Tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams said there could not have been a better tribute to their father than Will Smith’s portrayal of him in King Richard.
The sisters took to the stage at the Critics Choice Awards (CCA) to present the award for best drama series and said seeing their stories told in the film was “one of the most special experiences of our lives.” Both served as executive producers of the film, but did not agree to put their name to the project until it had been completed.
They received a standing ovation from the CCA audience and joked that attendees were “much better dressed” than at tennis tournaments. The sisters thanked Smith and Aunjanue Ellis for their “perfect” portrayal of their father and mother as well as Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney, who played their younger selves.
“You two nailed the young us and the chemistry between us as sisters, it was amazing,” Venus told the youngsters. Serena added: “And what can we say about Will Smith, I don’t think there could have been a better tribute to our father than the performance that you delivered, Will, thank you. To watch our story on the big screen is one of the most special experiences of our lives.”
King Richard follows the story of the world-class players and the vigorous training they went through from their father Richard Williams. Serena is one of the most decorated female tennis players in the modern era, having won 23 grand slam titles, and is widely considered as one of the greatest players of all time.
Her sister Venus has also won numerous titles, and both have seen lengthy stints as world number one, as well as having won Olympic gold medals for Team USA. Smith paid tribute to the sisters in his acceptance speech for best actor at the CCA, saying the pair “defined the American dream”.
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“Thank you for entrusting to me with your story of what you were able to do… you inspired everyone in this room, everyone in this country and everyone around the world,” he told them. “You all define the American dream, you represent the best of what we all hope this country and this world can be.”
Smith also won the leading actor award at the Baftas in London earlier in the evening. The Power Of The Dog director Jane Campion later asked the sisters if they would give her tennis lessons, in her acceptance speech for best director.
“It’s absolutely stunning to be here tonight among so many incredible women… Venus and Serena what an honour to be in the room with you,” she said. “I’ve taken up tennis… if you want to come over and give me lessons I’d love it. You are marvels, however you don’t play against the guys like I have to.”