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Actress Jennifer Sears says ‘Coming 2 America’ is the laughter the country needs

Sears spoke about filming the sequel with her childhood idols Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy

As a girl, Jennifer Sears was mesmerized while watching Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall transform into multiple characters in the classic film Coming to America. She vowed to one day see her name in credits.

While her mom may not have understood her quest to make it to the big screen, she knew that life affords most a choice. Either go down a road that’s sure to be met with success, such as becoming a lawyer (she almost did that), or travel down a path with a lesser chance at glory, like pursuing acting. She took her chance on stardom.

Now, she can be seen in the role of Tara James on OWN’s Greenleaf series about a group of flawed individuals who lead a megachurch in Memphis, Tennessee, where her character runs the mission church on the show. The season finale premiered in June and is now available on Netflix.

Recently, Sears, 38, has landed a role in the Coming to America sequel, Coming 2 America, which will be released on Dec. 18.

“I’m sharing a scene with Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy. The two people who set my acting career in place at 6 years old,” she said. “To this day, it’s still my favorite movie, I can literally quote every line, I’m not just joking.”

The Undefeated spoke with her about life on the set of Coming 2 America, how comedian-actor Tracy Morgan inspired her to always keep a positive outlook and what she describes as the best form of protesting.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The star power in Coming 2 America is incredible. What was life like on set?

Hysterical. There was not a moment where we all weren’t laughing. It was like a comedic cipher where each of the comedians are trying to make the other laugh. And I was just happy to be a part of it. I didn’t have a joke to lend. I was just taking it in.

Coming 2 America will be a comic relief for many people.

I think the movie is going to be the laughter that not just the country, but the world needs. To work with Tracy Morgan, who after that horrific accident, said, ‘I have a second chance at life.’ He almost died and every day on set he’s like, ‘We’re celebrating life.’ He was constantly saying, ‘I’m sunshine, I’m bringing the sunshine.’ And, he really did, because I remember there were some mornings when we all had our coffee trying to wake up at 7:30, and here comes Tracy with his boom box and he comes in dancing. And I feel like we can take a page out of his book, even with COVID-19, even with the racial injustices that are happening in the police brutality.

We should all be more grateful for life even during tough times.

Just being happy is protesting. You’re not going to steal my joy. You’re not going to steal my smile. You’re not going to steal my laughter. And I think that’s what Coming 2 America is showing the world. This has been a very challenging year, but we don’t have to let it steal our joy.

Rachel Smith is a storyteller, producer and host. Her head is in the game and her heart is in the fight. Like Muhammad Ali said, “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”