. And on the movie side, his intimidating look, deep voice, and large build made him perfect to star opposite action stars like Sylvester Stallone ("Lock Up") and Bruce Willis ("Die Hard 2").

Looking back, Amos puts it simply like this: "Wherever the check didn't bounce, that's where I was."

But despite all those career highlights, perhaps his most memorable role is playing Cleo McDowell in 1988's "Coming to America."

The hilarious part as the owner of a rival fast food restaurant to McDonald's ("They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick.") is one of the memorable elements of this fairy tale comedy. And now Amos is set to reprise the role in the sequel "Coming 2 America," available now on Amazon Prime Video.

McDowell is still hustling to make his restaurant great as it's now located in Zamunda where his daughter, Lisa (Shari Headley), is married to Akeem (Eddie Murphy). But we also see that McDowell has grown to become a father figure to Akeem, as the former prince who went to Queens to find a wife now is king.

Insider spoke with Amos via Zoom to talk about reprising his famous character, how he's pushed for diversity in Hollywood over his career, and that time he almost played Chubbs in the Adam Sandler classic, "Happy Gilmore."

John Amos 2 Coming 2 America Quantrell D Colbert
(L-R) Eddie Murphy and John Amos in "Coming 2 America." Quantrell D. Colbert/Amazon Studios

Amos says he's always enjoyed working with Eddie Murphy because his acting talents are seamless

Jason Guerrasio: "Coming to America" must be the one fans come up to you about the most or do you get a lot of "Good Times" shout outs?

John Amos: It varies. Sometimes I go to the airport and someone will say, "Can you sign this for my mother, she loved your show" and the person asking would be 80 themselves, so I would be like, "Hold on a minute." But a lot of times, yeah, it's "Coming to America."

I have to admit I got a little concerned watching "Coming 2 America" because it seemed for a while Cleo was only there to give the McDowell one-liners from the first movie. But then that scene at the end between Cleo and Akeem in the kitchen, that was really one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

It was mine as well. It showed the audience the depths of Eddie Murphy's acting abilities. He does it so seamlessly that people kind of take it for granted that it's an easy process. Like in the original movie, he just shifts gears and becomes a totally different persona. That's something I can appreciate as an actor.

With that scene, was it originally in the script or did it evolve over time?

It evolved over time. But the bottom line is when it came time to deliver a scene that would show a true relationship between Eddie's character and mine, the writer's delivered. We didn't have a lot of dialogue and to me that's a sign of good writing. Get the point across and get the hell off the stage. Keep it simple.

Are you surprised you're playing Cleo again, or were there always whispers Eddie might want to do a sequel?

It was always in the air because of the success of the first one. It had been rumored but it only became solidified, for me, when it came in the form of a work call and reaching an agreement to participate. Then I knew it was real.

cleo mcdowell paramount
John Amos in 1988's "Coming to America." Paramount

'Coming 2 America' was filmed at Tyler Perry Studios. Amos calls it progress in diversity within Hollywood.

The first "Coming to America" was a landmark work in regards to the casting of Black actors, but this one goes beyond that: it was filmed at Tyler Perry Studios. Where do you rank this experience in your legendary career?

Well, you painted the picture better than I could. The fact that we did it at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, to drive through those gates and see the faces of African-American icons painted on buildings. For me, a veteran of 50-plus years in the industry, I couldn't comprehend it all.

It still resonates with me now the progress that has been made as the result of the business acclimate of Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, so many that I've come to know and acknowledge. And what they do encourages me to forge ahead and create.

Do you feel you've contributed to what we are seeing now in regards to diversity in Hollywood? You are famous for being killed off on "Good Times" and you have said one of the reasons is because you spoke out about the show only having whites in the writer's room.

John Amos Norman Lear Eric McCandless Getty
(L-R) Norman Lear and John Amos at the 2019 reunion show of "Good Times." Eric McCandless/Getty

There is a certain veracity in the perception that John Amos was a disruptive force. I was. I had not become sophisticated enough in the industry to take things in a diplomatic way. I still had a lot of the New Jersey in me and if you rubbed me the wrong way I would say, "Let's take it outside." A lot of people got tired of that very fast.

So one day, I was at home, and it was ["Good Times" executive producer] Norman Lear on the phone. He told me, "I got good news and bad news." I said, "Well, you made the call, what's the good news?" And he said that the show had been renewed and then he said "and the bad news is you won't be with us." And that was the end of it.

And I believe he said at the time that you were a "disruptive element."

But here's the thin:. The reunion show we did recently showed that when two people butt heads they can still come together. Here's a man who changed the face of television. Now what kind of an ego would I have to not be appreciative of the fact that the man came to me after all the s--- I put him through? [Laughs.]

I would be remiss to not bring up your memorable roles in the action/thriller genre. If you got the call to work with one of these actors again, who do you say yes to first: Bruce Willis ("Die Hard 2"), Sylvester Stallone ("Locked Up"), or Denzel Washington ("Ricochette")?

I have to say it has to say Denzel. I worked with him in movies and the stage. With the exception of Ernest Borgnine ("Marty"), who was the consummate actor and carved a niche for me to emulate, watching Denzel on film, he would be my first choice of anybody to work with again.

Uncut Gems A24
(L-R) Adam Sandler and John Amos in "Uncut Gems." A24

Amos said he did a screen test to play Chubbs in 'Happy Gilmore'

One of my favorite cameos of the last few years is you showing up in "Uncut Gems." How did you get on that movie?

They called me and said Adam Sandler and I said "I'm there."

Did you even know the work of movie's directors, Josh and Benny Safdie?

No, but I am [familiar] now and I'd love to work with them again. Something a little bit bigger, but it was a fun couple hours work.

Is the legend true that you were going to originally be Chubbs in "Happy Gilmore?"

There was talk about it at one time. From what I remember I even did a screen test. It was up in Canada. It never worked out, but no hard feelings.

Have you ever watched "Happy Gilmore?" Ever curious how Carl Weathers did the role?

No. If I did that I would spend the rest of my career looking at films of actors who got roles that I didn't get. [Laughs.] That's not going to make me feel better. But I'm sure Carl did an admirable job.

"Coming 2 America" also starring Arsenio Hall, Leslie Jones, and Jermaine Fowler, is out now on Amazon Prime Video.

Read the original article on Insider