Venus and Serena: Watching King Richard was a surreal experience

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Serena and Venus Williams described as “surreal” the depiction of their journey to tennis stardom in a major new film featuring Will Smith.

Smith stars as Richard Williams, who, despite having no background in the sport and very limited financial resources, guided his daughters to unprecedented success.

The Williams family has been heavily involved in the development and production of King Richard, which is released on November 19, with Serena and Venus’ sister Isha Price one of the executive producers.

Speaking at a Warner Bros press conference, Serena said: “No word describes it better than surreal. Just to see these incredible actresses and everyone behind it just putting this all together about our dad’s journey but, because of myself and my sister, it really is like, ‘Wow, OK, really? Are we really something?’

“Then to have Will play this role as my father and the way he just embodied Richard Williams, it just took the whole film to a whole new level. It’s so emotional, it’s well done and it’s a brilliant piece of work.”

Serena is played by 14-year-old Demi Singleton and Venus by 15-year-old Saniyya Sidney, and the film, which is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, shows the period of their life from their early days on the rundown courts of Compton to Venus’ first steps in the professional game.

Both Singleton and Sidney learned to play tennis for the film, with left-handed Sidney having to master the sport right-handed to portray Venus.

Venus said: “It’s super emotional. I’ve seen the trailer, I’ve read the script, and every time I watch it my eyes are just watering.

“I think it was amazing to see the family atmosphere on the set and how much Demi and Saniyya really acted like Serena and I, even when the cameras weren’t rolling, like holding hands, and it was so sweet.

“I’m just really proud of what everyone has accomplished. It’s pretty surreal to be honest and they really understood our family and portrayed us in a way that was really us and I’m very proud of that.”

Smith revealed he first became aware of Richard Williams when he saw him criticising a reporter during an interview with Venus when she was a young teenager more than 25 years ago.

“I saw that in real time and the look on Venus’ face, that image burned in my heart because that’s how I wanted my daughter to look when I showed up,” said Smith.

“And that interview had really changed my parenting at that time. 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.

“I fell in love with Richard Williams. That was 20-something years ago and, when the opportunity to be a part of this came up, that was the first thing that I remembered. I knew I wanted to show a father protecting a daughter like that to the world.”

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