Story by Kaitlyn Lankford and Chris Moreland
Early in “Coming 2 America,” the sequel to the 1988 hit that made Eddie Murphy a star, Middle Tennessee State University is mentioned twice, and its name is seen on a digital billboard outside of Madison Square Garden.
How did this happen?
A good guess would be that Justin Kanew, founder of the online news website, Tennessee Holler, had something to do with it. The Williamson County resident received a “story by” credit for the movie, whose story foundation is based on a screenplay Kanew wrote 15 years ago.
But that would be a wrong guess.
“It’s my story, not my screenplay,” Kanew said. He became associated with the film through his script for a screenplay titled “The King,” which was not meant as a sequel to “Coming to America.”
“Basically, the idea was a Tracy Morgan type guy finds out he’s the king of an African country and goes to take his place on the throne,” Kanew said. Morgan showed the script to Murphy, who purchased the rights and “The King” became the foundation of the sequel project. “It got rewritten a lot since then,” noted Kanew.
One of the changes included the prominent shoutout to MTSU.
Murphy reprised his role from the 1988 movie, but on this trip to America he is now king of his country. He learned that on his previous trip to the U.S. he fathered an illegitimate son, so he returned to New York City, determined to bring his son home to be the heir to the kingdom.
Murphy’s character finds his son, Lavelle (played by Jermaine Fowler) outside Madison Square Garden scalping basketball tickets. This is MTSU’s cue. The game is between MTSU and St. John’s University, which has campuses in Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.
“Come on, Middle Tennessee State! Come on y’all – they got a 7-foot-5 center. Catch him before his knees pop,” the son pleaded with passersby.
MTSU is also mentioned a second time and a clip of the digital billboard appears for a few seconds.
“I’m getting a little unearned credit for it. I’ve had a number of people reach out and be like we are so glad you did that. Usually, I correct them. Sometimes it’s OK to let them just think it,” Kanew said, laughing.
Actually, it was director Craig Brewer, a native of Memphis, who wrote MTSU into the revised script, Kanew added.
“It’s really just a coincidence that Craig Brewer chose MTSU,” said Kanew. “I don’t know what Craig was thinking. There are so many schools in Tennessee. It’s a little surprising he didn’t choose, like, Memphis.”
Regardless, Kanew said it’s great to have MTSU represented even if it’s by chance.
For the record, MTSU has never played St. John’s in basketball, but the two schools have played on the tennis court several times.
And the Blue Raiders have never had a 7-foot-5 center. That’s just Hollywood talking.
To contact Lifestyles Editor Ashley Barrientos, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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