One of the most emotive scenes in King Richard is between Will Smith’s Richard Williams and Saniyya Sidney’s Venus on an empty tennis court, during which he explains to his then 14-year-old daughter the weight of representing every young Black girl through her career as a tennis star – and how he hopes he has shielded her from that pressure.
Sidney has revealed that filming the standout scene was challenging, and that she became emotional reflecting on what a heroic role model Venus has been for her and her co-star Demi Singleton, showing them that “girls who look like us to do whatever they want to do”.
“It was very emotional – I mean, being in the mindset of Venus that night, I felt the pressure,” the Hidden Figures star told RadioTimes.com. “At the same time, I’m thinking about so much of what she did… She opened those doors. I was thinking about everything she’s done for me and Demi. She’s opened doors for girls who look like us to do whatever they want to do.
“So that night, in my mind, I was like, ‘Wow, she really is a hero’ and it made more and more emotional making me realise how amazing she is and her family, and how strong she is and why she is the way she and that’s the strength that I kept within me that night.”
Anne Marie FOX
The poignant and uplifting family drama celebrates Richard Williams and his unflappable grit and determination as he shapes his daughters into two of the greatest tennis players of all time. Armed with an audacious 78-page plan, Richard trained Venus and Serena on Compton’s neglected tennis courts come rain or shine – quite literally – and helped them conquer seemingly insurmountable odds and all expectations. Aunjanue Ellis plays their mother Oracene while Jon Bernthal stars as their tennis coach Rick Macci.
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Sidney and Godfather of Harlem star Singleton also revealed that Will Smith – or Mr Will, as they endearingly refer to him – was “amazing” to work with and imparted useful career advice on set.
“Mr Will has such a big heart and he made us feel so comfortable”, Sidney continued. “He’s an amazing actor and getting to see him play Richard was amazing, and to it helped us to get into character more. He taught us to stay true to who we are and stay humble, and to keep our heads up.”
Singleton added: “And then from a more acting point of view he told us to be very careful and selective about the roles we choose. Those will define who you are throughout your career and you want to make sure that the roles that you’re playing line up with your values and what you believe in.”
Sidney and Singleton also recalled Venus and Serena visiting them on set, with Serena bringing her four-year-old daughter Olympia along with her too.
“Serena and Venus came to the set one time, they actually surprised us on set and it was a lot of fun,” Sidney recounted. “But that was the only time during filming, that was the only chance to speak with them but they’re really lovely people and we consider them family now. Even know we’re done filming, we still talk to them a lot.”
Singleton added: “When they came on set it was more of a friendly family way! Serena brought along her daughter Olympia – and we love Olympia a lot. Their sisters Lyndrea and Isha Price was there on set every day – so it was all the sisters together. It was so cool to see all the sisters in person together.”
Isha Price, Serena Williams and Venus Williams all served as executive producers on the film, which is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green.
King Richard is out in cinemas now. The film also airs on HBO Max in the US.
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