“Coming 2 America” was a long time coming for Wesley Snipes.
The actor, who stars as the eccentric and autocratic ruler of Nextdoria in the long-awaited sequel, is thrilled to now be part of the “Coming to America” franchise after initially auditioning to play Darryl Jenks in the 1988 original.
“I’m giddy as a pig at Fatburger,” Snipes told the Daily News. “I’m telling you, I’m happy. I wanted to be a part of that so bad, and James Earl Jones was in the original. For us theater thespians, he was an icon.
“The idea of being close to him, just enough to breathe, to listen, to have him breathe on me, was super exciting, and it was quite disappointing when I didn’t get cast in the first film. But you sit by the river long enough, sometimes you’ll see opportunity float by, and 30 years later here I am, and here it is.”
In the new comedy, out Friday on Amazon Prime Video, Snipes stars as General Izzi, whose land neighbors Zamunda, the African kingdom where Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem is next in line to the throne behind Jones’ King Jaffe Joffer.
Snipes’ character can be brutal and dangerous, but also loves to dance and make big entrances as he tries to persuade Prince Akeem to unite their territories.
“He is a diplomat. An ambassador,” said Snipes, 58. “Also a tyrant, and an autocrat, but he’s also a dancer and he’s also a singer. ... He does a lot of different things, and he’s there basically to make ends meet and right some wrongs that Mr. King of Zamunda did to his family in the past.”
General Izzi presents problems for Akeem, who returns to Queens to track down his long-lost son after visiting New York in the first film to find a wife.
“Coming 2 America” was directed by Craig Brewer, who worked with Snipes and Murphy on the 2019 comedy “Dolemite Is My Name.” It was during production for that movie that Brewer told Snipes he wanted him to do “Coming 2 America.”
“I was overjoyed, not knowing exactly what the role would be,” Snipes said. “I didn’t care. I just wanted to be in the movie, be a part of that legacy and a part of that history.”
Snipes, a martial artist known for action movies such as the “Blade” trilogy, is in the midst of a career resurgence following a two-year tax-related jail stint that ended in 2013.
Snipes said he got a kick out of playing such an upbeat character in General Izzi.
“It’s closer to the energy of my nature and my personality,” Snipes said. “I’m much more of the whimsical, free-spirited type of a guy than what they see in the action films. I mean, we can go there. That is the Hyde to Mr. Jekyll, but I actually prefer and get so much thrill and jolly out of being in an ensemble of great, talented artists, and experiencing, creating, realizing and expressing all at the same time.”
Snipes says his time working on “Coming 2 America” was filled with pinch-me moments.