Will Smith shines as Serena & Venus’s dad in the ‘King Richard’ trailer

will smith king richard

The legend goes that Richard Williams was watching TV one day and he ended up watching a women’s tennis match. He watched until the end, for the trophy presentation and the handing out of the prize-money checks. When he heard the amount of money women’s tennis players were making, he decided right then and there that his daughters were going to learn how to play tennis. He never had any real formal training as a tennis player or coach. He studied the game and studied how to game the game. He came up with a 78-page plan to make his daughters into tennis champions. He took little Venus and little Serena to the cracked, public courts of Compton for hours, teaching them technique, groundstrokes, serves, backhands, movement, everything.

There are other parts to the story, because of course there are. By Venus and Serena’s teenage years, their mom Oracene Price had as much to say about their lives and careers as Richard. Oracene even worked more with Serena when Richard was focused on Venus. Richard was their coach of record for much of their teen years and for much of their 20s – Serena only hired Patrick Mouratoglou as her full-time coach in 2012, when she was 30. Richard was also politically savvy, understanding that the white tennis establishment would not welcome Venus and Serena with open arms. He prepared them for that as well, and prepared them to stand up for themselves and to win, win, win. Richard Williams is still alive – he was just on a practice court with Venus this month – but he is in poor health, having suffered a series of strokes.

I’m still a little bit mad that Mahershala Ali wasn’t cast as Richard, because I think Ali looks so much like a young Richard Williams, and I think Ali would have been fantastic in the role in general. But they went with Will Smith, and if the trailer is any indication, Will did his homework.

I understand why they’re probably not going to address the Nick Bollettieri situation directly, but I hope they capture the essence of what went down. For several years, Serena and Venus were at Bollettieri’s academy in Florida, and Bollettieri seemed to believe he was Venus and Serena’s coach for a time. Richard, ever the hype man, managed to get Venus signed to a major sponsorship and the family had enough money to buy a house and build their own courts, and suddenly there was no more Nick Bollettieri, at least not in Venus and Serena’s professional lives. But that was a significant moment when the Williams family began doing their own thing adjacent to the white tennis establishment.

Anyway, they got a lot of stuff right. The beads! The girls’ relationship with their dad. How people didn’t understand how these two little girls from Compton were so good at such a young age.

One of my favorite Nike commercials, which used archival video of Richard coaching Serena:

king richard poster

Photos courtesy of HBO Max/Warner Bros.

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35 Responses to “Will Smith shines as Serena & Venus’s dad in the ‘King Richard’ trailer”

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  1. Lee says:

    I like Will Smith a lot, so I’m probably biased, I’ll watch everything he stars in.

  2. Oliphant says:

    Ooof I’m here for this!!!

  3. Paperclip says:

    CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS!!!!

  4. SarahCS says:

    Well that Nike ad got me right in the feels. I am so in awe of them.

  5. Jay says:

    I feel like Richard might be one of those figures we all collectively revisit, and I’m here for it.
    Growing up, I remember Richard being a punchline, the overbearing dad who was “pushing” his kids to succeed where (it was implied) he couldn’t, kind of like a stage parent. I clearly recall the tone which reporters, radio hosts, and late night monologues would use when discussing him, like “Who does this guy think he is?” and also the sense that he was setting up his daughters for disappointment and failure. We can recognize the blatant racism in that now, and I’m interested in how this story will be told.

    • Sunshine says:

      I agree with you Jay. In the age of Thomas Markle, Jamie Spears, etc. many can look back and appreciate Richard Williams.
      I’ve always recognised the hate and I’m glad he’s getting his due. Next up is Matthew Knowles. Who, though flawed, has never sold out his daughters.

    • Becks1 says:

      Yup, I definitely remember that. He was the ultimate “sports dad” in every negative sense of the term. I hope this movie helps to reset that narrative.

    • lucy2 says:

      I was always fed that impression of him too.

    • bananapanda says:

      It’s an amazing story for sure and worth telling.

      I’d be curious if they touch of the Williams family’s Jehovah’s Witness faith and Richard’s male chauvinism, which leans on JH as an excuse. Mom eventually had enough and both Serena and Venus talk less about how they’ll give up their careers when they get married bc men rule the home (old footage shows them saying that which is crazy town given their success, money and business power).

  6. tempest prognosticator says:

    Man, the trailer and the Nike ad made me tear-up.

    • Chill says:

      Me too!!!

    • The Blower’s Daughter says:

      Ditto. Chills, and as a parent, inspiring. I was in LA during the 80s and 90s, and I read the paper every day. The coverage of the rise of the Williams sisters was incredibly negative. In hindsight, it was also incredibly racist.

  7. Becks1 says:

    I will definitely watch this, I think Will Smith is a really good actor and he has charisma that just makes him appealing to watch in my opinion. And the story is obviously so good.

  8. line says:

    The choice of Will Smith instead of Mahershala Ali is simply due to profitability reasons. The Warner Bros are betting a lot of money on this film, they hope it will be a box office success so logically Will Smith is a very sure choice in the way of commercial success because he is one of the part of actors who are very famous the worldwide and it is a actors are very appreciated by the world public. Add to that Will Smith is always very polite, warm and funny. during the press tours it is the most logical choice for this type of film.Then Will Smith is a good dramatic actor (Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness and I Am Legend)

  9. Anna says:

    So when do we get the Serena and Venus movie?

    • Myriam says:

      I’m saying! Two of the greatest tennis players in history who happen to be women, and the first film about their life/accomplishments centers around… their father. Hmm, I wonder what the focus would be if it was a film about a male athlete?

      • Emmitt says:

        Venus & Serena are the executive producers so if they wanted the story to focus on them, they could’ve done that.

        There is no “Venus and Serena” without Richard Williams.

    • meloroast says:

      Yup. Obviously he was pivotal in their lives but both Serena and Venus are the ones who had to EXECUTE. They were children. I want their story. But we always seem to think the man’s story is more interesting. I’m so over it.

  10. Case says:

    I understand that there’s a story to tell here, but I can’t help but feel a little irked that the first film about Venus and Serena’s accomplishments is centered around a man. Still, Will Smith is a great actor and I think this will be an interesting movie. I remember Richard from choosing to do a report on the biography of Venus and Serena when I was little.

  11. ennie says:

    tearing up, I’d watch it with a no name actor. I side-eye a lot of what goes on in that sports culture of making the children kind of lose their childhoods for training, going to events, it weirds me, but I understand that for many, it is a path for a better life, and the level of many sports demands it. To see this black family reach the level of success they achieved, is wonderful.
    Kudos to the whole family, not only to the dad.

  12. Elaine Stritch says:

    This looks great. I’m glad Will Smith is getting a good role to sink his teeth into again. I don’t see any resemblance to Mahershala Ali in the slightest though…

  13. ME says:

    I just started watching her show “Being Serena” even though it came out in 2018. It’s fascinating…seeing her give birth, get married, and then go right back to tennis so quickly. She’s a strong ass woman. It’s sad her dad didn’t go to her wedding though.

    • Jan says:

      He was not pulling a Thomas markle, he is suffering from dementia (??) Serena understood.
      This is a father that stood up to anyone attacking his daughters and they’re very proud of him.
      This is an old clip out there with Venus at 14 doing an interview and the reporter said ‘you’re confident’ and she said yes and he keep repeating you’re confident, and Richard interrupted the interview and said, she told you is confident, why are you asking the same question over and over, the reporter wanted Richard to leave but that was not happening.

      • ME says:

        Oh yes I know. Serena understood why he didn’t come to her wedding and was not mad at him at all. There was no drama. I just think it’s sad he couldn’t be there for her big day and celebrate with her.

  14. Lemons says:

    Just saw the trailer and can’t wait to see the movie.

  15. Kathy Kack says:

    That trailer gave me chills. Looks fantastic.

  16. Imara219 says:

    I don’t mind the narrative being centered on the father because it encapsulates every aspect of that time period. I am excited to see the vision of a caring, strong, Black father support, love, and push his daughters. I am excited to see that narrative in the backdrop of the 80s and 90s. He was framed as a hysterical joke when his daughters popped. I remember they made it seem like he was an abusive horrible sports parent. So yes! Let’s correct that image.

    • meloroast says:

      In many eyes (including his wife’s) he was also abusive, forceful, excessive etc. Yes, they are champions but at what price? That is the most interesting element of the story to me. Or perhaps examining why he felt he had to live through his children and basically give them no choice in the matter of tennis. There are a lot of nuances that are very important to dissect and examine in this narrative. It isn’t as simple as “oh look what he did for his kids”.

      Coming from a similar background, with huge expectations imposed on me by my father who had nothing growing up, these narratives and stories we tell ourselves about others is very affecting and influential to others. I still love my dad but he is very complicated and I would only want to tell his full story because that is what’s real.

      Here is an opportunity to look at black lives in America…the expectations, the sacrifice, the toll etc. Instead, oh let’s turn this into a feel good biopic of how you can be poor in America and still win. It’s the same old same old and IMO ultimately keeping our black communities down and limited in their options to define their own meaning of “success”.

      • Imar says:

        It would be a better movie if they showed all aspects and all areas. I’m speaking directly to the people who don’t understnad why a movie centered on him is worthwhile. I’m saying there is something most definitely needed to be focused on him.

  17. Eleonor says:

    I am going to watch this.

  18. Jessi says:

    I find Will Smith a totally compelling screen presence and I think this looks really good… but I wish we got a story about Venus and Serena rather than about their dad, you know?

  19. L4frimaire says:

    This actually looks really good and the trailer was a little emotional. The William’s are executive producers so it’s good to see it from their POV.

  20. Shirurusu says:

    I’m so impressed with the girls acting in this trailer, they seem very natural and funny, I’m glad the casting for this movie looks so great! Can’t wait to see it and I don’t even like tennis!

  21. Midge says:

    goosebumps and teary eyes! can’t wait!