In an emotional, inspiring, and raw account, Warner Bros.’ latest film “King Richard” tells the story of Serena Williams and Venus Williams’ rise to the top. As a father of five daughters, Richard Williams worked to create a household filled with values of hard work, determination, and love. Finishing every night by reminding his girls that “if you fail to plan you plan to fail,” Serena and Venus were taught that it takes true grit to achieve your goals, but that the sky is truly the limit.
Family on and off-screen
In an interview with the cast, Venus Williams noted that the experience of filming was “super emotional” and that “it was amazing to see the family atmosphere on the set.” It was a project Serena Williams could only describe as “surreal.” The sisters watched as their family was brought to the big screen, but even with a film of this scale, the heart of their home was not misrepresented or lacking on screen. The tennis superstars were portrayed by actresses Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney, who reportedly interacted just like sisters on and off camera. “When the cameras weren’t rolling, they were holding hands,” noted Venus Williams, “it was so sweet.”
When asked about how his involvement in this project, Will Smith reacted with joy and pride. He described the moment he knew he wanted to portray Richard Williams. Richard Williams jumped to the defense of his daughter during a particular personal TV interview conducted when Venus was 14 years old. Smith explained that “the look on Venus’s face burned in [his] heart because that’s how I wanted my daughter to look when I showed up. It was like the look on Venus’s face… it was like she had a lion, and she was so confident and so comfortable that her lion wasn’t going to let anything happen to her.” This moment was by far one of the most impactful acting performances Smith has done to date, awarding him Oscar buzz like he has never received before as well as applause in every theater.
The unseen motherly sacrifice
While this biopic heavily focuses on the many sacrifices and hard work Richard Williams put into his daughters’ success, Oracene Price, their mother, had a significant impact on the girls’ career as well. Played by Aunjanue Ellis, audiences see how Price worked tirelessly to give all her children the lives she knew they deserved while creating a home environment that was filled with unconditional love and warmth. Highlighted by her relationship with Serena, whom Price coached while Venus received private lessons with Williams, audiences will see the behind-the-scenes work this mother did to fight for her children. Ellis expressed her gratitude and love for this project by mentioning that “there were many times that [she] would look around while [they] were shooting and just [think] that at some point in [her] life [she] did something right.” She called her experience on set “a gift from God” and demonstrated love and respect for the young actresses she worked with.
Young stars playing giants
Young actresses Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton scored the roles of their lifetimes as they portrayed Venus and Serena Williams, respectively while working alongside legendary actors Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis. “This is my first film of this magnitude,” said Singleton, “and so everyone really helped me feel comfortable and loved and included, especially Mr. Will.” The young star graciously shared how much she learned by simply observing her more experienced co-stars.
Sidney expressed that this experience helped her come into herself as a young woman. “[Serena and Venus] were so humble at such a young age,” she said, “and they had such a great father. I think family is everything, and that taught me so much, it made me go out there and reach out to people who I haven’t talked to since I was little.” The young women couldn’t have displayed more admiration and respect for Will Smith, who they now view as a role model on and off set.
In addition to an emphasis on love and family, the film features an original score written by Kris Bowers and an original song by Beyoncé, “Be Alive”, written and produced by Dixson. “Be Alive” was teased when the trailers for “King Richard” dropped in October and is now (finally!) available on all streaming platforms; however, the song should be experienced in its full glory as highlight tapes from Serena and Venus Williams’ career play as the credits roll.
This truly inspiring film is a must see this holiday season. It is impossible not to feel the love they created pour out of the screen. Will Smith’s performance, two stand out debuts for actresses Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney, and the influence of Serena and Venus Williams are only three factors that play into the magic that this film exudes. Witness true artists in their craft champion the stories of the best athletes of our time.
See “King Richard” in theaters (and ad-free HBO Max for a limited-time) on November 19, 2021. Experience the love, magic, family, and success lived and portrayed by this amazing cast of people!