“I’ve seen the trailer, I’ve read the script, and, every time I watch it, my eyes are just watering,” Venus Williams shared during the exclusive King Richard global press conference. “They really understood our family and portrayed us in a way that was really us. And I’m very proud of that.”

Her sister Serena concurred and heaped praise on Will Smith’s portrayal of their father, which is already generating Oscar win buzz. “The way he just embodied Richard Williams—it just took the whole film to a whole new level,” she raved. “It's so emotional. It's well done, and it's a brilliant piece of work.”

When moderator Jacqueline Coley asked why he was drawn to the Williams family patriarch, Smith cited watching Richard Williams handle a reporter who questioned Venus’ confidence early in her career when she was 13 or 14. “It’s a famous interview where Richard snaps on the reporter and says ‘now she done said what she done said with a whole lot of confidence’ and 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,” Smith revealed. 

“And that interview had really changed my parenting at that time. It was like the look on Venus' face, we just watched it, and it was like she had a lion [in her corner], and she was so confident and so comfortable that her lion wasn't going to let anything happen to her. And, I fell in love with Richard Williams."

“That was 20 something years ago,” he continued. “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.”

But King Richard isn’t just the Richard Williams' story. It’s the story of a strong family, a strong Black family that produced two icons whose names we know today. Because we do know so much about the tennis superstars, director Reinaldo Marcus Green that capturing their early lives was key. 

“That period of time in their lives is such an instrumental period of time because it really is a time of seeing young girls turn into women. And I think that was so important to focus on this particular chapter in their lives. We know that they're living legends, and what is it that we don't know about their lives. And I think that's what we tried, as a film, is to give new insight and new information other than what you can probably google or find on the internet. And that came from anecdotal conversations that we had with the family, things that we came to know, and what we had a lot of questions about.”

The desired takeaway, Green stressed is “to leave the audience with a newfound appreciation for what it is to see two parents raising five Black girls in Compton at a particular period of time, where it wasn’t that easy, where things were rough. But, if you protect your kids, and you give them love, and you give them guidance, and you give them education, really tremendous things can happen.” 

Charged with showing those tremendous things as Venus and Serena is Saniyya Sidney, who will next be seen as Sasha Obama in the Showtime limited series The First Lady whose other credits include Hidden FiguresFencesFast Color and the lead in the short-lived FOX series The Passage, and Demi Singleton, most recently seen as Margaret Johnson in The Godfather of Harlem

“It was never just about tennis, it was just about them as people and I've looked up to them ever since I was little, and I think it was very important to make sure that I let people know just how big of a heart Venus has. And that was something so special to me,” Sidney shared.

That was the message Venus and Serena communicated directly to the girls when they surprised them on set. “When we spoke, they kind of spoke to us about everything but tennis, which was actually kind of funny. We spoke about their life and their childhood and about people that they dated growing up,” Singleton revealed. 

Like Sidney, Singleton counts herself a fan of the icons, and expressed that directly to the trailblazers that day. “Serena and Venus” she said, “you guys are two women I’ve looked up to my entire life so it was really fun to get to know that side of you.”

Oracene “Brandy” Williams, as she was then known, is the backbone of the Williams family and Aunjanue Ellis turns in another soul-stirring performance portraying her. Embodying the quiet strength and fortitude so many Black women possess, Ellis gives Price, as she now prefers, her due. 

Speaking with Stacey Walker King, Chief Brand Officer of Macro (the multiplatform media company specializing in content about Black people and other people of color) for their special interview following the early screening of King Richard for the third MACRO X HBCU Summit in Atlanta, Ellis shared her initial big misconception about Price during that time and how she worked to correct that.

“When you start off this process, you go on Google, you look at Wikipedia, and she describes herself as a coach. And when I read that, I'm going to be honest and say, really, really? Okay, that's generous of you saying that about yourself,’” confessed the Mississippi-based actress who wowed us as Dr. Mattie Moss Clark in the Lifetime film The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel last year. 

“I was ashamed of myself for having that reaction,” Ellis said as she dug deeper. “And that happens so often with women because we are erased so often that people have no idea what we actually do. They put us in boxes, put us behind curtains. And we sort of don’t know who these women are because they have been erased.

“And, so for me,” she continued, “what I wanted to do was to make sure that everyone knew that, when they read that Miss Oracene was a coach, that when they leave the theaters, that they know that yes, indeed, that’s who she was, that’s who she was to these young women.”

During Smith’s takeover of his wife Jada’s popular Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk with Venus, Serena, mother Oracene Price and their sisters Isha and Lyndrea Price who worked on King Richard respectively as producer and costumer, Oracene dropped parenting gems for those who want to follow in their parenting success with Venus and Serena in their careers. 

“Know your children. Know what they can do. Know what they’re capable of,” she advised. “Push, but don’t push very hard. Encourage. Make sure their mental health is fine because it’s all here. More than anything else it’s all in your mental state of mind,” she ended, pointing to her head.  

As bittersweet as remembering their slain sister Yetunde Price was, the movie, they all declared, is a proud moment for the family. 

“We grew up in Compton, but we had everything we that we could have needed and more,” Venus said. 

And that’s exactly what makes King Richard an instant classic.

King Richard is currently in theaters and streaming on HBO Max