If you think a guy who catches an umbrella from NBA star Chris Paul in the newest State Farm commercial looks familiar — well, he should.
It’s Dan Combs, who has been a State Farm insurance agent in Dalton for nearly 40 years.
The commercial, which first aired Christmas Day, features Paul and his fake twin “Cliff Paul” as well as Paul’s son “Lil Chris.” The commercial answers the question, “Where does the assist come from?”
According to the commercial, in the 1920s, Paul’s ancestor “Clifford Paul Sr. Sr. Sr.,” proprietor of Clifford & Sons General Store, inspired the new insurance company to be there for customers “like a good neighbor” by tossing an umbrella to State Farm employees, one of whom is portrayed by Combs, as a rainstorm begins.
Then “Christopher Paul Sr. Sr. Sr.,” the brother of “Clifford Paul Sr. Sr. Sr.,” becomes the first basketball player to make an assist, a pass that leads to a basket by another player. Chris Paul is a point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers.
“(Basketball) is not normally something I would spend a lot of time watching, but I watched a lot of basketball on Christmas so I could watch for my ad,” Combs said. “I like it. It’s not the typical agent-involved commercial, not the ‘Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there’ and an agent pops up.”
Combs said he was contacted by officials with State Farm about six months ago asking him to do a screen test for an advertisement in the Atlanta area. The ad he did the screen test for was one featuring Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, and the “discount double check.”
“I left there thinking, ‘Well, that will be the end of that,’” Combs said.
But a few months later, Combs received an email from an ad agency asking him to fly out to Santa Monica, Calif., for filming.
“I said, ‘Wow!’ I got on a plane and went out there,” he said. “It was a great experience.”
Combs said he stayed in Santa Monica three days for filming.
“It was truly impressive,” he said. “I had co-directors. ... They did a great job. I was very impressed at how organized, systematic and professional the shooting was.
“If you ever have an opportunity to participate in that level of videoing or producing, it was such a neat experience to see how it actually works. It’s similar to how it’s portrayed.”
Combs was given a room at a nice hotel and a car picked him up each day to take him to the desert where the set was. He and Paul were the only two in the commercial who were not professional actors.
“I got my own trailer with my name on it,” he said. “I get in my trailer, I’ve got music and all kinds of things.”
The first day was dedicated to finding the right outfit and making sure everything was from the 1920s. The next day Combs spent about two hours in makeup and then he was taken to wardrobe to get ready for the shoot.
“Then I wait and I wait and I wait,” Combs said. “We start shooting the scene. Chris Paul was the assist.”
Though he caught the umbrella from Paul the first time, the scene was shot and re-shot numerous times with different umbrellas and different tosses.
“The (take) they used, they said they weren’t going to use,” Combs said. “The umbrella almost stabs the actress beside me. I caught it just before it hits her.”
Shortly after Combs catches the umbrella, it begins to rain. The rain was created in studio, not added later in post-production.
“Between each shoot, they had to dry everything off,” he said.
Though Combs doesn’t follow professional basketball, he said it was good to meet Paul, his son and wife.
“He was a really super humble guy,” he said. “I talked to Chris a little bit on set because we were working on that umbrella thing. He has a lot of humility, and it was great getting to meet such an all-star.”
Combs said he will shoot another commercial if he’s ever asked to again.
“It was exactly what I would imagine it might be if you’re talking about shooting a film,” he said. “I didn’t anticipate all that for that little commercial. It was cool, a lot of fun.”