Jabba’s Movies: Will Smith helps bring to life the untold story of Venus and Serena Williams in ‘King Richard’
It’s being hailed as one of the greatest performances of Will Smith’s three-decade long career
With a Golden Globe already under his belt, he may finally take home an Oscar for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the maverick coach and father to tennis champions Venus and Serena.
Jabba chats to the stars of King Richard in the video above
For Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, who play the up and coming tennis stars in King Richard, working with Will was quite a surreal experience.
“It’s kinda weird,” says Sidney. “We watched him all our lives and then just to go to set and be able to know him as Will … as a person, it was definitely surreal for us, but we love him so much.”
Never say no
As for the most remarkable aspect of this incredible true story, Demi says: “Despite all the negativity they’ve faced and what they went through, they (Venus and Serena) still managed to be the best at what they do – they just kept pushing and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“You saw in the film how many times Richard would go up to a coach and they would just completely shut it down and say, ‘no, this is impossible’.
“But Mr Richard, Serena and Venus, they didn’t let that stop them … they kept going, which is something that really inspires me.”
Saniyya adds: “I think something that’s also remarkable and inspiring is just how humble they stayed at such a young age.”
“I think it’s so incredible that they had a father to make sure that he could remind them just how beautiful and smart and strong and confident they were.
“I feel like a lot of young girls need that type of support system, because once someone else believes in you, you can also believe in yourself,” she says.
A mother’s love
While the focus of the film is on the dedication and persistence of Richard Williams, the film also touches on the pivotal role played by the girls’ mum, Oracene “Brandy” Price, played by Aunjanue Ellis.
“People don’t know that she was their coach and, at the same time, she was their seamstress, their cook, she was all of these things,” Ellis says.
“She couldn’t compartmentalise the role that she had in their lives.
“She was everything and at the same time, a co-conspirator in this crazy dream that they had, and what’s great about this and what I love.
“Hopefully what other women will see is that, of course she was extraordinary, but this kind of warrior woman, mother type stuff is not rare. It happens all the time. We just don’t see it, so I’m glad we’re showing it.”
An untold story
For Tony Goldwyn, who portrays one of the girls’ early coaches Paul Cohen, the film opened his eyes to the origin behind the legends.
“I didn’t know the whole story of Richard Williams,” Goldwyn says.
“I knew that their dad was involved in their career, but when I read this script and learned this story about how Richard had seen a tennis match on television, was not a tennis player, himself knew nothing about the game, but just said, ‘that’s what we’re going to do’.
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“Before they were born, (he said) ‘we’re going to have two girls and they’re going to become No.1 and No.2 in the world, and we’re going in this all white sport … we’re going to do this’.
“He wrote an 80-page manifesto detailing the plan – if you’d told me that I wouldn’t have believed it.”
With awards season buzz and critical acclaim surrounding the film, Goldwyn says it was an honour to be part of the project.
“It’s emotionally honest and it’s about family and it celebrates the power of family love to overcome absolutely insurmountable obstacles.”
King Richard is in cinemas now.
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