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Will Smith discusses lessons learned playing Venus and Serena Williams’ father

The Hollywood star portrays Richard Williams as he raises his daughters to tennis stardom.

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Will Smith during a photocall for King Richard at Wimbledon (Ian West/PA)

Will Smith during a photocall for King Richard at Wimbledon (Ian West/PA)

Will Smith during a photocall for King Richard at Wimbledon (Ian West/PA)

Will Smith has said he learned to follow his own children instead of directing them in life while portraying Serena and Venus Williams’ father in his latest film.

The American actor, 53, plays Richard Williams in the biopic, King Richard, which follows his character raising his daughters to tennis stardom despite having no background in the sport and very limited financial resources.

Smith also reflected on how he feels he is the best actor he has ever been and now has a “deep enough comprehension” to play the role.

Smith told the PA news agency: “My father was military, so in my house you followed orders.

“My father had the vision and my father directed everyone to achieve the goals and get the flag to the top of the mountain that he saw fit.

“So I was essentially running my life in that same way, and (with) Richard, I learned a transition to following your children.

“Richard, the impression (of) the vilified character we see as a father who’s pounding his children, but it was totally the opposite.

“It was a collective family dream and Venus and Serena were really leading their desire and their energy to be great.

“Their family was supporting that dream, Richard was more likely to tell them they couldn’t play tennis than to force them to play tennis, their punishment was that they weren’t allowed to play tennis, so it was a very different parenting skill set.”

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The Hollywood star has been married to fellow actress Jada Pinkett Smith since 1997 and shares two children together Jaden and Willow – who have both gone on to have successful careers as actors and musicians.

The couple have been open in recent years about the challenges within their relationship, which involved a period of separation.

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Saniyya Sidney, Will Smith and Demi Singleton star in King Richard (Ian West/PA)

Saniyya Sidney, Will Smith and Demi Singleton star in King Richard (Ian West/PA)

Saniyya Sidney, Will Smith and Demi Singleton star in King Richard (Ian West/PA)

The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air star, who has been Oscar nominated twice for best actor for his roles in The Pursuit Of Happyness and Ali, discussed how he feels he is at the right moment in his life to take on the role.

Smith said: “I think that at this time in my life, I’m a better actor than I’ve ever been because I’m exploring my life and my experiences honestly.

“The ability to observe myself and to be able to be honest with myself and to be honest with the world is actually cultivating a deeper acting toolbox for me.

“My body is my instrument and the animating force of that is my emotional life.

“So the deeper comprehension I have of my emotional life, the more intricate and nuanced characters I can play.

“I think this is the first time I’ve been in deep enough comprehension to understand Richard Williams and then to deliver the subtle and delicate complexities and nuances.”

King Richard also stars Aunjanue Ellis as the sisters’ mother, while Saniyya Sidney plays Venus and Demi Singleton portrays Serena.

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Jon Bernthal (left), Saniyya Sidney, Will Smith and Demi Singleton (Ian West/PA)

Jon Bernthal (left), Saniyya Sidney, Will Smith and Demi Singleton (Ian West/PA)

Jon Bernthal (left), Saniyya Sidney, Will Smith and Demi Singleton (Ian West/PA)

It also stars Jon Bernthal, as tennis coach Rick Macci, Tony Goldwyn, Dylan McDermott and Susie Abromeit.

The Williams family were heavily involved in the development and production of the biographical drama, with Serena and Venus’ sister Isha Price one of the executive producers.

Speaking at a premiere event for King Richard on number one court at Wimbledon in London, Smith said: “What this family was able to do is as close to impossible as you can imagine, it was as insane and impossible a dream as you can imagine.

“And they centred on faith, they centred on family, they centred on trying to create healthy contributors to the human family, they were building people, they weren’t building tennis stars.

“It was such an amazing exploration to see how, because that’s really what we all want to do, how can you go from the financial bottom of society to global fame and success, so it’s a journey that we’re all trying to make in one way or the other.”

King Richard will be in cinemas on November 19.


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