Jermaine Stegall on giving voice to Zamunda in “Coming 2 America”

Jermaine Stegall Coming 2 America Jermaine Stegall, composer of Paramount and Amazon's "Coming 2 America."

Welcome back to the Spool’s weekly interview podcast, More of a Comment, Really…, where editor-in-chief Clint Worthington talks to actors, filmmakers, composers and other figures from the realm of film and television.

Decades before Black Panther, Eddie Murphy gave us the first real glimpse of a fictional pan-African paradise with the country of Zamunda in John Landis’ 1988 classic Coming to America, in which Murphy played the naive Prince Akeem finding love and playing fish out of water in the concrete jungle of Queens. More than thirty years later, Dolemite Is My Name director Craig Brewer brings us back to Zamunda with Coming 2 America, as now-King Akeem tries to figure out the future of Zamunda with the arrival of an illegitimate son from America (played by Jermaine Fowler).

Unlike the first, which mostly took place in the fish out of water antics of Akeem in America, Coming 2 America lets us swim in the lush, vibrant world of Zamunda for much of its runtime, especially Ruth E. Carter’s incredible costumes and Jefferson Sage’s production design. Also playing a vital part is the score by Jermaine Stegall, in what is a bit of a breakout score for him after 15 years scoring indie titles and composing additional music under esteemed composers from Mark Isham to Danny Elfman.

Jermaine Stegall Coming 2 America

For Coming 2 America, Stegall mixes traditional comedy scoring with a pan-African sound that evokes, but differentiates itself from, the theatrical bombast of the sound of Black Panther. Not only that, he spent weeks on set working with the choreographers and artists like Gladys Knight to help stage some of the dances and song performances that flesh out Zamunda’s cultural fabric. The results are a score that’s bigger and more lush than you’d expect out of most studio comedies, and a handy continuation of Nile Rodgers’ score for the original.

I sat down with Stegall for a long, invigorating chat about searching for the sound of Zamunda, Stegall’s reflections on the long mentorships with legendary composers that led to this moment, and the need for more opportunities for Black composers in the industry.

Listen to the podcast above, and watch Coming 2 America on Amazon Prime Video.

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