Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Serena and Venus Williams’ Father (Richard Williams) ‘Was Ahead of His Time’

*“King Richard,” the new film starring Will Smith as Richard Williams, the father of tennis champs Venus and Serena Williams, opens Friday in theaters and on HBO Max. 

Based on the true story that will inspire the world, “King Richard” follows the journey of Richard Williams, an undeterred father instrumental in raising two of the most extraordinarily gifted athletes of all time, who will end up changing the sport of tennis forever. Driven by a clear vision of their future and using unconventional methods, Richard has a plan that will take Venus and Serena Williams from the streets of Compton, California to the global stage as legendary icons. “King Richard” is a profoundly moving film that shows the power of family, perseverance and unwavering belief as a means to achieve the impossible and impact the world.

“King Richard” highlights one father’s relentless drive and unapologetic vision to change the game. Determined to do things his way, Richard Williams made a plan and defied the odds by raising not one, but two of the greatest athletes of all time: Venus and Serena Williams (who executive produced the film alongside their sister Isha Price).

READ MORE: Tony Goldwyn On Playing Venus Williams’ Tennis Coach in ‘King Richard’ | Watch

Richard Williams

Alongside Will Smith is an impressive ensemble cast, including rising stars Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as Venus and Serena Williams, and Aunjanue Ellis as Oracene “Brandi” Williams, Jon Bernthal as coach Rick Macci, Tony Goldwyn as coach Paul Cohen, and Dylan McDermott as a sports agent.

“I think Richard was ahead of his time,” “King Richard” director Reinaldo Marcus Green told The New York Post. “The kinds of things that he was thinking about in protecting his daughters from certain things … He did things that were unorthodox, and I think it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.”

“No question it took the establishment some time to get used to Richard Williams,” said Tennis Channel commentator and Sports Illustrated writer Jon Wertheim. “He was a colorful, extreme figure. There were not tennis parents before him that danced on the commentary booth or that held up provocative signs, and it was jarring.”

Kamau Murray — who coached Black tennis star Sloane Stephens, believes Venus and Serena “would have not made it if he was not pushing and then protecting, and then pushing and then protecting,” he said of Richard Williams. “They would not have made it.”

Murray describes Richard Williams as “a very smart person, and very smart people can look at somebody do something and they’re like, ‘Oh, I can do it better.’  Murray added, “he was great at realizing when he needed some help, when he needed some of the nuances and some of the expertise of somebody [else].”

“This sport can be very cruel to black people in country clubs,” said Murray. “And the thing about tennis — it’s subtle cruelty. It’s not obvious, and it’s not overt. And a lot of times those things can be the most damaging.”

Green noted that Richard Williams took on a lot of racial tension to protect his daughters from it. “I think part of the genius of Richard Williams was embracing that and taking the pressure in a lot of ways off the girls,” he said

“Tennis looks a lot different today, and I would say in some ways is in a much better place,” said Wertheim. “And I give the Williams family a lot of credit for that.”

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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