Will Smith’s portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’ father, Richard, in the recently-released film King Richard has stunned audiences around the globe. Fans and critics alike have praised Smith for his performance, with some even throwing their weight behind him for the Best Actor award at the Oscars.
During a recent interview with Variety, Will Smith and some of the other key actors in the film came together to shed light on their roles and preparation. Smith, in particular, revealed that before reading the script he did not know much about Serena Williams’ father outside of the general perception of the individual.
Richard Williams has publicly been renowned for being a very stubborn and determined individual, much like he appears in the film. Will Smith went on to admit he found similarities between his own father and Richard.
“I knew only the public vilification; the Richard Williams antics that were captured over the years,” Will Smith said. “And I agreed with Richard most of the time — especially once I had children of my own. And Richard Williams is very similar to my father. So I knew about the public persona.”
However, being the seasoned actor he is, Will Smith asserted that he knew that Richard Williams had more layers to his character than what the media portrayed. Smith also reckons that the script did complete justice to Serena Williams’ father as well as to the entire family dynamics.
“But I always had a sense that something else was going on there,” Smith said. “And when I read Zach Baylin’s screenplay, which was as good a screenplay as you ever hoped to read, I was very excited about the possibility of being able to dive into the mind of Richard Williams and the inner workings of the familial relationships.”
“Venus and Serena Williams really inspired me when I was little” – Saniyya Sidney
During the interview, Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, who have played the roles of Venus and Serena respectively, were asked about how much they knew about the two stars prior to shooting the film.
“I’m kind of similar to what to what Mr. Will said, I knew what was in the media — that they were tennis icons and that people thought he was crazy,” Demi Singleton said. “That was really it.”
Saniyya Sidney, on her part, revealed that Venus and Serena Williams have been tremendous role models for her since she grew up in a “big sports family.”
“My family’s a big sports family, so Venus and Serena really inspired me when I was little,” Sidney said. “They were my childhood heroes.”
However, Sidney admitted that she did not know much about the off-court lives and upbringing of Venus and Serena Williams. She further said that she grew closer to Venus Williams during the audition and was amazed by the American’s personality, which made her determined to bag the role of the older Williams sister.
“But I only knew them as champions, I didn’t really know their story,” she said. “When I got the opportunity to audition, I was looking so forward to it. And during that process I got to know Venus as a person. She’s a champion, but she’s also a beautiful young woman with a beautiful family. Learning more and more, I wanted the role so bad. I wanted to tell this story.”