Will Smith took on the incredible task of playing Richard Williams, the trailblazing father of Venus and Serena Williams, who, under his coaching, have become two of the greatest tennis players of our generation. Smith has gone on to receive critical acclaim for his portrayal of Richard in the Westbrook Studios film King Richard, winning a BAFTA, Golden Globe, SAG and National Board of Review Award in the Best Actor category. Ahead of the Academy Awards, where Will is nominated for Best Actor, the Hollywood icon spoke to HollywoodLife.com in an EXCLUSIVE interview about the impact the Williams sisters have had on him through the process.
“There was an interesting thing that they did while we were working on the film… they’ve learned how to motivate people, right? In the process of having gone through what they had to go through, and in how they were raised with their parents, they never push. They’ve learned how to inspire people to excel without pushing,” Will told HL in an on-camera interview at the National Board of Review Awards. “It’s a very special unique skill set, right? My father was military — everything was pushed, everything was pushed.”
The father of two continued, “Venus and Serena have learned from Richard — from or seen — how to find that unique thing inside of a person and feed the flame, without having to push and demand that they be something and do something that you know you want them to be. They allow them to grow into what they want to be.” Chills!
The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air star went on to tell a group of reporters, including HollywoodLife, about receiving Venus and Serena’s blessings for King Richard. “In talking about that motivation, they withheld there in the beginning,” Will explained. “They were supportive all the way through, they helped us create, but they withheld. They said they wouldn’t say whether or not they were going to put their names on it until they saw the film. They wanted to make sure that we made a great film.”
However, upon seeing King Richard, Will said the sisters were thrilled and grateful. “I remember they went into the movie theater, they watched it, and they were both messes coming out of the theater,” he recalled. “Serena said, ‘Thank you for telling the world the truth about our daddy.'”
King Richard is currently available to stream on HBO Max or to see in theaters!