Nomzamo Mbatha | A conversation on 'Coming 2 America' and being the new kid in town

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ICEBERG coat and jacket and SISTER LOVE earrings. ![ICEBERG coat and jacket and SISTER LOVE earrings.](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472d33dae0ca9f416eac69b_Flaunt-Nomzamo-Mbatha-9.jpeg) **ICEBERG** coat and jacket and **SISTER LOVE** earrings. Nomzamo Mbatha's story echoes her first breakout role as an actress in a feature film. The South African native makes her American film debut in _Coming 2 America_, the highly anticipated sequel to the original that premiered in 1988. Mbatha stars as the new love interest and royal barber Mirembe alongside familiar faces like Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, and many others. While this is her first role in a feature length film, Mbatha is no stranger to the grind that comes with being an actor. After graduating college, Mbatha starred in _Isibaya_, a South African daily drama series, as well becoming the first South African ambassador to represent Neutrogena. Not only does Mbatha have a background in acting, she is also a human rights activist, having been appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2019. Nomzamo sat down with _Flaunt_ to discuss what it’s like being the new kid in town, staying true to yourself, and being an Awkwafina stan. GUCCI dress, hat, belt, earrings, and bracelets. ![GUCCI dress, hat, belt, earrings, and bracelets.](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472d33eae0ca9f416eac6b9_Flaunt-Nomzamo-Mbatha-6.jpeg) **GUCCI** dress, hat, belt, earrings, and bracelets. MCM coat, top, pants, scarf, and bag, SAM EDELMAN shoes, and SISTER LOVE earrings. ![MCM coat, top, pants, scarf, and bag, SAM EDELMAN shoes, and SISTER LOVE earrings.](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472d33dae0ca9f416eac596_Flaunt-Nomzamo-Mbatha-1.jpeg) **MCM** coat, top, pants, scarf, and bag, **SAM EDELMAN** shoes, and **SISTER LOVE** earrings. **What does it feel like to be a part of the sequel to such a beloved cult classic?** Such a great feeling, such a great feeling. I think for a very long time there were, almost the jitters, the butterflies in your tummy, the nerves of, ‘Are people going to like it?’ This means a lot to everybody. People kept saying, ‘Don’t mess it up,’ and obviously, you don’t want to mess it up. And then there is the excitement of the promise of a new day, the promise of a new thing, and being a part of something this big that takes a lot of bravery. It takes a lot of bravery to be a part of something this big. It’s like entering the arena and saying, ‘Let’s go.’ **Did you have any hesitation before accepting this role?** Not that hesitations were necessarily the thing, but I guess it was the interrogation of moving into space and getting into space. How do you add the meat? How do you add the depth? How do you fit in? That’s what it was for me, especially because I am a newcomer in this space. I knew that I was going to be surrounded by heavyweights, you know, Hollywood royalty, people who have been here, people who people want to see. It’s cute that they are going to have a love story. It’s cute that they are going to have a new face, but we want to see Eddie, we want to see Arsenio. So, obviously, you are walking into that space feeling that pressure, but also knowing that, for me at least, I always think fear is inevitable, number one, but you either use it to fuel yourself, or it is going to be your downfall. So I just used it to fuel me. **Can you describe your character Mirembe?** She’s witty, she’s smart, she is charming. She is also very rooted in who she is—very unshaken. She offers a different vibration in Zamunda. With the original film, the only reference we got as a Zamundan woman was literally the queen who was played by the late Ms. Sinclair, and I guess because the film was more focused on Queens New York, that is the cultural experiences we got, but I guess for this one, the film is more in Zamunda. So for me it was like, ‘How do I add that African flare?’ The nuances that I am going to be able to bring forth will breathe life into this Zamundan woman. The thing about _Coming to America_, the original, left a curiosity about the world of Zamunda, a huge curiosity. So it was like how do we breathe life into it, how do we reintroduce it in a more robust way and I guess that is who she is. She is a barber. She is not a rose petal bearer, she is not cleaning the palace. Being a female barber, she challenges those pre-existing systems. She is also really passionate about what she does. She wants to have her own barbershop one day, so there is that entrepreneurial flair and entrepreneurial spirit that we get to be introduced to with this character, and I guess that’s where people get lured into it with her. GUCCI dress, hat, belt, earrings, and bracelets and INES X CINER rings. ![GUCCI dress, hat, belt, earrings, and bracelets and INES X CINER rings.](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472d33dae0ca9f416eac69f_Flaunt-Nomzamo-Mbatha-11.jpeg) **GUCCI** dress, hat, belt, earrings, and bracelets and **INES X CINER** rings. CHANEL jacket, bodysuit, earrings, and bracelets. ![CHANEL jacket, bodysuit, earrings, and bracelets.](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472d33dae0ca9f416eac6a2_Flaunt-Nomzamo-Mbatha-12.jpeg) **CHANEL** jacket, bodysuit, earrings, and bracelets. **Were you intimated to be sharing scenes with comedy legends Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall?** Definitely intimidated. Just an out-of-body experience. This is Hollywood royalty. These actors and performers shifted a whole narrative and moved a new narrative in Hollywood at a time when you know it wasn’t a thing. It definitely was a daunting task. I remember Jermaine would nudge me, and I would nudge him if he saw me getting into my head and I would see him getting into his head. He would have these weird moments of getting quiet, and then you would just hear him sigh ‘man.’ I knew what that meant so I would nudge him and he would look at me, ‘Nomzamo we are doing this,’ to which I would say, ‘Yeah. We’re doing it.’ **What does it feel like to be an African and be a part of only a handful of films that depict Africans and African culture as royalty rather than savages?** I guess that is what the original film did, you know? It challenged that narrative of Africans being savages. That narrow, one-dimensional view and gave a hyper imaginative experience of it. You watch _Black Panther_, people don’t fly, right? It is a superhero movie. So we watch _Coming to America_, African people are not always in regalia, there are not palaces all over the continent, but there are some royal families that exist in Africa. So it is really just about the hyper imagination aspect of it, and I think that one can be able to enjoy it. ICEBERG coat, jacket, and skirt and SISTER LOVE earrings. ![ICEBERG coat, jacket, and skirt and SISTER LOVE earrings.](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472d33eae0ca9f416eac6b4_Flaunt-Nomzamo-Mbatha-8.jpeg) **ICEBERG** coat, jacket, and skirt and **SISTER LOVE** earrings. **Did you get any advice from any of your well-season cast mates?** Yes, and I am so glad it was by this angel on earth who somebody said, ‘Shari Headley has not aged a day, and that is what happens when you are a good human being.’ Her beauty is really skin deep, her light just illuminates. I remember this one time she pulled me aside on set, I don’t know how she could tell that I was going through something because I thought I was fine, but I was riddled with imposter syndrome. Just feeling like: maybe I do not deserve to be here, other girls deserve this, they have been in Hollywood trying really hard to break out, and here I am. I remember she just pulled me to the side, I had never said anything about it, and she put her hands on my shoulders and looked at me intently, and said ‘I want you to know that you deserve this, this moment belongs to you. It is yours. I have been where you are, Nomzamo, and I want you to know that you deserve this. Don’t doubt yourself, stop playing small.’ And I remember just bawling my eyes out. We were on set, so I was trying to not make other people see that I am crying, and I am in the corner just crying. Then she starts tearing up and goes ‘I just want you to know I see you, I see you, stop playing small, okay?’ I think that is what I will take with me in Hollywood. That is one thing I’ve learned a lot about Hollywood, or I suppose the Americans in general, is that you do a very great thing of being confident. Very, very confident and very self-assured. There is no room for doubt. It’s like whether you are a four out of ten or a ten out of ten. I am it, this is what you are looking for, I have it. I am learning. **Is there any advice you’d give to other up-and-coming actors?** I would say whether they are far or even here, we all motivate each other. We’re all trying to make it and trying to get more gigs and trying to get jobs. I would probably say: keep that thing that makes you you. That is the thing that sets you apart. Don’t try and change it, don’t think you need to get rid of it to try and be malleable to what you see and think is accepted. I look at a person like Awkwafina. She is my inspiration, she is such a boss chick, and she is where she is because she is herself. Her dry humor, her voice, her awkwardness—that is what make us love Awkwafina and fangirl over her. So it really is the texture and the essence of who you are and that thing that sets you apart from everyone else. Just continue to harness it and continue to move in it. * * * _Coming 2 America_ is out now! Photographed by [SHARUM+ARI](https://www.instagram.com/sharum_ari/?hl=en) at [Art Department](https://www.instagram.com/artdeptagency/?hl=en) Stylist: [Harrison T. Crite](https://www.instagram.com/iamhdiddy/?hl=en) Hair: [Donte C. Smith](https://www.hairbydontesmith.com/) Makeup: [Tara Lauren](https://www.instagram.com/taralauren/?hl=en) using [MAC Cosmetics](https://www.maccosmetics.com/)