While the upcoming release King Richard is centered around Richard Williams, the father of tennis pros Venus and Serena Williams, the movie is as much about their lives as it is his. Speaking to the film’s exploration of Williams’ plan (at which he succeeded) to make his daughters two of the greatest athletes in the world, Serena told us of the movie on the red carpet premiere during AFI Fest Sunday night, “It’s also a girl power story.”
That fact makes the film’s depiction of the African American family — within which there were five young Black girls — all the more powerful. Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton play Venus and Serena while Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew, Daniele Lawson, and Layla Crawford play sisters Tunde, Isha, and Lyndrea, respectively.
Holding back tears, Bartholomew shared what the chance to play such a character in her debut movie role meant to her personally.
“To be a human on screen without having to worry about the adultification of young Black women, about the fact that we’re so often asked to make ourselves fit into the mold, to make ourselves smaller, to shrink, to assimilate, to be nice,” she said, “it’s all I ever wanted. It’s why I do what I do.”
The influence of the Williams sisters’ mother, Oracene Brandy Price, on not only their development of character but also their career is also shown through the performance of Aunjanue Ellis, who shared with us the significance of shedding a light on her in the movie.
“I wanted the world to know who Miss Oracene Price is and who she was,” Ellis said. “She was central to the development of the play of the Williams’ sisters, particularly Serena, and I wanted the world to know that. And how many more movies are we going to have where we get to do that?”
Check out our interviews with the cast in the video above. King Richard will be released in theaters November 19.