Serena Williams and her family’s story of how an impassioned father helped mold his daughters into the world’s greatest tennis players is nearing its November release.
The story, told in a feature-length film format titled “King Richard,” recounts several of the fundamental moments of Venus and Serena’s childhood while in pursuit of greatness under the guidance of their father Richard Williams. The movie stars Will Smith as the titular character.
A bit of controversy was stirred in August when the film’s poster was first shared to social media. Actress-comedian Amanda Seales caught flak when she questioned why Smith was cast as Richard, as well as why the film told Venus and Serena’s story through their father’s eyes.
“There are so many ways to tell this story,” noted Serena in the December edition of Entertainment Weekly. “But I think telling it through my dad was the best way because he had the idea. He knew how to do it.”
The 23-time Grand Slam winner has long stated that her father was ahead of his time when it came to training her and Venus. By centering the sisters around Richard’s influence she believes the audience will see that too.
“I guess the in through Richard appealed to me, because it’s the only way I could be involved,” said Smith. When it came to portraying the Williams patriarch he felt a sense of familiarity.
“He reminds me a lot of my father,” explained Smith. “It was that same generation — men that used to fix everything with their hands. I understood what it was like to live at the edge of survival and to try to sustain a dream.”
Though that sense of familiarity is not the only through line Smith noticed in Richard. The former “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” also saw himself in the father who was unwavering in helping his daughters become the epitome of greatness on any tennis court.
“After my children were born, [I had] that same thing of trying to cultivate young, contributing humans,” he said. Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith have long been criticized for not inhibiting their children, Jaden and Willow, from realizing their professional aspirations at a young age.
But for Smith, after trying to mold his daughter into a Billboard-charting artist following the success of her debut single “Whip My Hair,” he realized there was only so much pushing he could do.
“Willow showed me the difference between how you would go at a boy and how you would go at a young woman going into the world of competition,” he explained. Without that insight he’s certain he would not have been able to portray Richard to his fullest extent.
“‘King Richard’ was just uniquely timed in my life. There was a comprehension of all of the different angles that I have now over 50, that I wouldn’t have been able to even conceive at 40,” Smith added.