Her role as a rose bearer in the original Coming to America may have been her breakout, but Garcelle Beauvais said working on the sequel didn’t feel like a job. “I think everybody was happy to be there,” the actress said. “It felt like it’s summer vacation. We’re coming back to summer camp.” Beauvais certainly hasn’t taken a break since her role in the original film, starring in Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Jamie Foxx Show, picking up a role on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, hosting her podcast Going to Bed With Garcelle and parenting three sons in the interim years. The actress and newly minted reality-TV sensation recently sat down with Vulture to discuss coming back to Coming to America, her tenure on Beverly Hills, and why her friendship with Kyle Richards has changed — for the better.
How did you first learn about Coming 2 America?
I had heard rumblings that there was going to be a sequel, but nothing sounded definite, and I thought, I wonder? Is it possible? Who would have thought? And then as time went on, I heard more and more about it, and then my thoughts of, Are they really doing it? turned to, I better be in it! So when my manager called me and said that obviously they want the original cast to come back in some capacity, I was like, “Absolutely, I would love to.” Then they sent me the script, and the very first page said, “A drone goes over Zamunda. You see the land, and the first person you see is the Empress Princess,” and they wrote, “like Garcelle Beauvais.” And I thought, Like Garcelle? Like, I’m here! Hire me!
How did it feel to return to the role?
I’m happy that I didn’t have a crop top now, 30 years later. But it was really amazing. I mean, no one would have thought when we did the original. I was so new to the industry. No one knew, first of all, that the movie was going to become such an iconic, nostalgic movie, and then for us to come back was really something special.
How was working with the cast again?
It was great. We all gave each other hugs, and we’re happy to see each other and I got Housewives questions, like, “What’s it like?” And I’m like, “Oh my God, this is so weird.” It was just really nice. When we had the big scenes of everybody together for the funeral, you couldn’t believe it. It was like a “pinch me” moment.
Why do you think it was important to revisit this story now?
I think now it just made sense. Eddie and Arsenio felt like there was a story to tell. It really happened at the right time, which is why I also think it’s doing really well, is that this is a time where we needed a story for us, by us, that had nostalgia, that you can watch together as a family. So many times when we put movies out or there’s movies about us, they tend to be heavy and victimizing and politically charged or making a message, and I feel like this movie is pure entertainment, fun, nostalgic. You can watch it with your kids, you can watch it with your friends. And it’s just that. And to me, that’s why I think it’s doing so well and I think that the timing is perfect.
Is there any Housewife you’d like to make a movie with one day?
I would love to do a Thelma & Louise with Sutton [Stracke] anytime, anyday.
I think we are both very kooky and fun. We get each other, and I think that would be a really great slapstick heist.
How has it been to film your second season on Real Housewives?
Much better in the sense of I could be around more, because obviously with COVID, no one’s really traveling. So that was really good in terms of being able to make the trips and go to the dinners. We really pivoted as much as we could in terms of shooting during a pandemic. Obviously, we shut down twice — one because the numbers were too high, and then two, three people caught it. This is the time that we’re in. I spent Thanksgiving by myself because I had to quarantine, my birthday by myself because I had to quarantine. But it’s just the sign of everybody was doing the best they could.
How was filming with new cast member Crystal Kung Minkoff and new friend Kathy Hilton?
Oh my God, I am obsessed with Kathy Hilton. She is so much fun. Obviously, being in Beverly Hills, we would see each other at events and dinners, and I would see her and we’d be in the same room. We’d say hello, but keep it moving, so I never really got to know her like I have now that she’s a friend, and she’s awesome. She’s a prankster. She’s sort of like the mother to us all, especially when things are going haywire. She tries to bring us back, and she’s just really funny. One crazy story: She came to me in my room when we were in Tahoe. It was late at night, and she goes, “I just want to tell you, I have a feeling about you. I have a feeling like you’re going to do amazing things. Keep your head up and do your stuff, and you’re going to be great.” And I guess she went and reiterated the same thing she told me to Kyle [Richards], and Kyle goes, “You’re not a swami, Kathy. Garcelle is already doing amazing things.” But she’s just so sweet and so fun, and we’ve become friends off the show, which is really lovely.
On Watch What Happens Live, you said your relationship with Kyle has gotten better this season. How did that happen?
I think what changed is sometimes you have to have the conversations that are tough. If you turn on any news, any talk show, anything right now, all of them have talked about race issues. I think whenever you have those difficult conversations, it can either go one of two ways: It can either go that relationship is severed and you both don’t get each other, or you were able to get past it and actually have a deeper conversation and maybe something important came out of it.
So did you and Kyle have a conversation about race and racism in America?
Oh, yeah. I don’t know how much I can say, but I think her calling me out for not paying for the charity [on the season ten reunion] was definitely something that she weaponized. We can watch it on the show — I’m not allowed to really talk about it. But it was along the lines of certain things you say to people, and that was just a low blow.
Has your life changed since you became a Housewife?
No! You know what’s so funny? I say no, because I did Housewives and it came out, and then we were in quarantine where we’re wearing masks. So it’s really funny, every now and then if I go — like my son, I had to drop off my son to play basketball just to get him out of the house. We got him a coach, one-on-one coaching with him. So I dropped him off, and it was an hour and 15 minutes, and I was like, Where can I go? What time can I kill? And I knew there was a Marshalls/HomeGoods, and I go, Oh, I’m gonna go there. I have my mask on, so no one will know it’s me in there. So I go in there, and I think I say something to the salesperson like, “Oh, do you have any more of these candles?” And these two women whipped around. They’re like, “Oh my God, you’re our favorite.” I’m like, “I gotta get out of here. I cannot be at HomeGoods/Marshalls right now.”
I said to friends, “Obviously, I’ve been in the industry a long time. I’ve done some incredible things here and there and worked with incredible people, and I’ve never gotten more attention than the announcement that I was joining Beverly Hills.” Like by far, nothing I’ve done has surpassed that. It’s amazing.