Knowing all this, when I got on the phone with Snipes, I tried to find a balance between asking about his previous work and his latest project. Thankfully, Snipes was awesome and willing to talk about everything. During the wide-ranging conversation Snipes talked about why he wanted to be part of the first Coming to America, what it meant being part of the sequel, why he loves working with costume designer Ruth Carter, what it was like on set, and more. In addition, I asked about reprising his Blade role in the MCU, how he came close to playing Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, his ridiculous Major League audition, and how he tried to make a Black Panther movie in the early 90’s.
In the Coming to America sequel, Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem is living a happy life in Zamunda with his Coming to America sweetheart, Lisa (Shari Headley), and his three daughters. But when he finds out that he might have a son he didn’t know about living in New York City (Jermaine Fowler), and that only a male heir can take over the Zamundan throne, Akeem and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) set off on a journey to America to discover the truth. The sequel also stars James Earl Jones, Garcelle Beauvais, KiKi Layne, Teyana Taylor, John Amos, Leslie Jones, Vanessa Bell Calloway, and Louie Anderson.
Check out what Wesley Snipes had to say below.
COLLIDER: You won’t remember this, but we actually spoke for Dolemite. I told you then and I’ll tell you now, I’m a big fan of your work and it’s really cool to get to talk to you today.
WESLEY SNIPES: Thank you so much, man. Good to meet you again. You know, it’d be nice to shake hands when we get around for that.
So anytime I have a number of minutes with someone, I like asking about a few different things before getting into the project at hand. So I want to start with what TV series would you love to guest star on?
SNIPES: What TV series would I love to guest star on? What TV series would I love to guest star on? That might’ve been Whose Line Is It Anyway? That would be fun.
I want to go backwards. I want to know if you can confirm that you were actually up for the role of Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, or maybe you auditioned for it?
SNIPES: Yes, that is true. I think that was in the eighties. Yeah. And was disappointed that I didn’t get it. Not as disappointed as I was not getting the role in the first Coming To America, but that actually turned out pretty good. Because I think if I had gotten the role that I would have been in television more than film, and maybe would have been never got a chance to do everything else I’ve done.
Were you close to getting that role? Were you in the final few?
SNIPES: Yes. That’s how I remember it. Yeah. It was close. But yeah, a greater actor than I went on to make it famous. I applaud him, my friend, great and wonderful.
The other story I heard about you was that Spike Lee offered you a role Do The Right Thing, like a smaller role, but then you decided to do Major League because that was a bigger part. Is that also true?
SNIPES: A bigger part and a bigger check. Completely true. 1000%.
Well I have to say that it ended up working out, because obviously you’ve worked with Spike a number of times, but man, I loved your work in Major League.
SNIPES: Yeah, that was a journey. Yeah. That was a journey. Major League. I have so many funny stories about Major League, even the audition was ridiculous. I absolutely did not believe I was going to get that role. No way.
Can you share the audition then?
SNIPES: I went, they’d flew me out for another audition. And what I thought was the final audition, like a screen test. When I landed, they literally brought me from the airport to the Studio. Dropped my bags there. The assistant said, “Hey, hello, welcome. Hey, they want you over at the field.” I was dressed in a flight suit, in like a pilot’s flight suit and boxing shoes. Had no little league experience. Had none of that. So then I said okay. And when I got out to the field, there in the bleachers, in the stands on the field are all the other actors that are auditioning, fully dressed in baseball gear. In their baseball uniforms, fully dressed.
And I’m like, “Okay, well I guess I had a great trip to California, I eat well.” And yeah, “I’m going back to New York.” They got me out there on the… Literally the guys started laughing at me when they saw me walk up, and they started to say, “Hey man, what are you doing here?” I said, “Hey man, I’m here for the audition.” They started falling out because I had no gear, no glove, no shoes, no cleats, nothing. And no experience. So when I finally ran around the bases and tried to turn from second to third and ended up way out in the outfield, because my feet, I had no traction. The cats are falling out in the stands. When I made it back to home plate, literally the producers, the other auditioners, the actors, everybody was laughing their ass off. I had to laugh too because I was like, “Hey man, what else can I do? I got no traction. I got boxing shoes on.” Yeah. Then they took me back to the office and said, “Okay, you’re hired.” Go figure that.
That’s an amazing story. My last thing before getting into Coming 2 America, you were trying to get a Black Panther movie going before doing Blade. What happened?
SNIPES: You got good research. Bravo, bravo. That is absolutely true, and we had three scripts, three versions of scripts written when we held the rights to Black Panther. That was in the early ’90s. Maybe ’92, ’93, ’94, in that area somewhere. We didn’t have the technology we have now. Pixar didn’t exist. None of the things, the CGI capabilities that we have now existed, and you know, people… Even the thought of the name “Black Panther” in the zeitgeist of Hollywood had a reference to the national revolutionary group versus the comic book. So it was hard to make. Long story long, we didn’t end up making it, the rights went back, converted back, and then Blade came along. [I] rocked with that.
Everyone loves Coming To America, and you mentioned how you auditioned for it, or you wanted to do the first movie…
SNIPES: I auditioned, yes.
Can you sort of talk about what that movie means to you, and what it means to be part of the sequel?
SNIPES: Because there was a preponderance of negative imagery of black people in the world, in cinema, and this was one of the first films, American made, Western films that showed African people and the African experience, and I mean the African diasporic experience in it’s glory. I mean with robes and jewels, and opulence and you know, wealth, and not the starving children in living in the sewers and the gutters. That meant a lot. Meant a lot to everybody. Those of us who were students of the African history know that these things exist and that world exists, and it’s not too far from reality, but the general world doesn’t know that. It was great to see it and all the beautiful, beautiful women that were it. Oh my gosh. And the dancing that was in it. It was monumental man, monumental. For me as an artist, I wanted to be a part of that. And then James Earl Jones was in it, oh my God. You know, being a thespian, that’s the guy to be working with. You worked with James Earl Jones, you the man.
I loved your work in Dolemite. Was it during the making of that film that Eddie or Craig first told you, “Hey, we’re working on Coming to America 2?”
SNIPES: No, if they were thinking about it, they kept it hidden from me. I think they was maybe waiting to see how my performance in Dolemite was perceived. I think I was still auditioning, because they didn’t let me know that they wanted me in until the first screening of Dolemite. Everybody else is calling me saying, “Hey man, you’re going to be in Coming to America 2? I’m like, “No man, I ain’t heard nothing about it, bro.”
Talk a little bit about how you got involved and was it an immediate yes?
SNIPES: Craig Brewer, the director, finally got around to asking me to join the cast. And I immediately said, “Heck yes. Absolutely. I was waiting for the last two months, man, when you going to call me.”
Some films when they’re being made stick very close to the script, and other films feature a lot of improvisation. How was it when you guys were making Coming 2 America?
SNIPES: Oh, so much fun. And I think that’s the skeleton of the film, and that’s how Eddie operates as well. All of those great improvisational, comedic actors, that’s their sweet spot. That’s where they lived. So I enjoy that. I come from that in the early training days and, you know, that’s what helped grow my love for the art form, is the fun of exchange and banter back, or back and forth in these moments of unexpected marvelousness. Unexpected magic. It’s a beautiful thing, man. It really, really is beautiful.
I’m a big fan of Ruth Carter’s work. You worked with her on Dolemite and on Coming 2 America, but early in her career, you worked with her, I believe on Jungle Fever and Mo’ Better Blues. Talk a little bit about getting to work with her multiple times, and how is she the same from back then and how is she different?
SNIPES: Classy, qualified, well-researched. She’s an excellent researcher, but once again, we call them skill masters. These people who can do more than one thing extremely well. Not only can she communicate it and she can teach it, she can work it on the set, but she can also create. And the most beautiful thing about it is that she’s got a lineage of craftsmen and women underneath her who are going to carry on that torch and expand the opportunities, for them and for us as the producers and filmmakers. Creators, you know? She’s wonderful, man. Wonderful.
I’m thinking about this without spoilers, there’s some big crowd scenes that you get to be a part of. What was it like being in those kinds of scenes with so many cool people making this movie?
SNIPES: Sometimes dreams come true, and that was one of those moments. I literally sat there in the chair and said, “Man, look at this. I’m rocking with these people. This is, wow.” You know, Paul Bates first came on the scene, I went straight up to him and started hugging him. We’ve met in the past, but not frequently. I just started hugging him. He was kind of looking at me like, “Why is Blade hugging me like this? I don’t understand.” I was like, “Paul, man, I just want to say I love you man, and I been watching your career, man. Just to be next to you is so, so much fun.” Because of the impact that film had on my psyche and the psyche of many of my friends, my family. These people are iconic indeed.
I have to ask you as a big fan of your work as Blade. Marvel is introducing what’s called the Multiverse, where they’re going to be able to sort of combine different things. It’s coming in this new Spider-Man movie. Have to ask, have you ever talked to Kevin Feige about reprising the role in some sort of way?
SNIPES: We’ve talked, man, and he always says, “Well, you know, we’re thinking about it, we’re trying to figure it out.” Then one day I saw in the news, and everybody started calling me up saying, “Hey, Mahershala is going to be playing the new Blade.” I was like, “Well, I guess Kevin didn’t have my number. Okay.” So I actually don’t know. You know, I’m always willing to rock with anyone who wants to rock with me, you know? We’re doing similar work. We have wonderful product that we will bring to market, and if I can rock with Marvel, that’s great. If I can’t rock with Marvel, all right. You know? I’ll wait by the door. I’ll just put on some nice heels and a nice skirt and something. I’ll just wait by the door and say, “Hi Kevin.”
As I said before, thank you so much for doing this with me-
SNIPES: Indeed. All the best.
KEEP READING: ‘Coming 2 America’s Craig Brewer on Easter Eggs, the Ratings, and Attending Prince’s Oscar Party
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