Lynn Whitfield, best known for her sizzling, Emmy-winning performance in The Josephine Baker Story, had a rude awakening when she took on the role of Chris Rock's political adviser in Head of State. As a stern Washington insider, she had to dress matronly and act painfully restrained in the face of Rock's hilarity.
"I believe they saw the character of Debra Lassiter to be rather large and oratorical," the 49-year-old actress tells TV Guide Online. "[But] I saw her as a dominatrix! Politics were her paddle, and she was going to spank everybody into shape, and then they'd be happy. [Rock] didn't want all of my vision, but it got me the gig!"
To her surprise, the part came with an unconventional order from first-time director Rock. "I told the costumer that I was going to lose about 10 pounds before filming," she recounts. "The next morning I got a call, and the voice said, 'Mr. Rock here. Don't lose a pound. Don't look at a treadmill. Don't you dare.'"
Asked if her character is inspired by one of the most powerful, conservative African-American women in politics, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Whitfield demurs: "I don't have on my bulletproof vest, so I'm not at liberty to say," jokes the democrat. "I'm very proud that [Rice] is such a bright woman. I wish she was on my team."
Instead of going off on a tangent about her "team," though, Whitfield lets State's underlying message speak for her: "What's great about this movie is that while we and this country are now looking at foreign policy stuff, [State] just kind of reminds you of the domestic issues we have." How very diplomatic.