The cast of King Richard shared their experiences of starring in a film based on the untold and true story of Venus and Serena Williams’ journey to sporting success – during the Warner Bros. virtual press conference.
The conference was moderated by Jacqueline Coley, a film critic and editor at Rotten Tomatoes, and transmitted live from the tennis courts of the Warner Bros.
Coley introduced herself and the cast, which included Venus and Serena Williams, Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal, Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney. Also in attendance were writer Zach Baylin, producers Tim and Trevor White, producer Isha Price and director Reinaldo Marcus Green.
Will Smith, who plays the eponymous lead in the sports biopic shared insights from early meetings with the Williams family — which enabled him to craft his character with authenticity.
“One of the first things that was interesting in our first meeting, we sat down and Venus said, ‘It’s almost like they brainwashed us, our punishment was that we couldn’t play tennis’ because they never had to push. It was a like a Jedi mind trick that it wasn’t the standard thing that you see of a parent pushing and driving a child,” said smith.
He continued, “There was that, but it was augmenting and throwing fuel on a fire that they had. There was a fire coming from inside Venus and Serena, and for me as an actor, when I take a role, I’m taking it to explore something, I’m taking it to learn something. That was a new parenting idea for me of aligning with your children versus directing your children.
As personal takeaway, the actor also revealed how Richard Williams’ parenting style inspired an “eye-opening” approach for him as a father.
“It was a very, very different concept and approach that was magical in the Williams family. The rules were set, but the rules that were established were divine rules. Faith was at the centre and then it was a collective journey that we were going on.
“It wasn’t that as a parent, ‘I know and you don’t, so you’re gonna do what I say because I’m right and you’re little’. It was a very different approach that was somewhat eye-opening for me. My father was military so it was very different,” Smith said.
She continued, “It really is super surreal for me and then to have Will play this role as my father and the way he embodied Richard Williams, it took the film to a whole other level. It’s so emotional, it’s well done and it’s a brilliant piece of work.”
Venus Williams added: “I think it’s super emotional and I’ve seen the trailer and I read the script and every time I watch it, my eyes are just watering. It’s amazing to see the family atmosphere on the set and how much Demi and Saniyya really acted like Serena and I, even when the cameras weren’t rolling like holding hands and it was so sweet.
“I’m just really proud of what everyone has accomplished, it’s pretty surreal to be honest, and they really understand our family and portrayed us in a way that was really us,” she concluded.
What makes the film unique according to producer Isha Price, sibling of Venus and Serena Williams, is the specificity and the attention to detail from all the actors and filmmakers involved on set. Price felt she had a responsibility to her family to make sure the story was told right.
King Richard is in UK cinemas from 19 November, 2021.