“Coming 2 America” is less than a month away from its premiere date, and fans have been excited to see the return of some familiar faces, including lead star Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. Also making a comeback is actress Vanessa Bell Calloway.
Calloway played Iman Izzi’s role in the 1988 classic, the woman initially set to marry Murphy’s Prince Akeem character. However, what fans may not have known is that the now-63-year-old actress had initially auditioned for the lead female role of Lisa McDowell, played by actress Shari Headley.
During an interview with Page Six, Calloway opened up about that experience and explained how she believed her skin tone played a significant role in her not getting the part in the flagship film.
“When you have white people hiring Black people in movies, sometimes a certain look is wanted,” the “Biker Boyz” star told the publication. Calloway says she felt as though the film’s team “wanted a light-skinned girl.” “I just wasn’t light enough, even though Eddie had the final say on who played Lisa,” she expressed.
“I didn’t want the part of Imani. I wanted to be Lisa — I had read the script, and I wanted the bigger role,” she said. Calloway claimed that production told her she would be great for the role of Imani and asked her to read for the part, and at that moment, she knew for sure was would not receive the role as Lisa.
She continued, “So I went outside in the hallway, looked over the part with five minutes of preparation, went back in, and did the best I could.”
Despite not getting the role she wanted, the actress said she was happy to have even gotten the opportunity to work on a project with the legendary comedian. “The real deal is, when you’re in a situation like that, you wanna be a part of an Eddie Murphy movie. I wasn’t gonna say no! I would’ve loved to have had the lead part, but I was very happy to be in the movie,” the actress explained. She added, “I can’t lie about that. I said, ‘I’ll make the best out of this, and I’ll be the best.’ It was a smaller role, but it was a glamorous part to play. And Shari did a great job.”
As mentioned earlier, Calloway will appear in the film’s sequel slated to premiere on Amazon Prime on March 5.