Writer’s note: I recently had the incredible opportunity to attend a press viewing of the upcoming film “King Richard”, and it was breathtaking. Here’s the scoop!
Upon having the amazing opportunity to cover the film, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I’ve always wondered how much a girl, who has never played sports nor knew anything about tennis, would enjoy it. I left the theater in tears, having just experienced a film that truly encapsulates the feeling of family and commitment, while immersing viewers in the complex game of tennis.
“King Richard” illustrates the story of Venus and Serena Williams, their unexpected upbringing, and their journey to becoming some of the greatest tennis players in the history of the game’s existence. The film is set in the 1980’s inside Compton, California. It heavily focuses around the social and societal borders preventing the Williams sisters’ success and the lengths their father, Richard Williams, went to break them down. From tennis practices in the rain, to petitioning for his daughters to have the opportunity to be coached professionally, Richard Williams fought for his family’s future every step of the way.
“King Richard” has an ever present theme of family. The casted on-screen family consists of Will Smith as Richard Williams, Saniyyah Sidney as Venus Williams, Demi Singleton as Serena Williams, Aunjanue Ellis as Brandi Williams, Tony Goldwyn as Coach Paul Cohen, and Jon Bernthal as Coach Rick Macci. The Williams sisters – Venus and Serena – were also involved with the production of the movie.
With family at the forefront of the film, it was key that both Venus and Serena had a say in how their family was portrayed on screen.
“It was amazing to see the family atmosphere on the set, how much Demi and Sinayya really acted like Serena and I, even when the cameras weren’t rolling, like holding hands; It was so sweet.” Venus said. “I’m just really proud of what everyone has accomplished.”
Actresses Demi Singleton and Saniyyah Sidney, who play young Serena and Venus Williams, also recognized the importance of authenticity on the set. Sidney went to great lengths to truly channel her role of Venus Williams.
“I just want the world to know, not only did Saniyyah learn how to play like Venus – Saniyyah is left-handed. She learned how to play with her off-hand.” Smith said.
“It was really important to us that everything we did was real. You know, because this is not our story. This is theirs.” Singleton added.
Portraying such well-known figures is a challenge, but Smith jumped on the opportunity to bring “King Richard” to life. Upon seeing an interview decades ago in real life, he was captivated by Richard’s commitment to his family.
“I fell in love with Richard Williams, you know, 20 something years ago. And when the opportunity to be a part of this came up, that was the first thing that I remembered,” Smith said. “I knew I wanted to show a father protecting a daughter like that to the world.”
“King Richard” fully immerses its audience in the world of the William’s family. The film tells an incredible story about how hard work, commitment, and confidence can take you anywhere, especially with those you love behind you. The Williams sisters journey to success is beautifully encapsulated in this film, and will be sure to remind viewers of the power of family, resilience and hard work and inspire them to take action in their lives.
“Doubt does nothing for you. The same time you’re doubting you can spend believing in you and putting the work in. That way you do believe, and you build confidence. As a family, you can achieve anything. Some of us are born with [families] some of us have to create those families, but surrounding yourself with family can take you higher.”
– Venus Williams
Be sure to stick around for the credits and an incredible song from Beyoncé, titled “Be Alive”.
“King Richard” will premiere in theaters and on HBO Max on November 19.