Reaching Stardom in “King Richard”


Michelle So, Staff Writer

Behind every great athlete is an even greater mentor. For Venus and Serena Williams, that figure is their father, Richard Williams. Their compelling family dynamic is portrayed in the 2021 biopic King Richard, in which title character Williams is played by actor Will Smith.

King Richard illustrates the story of a Black family of seven, two parents and five daughters, living in a two bedroom home in Compton, CA. It’s clear each member of the family pulls their own weight, and more, to achieve their goals. In the beginning, the sisters’ expectations are made clear: dream big, get good grades, and follow the Plan. The Plan refers to Richard’s 78-page blueprint for Venus and Serena to become tennis pros. He relies on strict guidelines to keep his two daughters in top shape. His high expectations cause others to assume the worst of his tendency for control. In one scene, a neighbor calls Child Protective Services after seeing the girls practicing in stormy weather. After Richard launches into a candid monologue, we are able to look beyond his tough exterior and see more of his determination. Yes, Richard is an overbearing parent at times, but in a neighborhood plagued by gangs and violence, his persistence is what eventually leads to them escaping the “ghetto” (the movie’s own words).

Sophomore Victoria Chen saw the trailer for King Richard on HBO Max and was able to garner inspiration from the movie’s message in the short clips.

“The trailer makes me want to watch the movie because it’s so inspiring by showing how committed and dedicated the girls are with tennis,” she said. It shows kids that “they can do anything if they put effort and time into it.”

Overall, King Richard is entertaining and subtly enthralling. Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton are cast as young Venus and Serena in their life before fame. The movie refrains from being an overly egoistic dialogue of a cheesy “How I got to the Top” type of film. Instead, director Reinaldo Green opts for humility in his scenes. 

As the leading role, Smith diverges from what he is most known for—sit-coms, B movies, the Men in Black series—and gets deep into character for this film. Upon watching clips of the real Richard Williams, it’s easy to see Smith has done research on Richard; the dialect and body language are strikingly similar to the Williams’ father. 

However, Smith shies from the spotlight when co-star Sidney appears on screen. The 15-year-old previously starred as Octavia Spencer’s movie daughter in the 2016 motion picture Hidden Figures, but this movie may just be her role to fame.  Her dedication to staying true to character shines through in the biopic. While Venus is shy and soft-spoken, Sidney is exuberant and talkative. In playing Venus, she strikes a balance between her extroverted nature and Venus’s gentle determination.

All these factors piece together beautifully to make King Richard a modest story of how champions come to be. 


Photograph courtesy of Gage Skidmore