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HEAD OF STATE

About The Production
Chris Rock may never want to run for President, but the concept for a movie about an idealistic African-American who makes a run for the White House is something he's been thinking about for years. "I've been thinking about doing this movie for a long time; it's been kicking around in my head for years. We've all seen movies with a Black President or Vice President, and I've even received movie scripts where a Black guy is President, but the premise was always ‘Black President.' I didn't want to make a Black President movie; I wanted to make a movie where a Black guy just happens to be running for President."

To write the screenplay, Rock once again teamed with his longtime collaborator Ali LeRoi, with whom he most recently wrote the comedy "Down to Earth." Rock and LeRoi decided they needed the right ambiance to work on the screenplay, so they temporarily left their homes in New York in favor of the political climate of Washington, D.C. With the monuments to our founding fathers as their backdrop, and with the Washington Post at their door instead of the New York Times, they wrote "Head of State."

"Ali and I sat down and created a scenario where a young, Black guy would get to run for President," Rock says. "It's a film about the little man running for President—just the lowest guy you could imagine getting a shot at the biggest title in the world. It's kind of like ‘Rocky,' but in the political arena instead of the boxing arena."

Rock continues, "The opportunity comes because the party's first nominee unexpectedly dies, but the party knew they were going to lose anyway, so all the good candidates won't run. They end up choosing Mays Gilliam, an Alderman from D.C., as a patsy…to be their sacrificial lamb to set up the party for the next election. But Mays believes he has a shot because, you know, he's in the ring. He says, ‘Why do I have to be the guy who takes a fall?' He knows the odds are against him, but as long as he's still standing, he's got a chance to win. At the same time, he's got nothing to lose because he's not a politician; he's not constricted in the way other politicians are. His campaign style is that he tells the truth, which I think is rare in politics today."

Ali LeRoi, who also produced "Head of State" with Michael Rotenberg, admits that it wasn't a stretch to find the right man to play Mays Gilliam. "It was pretty simple. Chris Rock would play a role where he gets to stand up and say irreverent things. That's his go-to move. We were really trying to take advantage of what his comedy is: He's not politically correct, he is irreverent… He is all of those things. Why not craft a role that's tailored for him to go out and do what he's best at?"

In addition to co-writing and starring in the film, Chris Rock also chose "Head of State" as the film on which to make his directorial debut. He is quick to note that his first directing effort was helped enormously by those working with him on both sides of the camera. "You hire good people and just let them do their jobs, and if you see something going wrong, that's when you step in," Rock offers. "There's no need to constantly be saying, ‘Do it this way, do it that way…' Sometimes it's better to wait and see what they have in mind—especially with the actors. I mean, most of them have been doing it a lot longer and are far more accomplished actors than me."

Every Presidential candidate needs to choose a running mate, but in a unique move, Mays Gilliam decides to keep it in the family and go with

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