Will Smith Shares The Venus Williams Moment That Helped Him Fall In Love With Her Dad Years Before Making King Richard

Will Smith King Richard trailer screenshot
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Williams sisters rose to become all-time great professional tennis players, but every success story starts somewhere else. In the case of Venus and Serena, it was their father Richard Williams who helped them begin their journey to become champions. Their story is told in the new movie King Richard, which sees Will Smith portraying the late father and coach. According to the actor, his interest in the ladies'  father went back years and years prior to reading the movie’s script. 

During King Richard’s virtual press conference, which CinemaBlend was in attendance for, Will Smith shared that Richard Williams had an impact on him back in the ‘90s. In his words: 

There was an interview that Venus was doing. It’s a famous interview where Richard Williams snaps on the reporter and says ‘Now she’s gonna say it how she’s gonna say it with a whole lot of confidence.’ I saw that in real time and the look on Venus’ face burned in my heart because that’s how I wanted my daughter to look when I showed up. And that interview had really changed my parenting at that time.

The interview Smith is referring to took place in 1995 and is reenacted in King Richard. At the time, the actor would have already been a father to his eldest Trey Smith, who he had with his first wife, actor and model Sheree Zampino, before later marrying Jada Pinkett Smith in 1997 and having his other two kids Jaden and Willow. Smith shared why the interview stuck with him as a parent:  

It was the look on Venus’ face, it was like she had a lion and she was so confident 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 and when the opportunity of this came up, that was the first thing I remembered. I knew I wanted to show a father protecting a daughter like that to the world.

To get a sense of what Will Smith is talking about, check out the exact 1995 interview that features a 14-year-old Venus speaking to an ABC reporter about an upcoming game. Check it out: 

In the interview, the reporter questions Venus Williams’ confidence by asking her why she thinks she can beat her opponent so confidently. She answers that she “believes it” before Richard Williams disrupts the interview to tell the reporter that he’s dealing with the “image of a 14-year-old child.” He basically tells him off for the way he questions her confidence as Venus Williams can be seen in the background smiling. 

It’s an especially powerful moment in the movie, but seeing that it happened in real life and affected Will Smith at the time is even more impactful. The movie follows the story of Venus and Serena Williams as young girls who work to become good at tennis before they make it as household names. It illustrates how Richard Williams was an important piece to their early success and helped shape them into the champions they are today. 

You can check out our glowing review of King Richard and check out ReelBlend’s interview with director Reinaldo Marcus GreenKing Richard is currently playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max for a limited time. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.