What is it like to be the offspring of one of the funniest comedians to ever do it? For Bella Murphy, youngest child of Eddie Murphy and Nicole Murphy, it’s not as unusual or even as colorful as some may assume. If you thought it might be like getting a front-row seat every day to Raw or Delirious, his classic stand-ups, you’d be shocked to learn that it was more of a laid-back experience.
“For me, they’re just my parents, so it’s normal,” says the 19-year-old to MadameNoire. “That’s just mom. That’s just dad. Just cool, normal family you know?”
There were plenty of laughs, though.
“I would say my dad’s still pretty funny,” she says. “He’s always funny. That’s just a part of his personality, so just lots of jokes being cracked all of the time. It’s normal for me.”
There were also plenty of rules, too. One of them was that the Murphy kids weren’t allowed to try to work in the industry until they were 18. Eddie and Nicole felt that it could be a lot on a kid at a young age, which made sense (and there are enough Hollywood horror stories to affirm the need for such protections). However, that was an annoyance to Bella, who had been bit with the acting bug as a young girl. She watched her favorite films by her father, Beverly Hills Cop and Shrek, and felt destined to be in movies, too.
“I used to always ask, ‘Can I be in this one?’ He’s like, ‘Bella you have to be 18.’ I was like, ‘I know but like…please!?” she recalls, laughing. “I would always ask, ‘Can I please be an extra?’ I just love acting so it’s really fun for me. Even being an extra is awesome to me.”
When she was just shy of 18, Bella was able to break the rule as her father’s Coming to America sequel, Coming 2 America, was in development. She’d first seen the film when she was 10 and found it to be “very funny” and wanted in. So she made her usual request to be an extra. To her surprise, her father had more in mind for her talents.
“I’d been doing acting classes outside and I’d been doing a bunch of scenes with him. I guess he just saw that I was was really serious about it and how passionate I was,” she says. “He told me if I wanted to I could audition for the role of the princess. I did because I wanted to really bad [laughs]. He helped me a bunch with it and it was really cool.”
Bella plays Omma, one of the three princesses, daughters of Eddie’s character of Prince/King Akeem.
“She’s studious and smart and she gets to beat up a couple people, which I had a lot of fun with, as mean as that sounds,” she jokes. “No one actually got hurt so it was actually fun. It’s really cool to be able to play a character like that. To be able to play a princess, that is such an empowering role for women, especially Black women.”
Committed to the role, she stepped away from in-person learning during her senior year of high school to work on the film. She also worked with a stunt double for fight scenes (“I’m not athletic”) and went all out to learn the fictional Zamundan accent.
“When I got the role I kind of panicked for a little bit,” she said of having to put on an African-inspired accent. “But then I checked in with myself and was like, ok, you can do this. I think I watched Black Panther so many times…I watched the original Coming to America. I started listening to African speakers speak on YouTube.”
The end result, she’s proud of. In fact, the entire project, her first movie role, she’s over the moon about.
“Now I just want it to come out. I’m just really excited for everyone to see it,” she says. “I feel really good about the work that I did and that everyone did. Everyone did so amazing. People are not ready for this and I’m just excited to see everyone’s reactions.”
This is just the beginning for Bella, who joked that she has “lots of plans” to make up for the years she had to wait until she was an adult to act. She plans to continue in comedy but also try her hand at drama, and she already has screenwriting experience from coming up with concepts alongside her older sister Zola. But in the meantime, she’s just reveling in the excitement of her debut, having upgraded her extra dreams into an important role in a highly anticipated film alongside her father. Nothing can currently take her off of Cloud 9, not even the expectations for Coming 2 America from the many fans of the original.
“I feel like people are going to say what they’re going to say,” Bella says. “Can’t really control it. But as long as we’re all very proud of how it came out and feel good about the work that we did, that’s all that really matters.”
Coming 2 America is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video.