Will Smith was pictured with the young actresses playing Venus and Serena Williams for the first time while filming the upcoming biopic this weekend.
The 51-year-old actor is set to portray the tennis stars’ father, Richard Williams, in the biographical movie King Richard.
On Friday, Will was seen in character as coach Richard dressed in a pink shirt, red shorts and long socks while filming on a tennis court. Completing his transformation, Will ditched his typically clean-cut and shaven look to sport a beard and slightly thicker hair.
He was seen guiding actresses Saniyya Sidney, 13, who is playing Venus and Demi Singleton, also 13, who will star as Serena.
During one scene, Will was seen behind the camera like a proud father filming his young champions-in-the-making. He was also seen laughing around with actor Jon Bernthal, who will portray the Williams sisters’ coach Rick Macci.
The biopic will depict Richard’s iron-willed relationship with Venus and Serena throughout their childhood as he pushed and supported their tennis career.
After realising their potential on the court, Richard sent the girls to Macci’s tennis academy in 1991 when Serena was 10 and Venus aged 11.
But in 1995, Richard pulled them out of the school and decided to coach them himself before successfully leading them to Grand Slam victory and Olympic gold medals.
Directed by Zach Baylin, King Richard will also star Liev Schreiber as tennis coach Paul Cohen as well as Aunjanue Ellis.
Following the announcement that she had been cast as a young Venus, Saniyya wrote in an Instagram post: ‘Game on…I’m playing Venus Williams!!! With Will Smith as my Dad!!! One Love to my incredible team. Champions on the court.’
Just as she was pictured filming with her on-screen father Will, Demi celebrated her 13th birthday and shared photos of the large balloons and tennis-themed birthday cake on-set.
‘THE BIG 13! Thank you all for the amazing birthday wishes! I’m so lucky to have been able to celebrate my birthday with the amazing cast and crew of #kingrichard ! To another year… (13 might just be my lucky number),’ she captioned the image.
Will’s involvement in King Richard is particularly notable as it marks the first time he has worked with a black director on a feature film across his entire career.
His health condition forced Richard to pull out of walking Serena, 38, down the aisle when she married Alexis Ohanian in September 2017.
Opening up about the unfortunate situation, Serena said in her HBO documentary Being Serena: ‘He was in New Orleans, he had a suit, and I know he was really excited.
‘But then he wrote me and said: “Serena, I don’t want you to be mad at me, but I just can’t walk you down the aisle. I’m not myself anymore. I’m just too nervous”.’
Understanding of her father’s feelings, Serena explained: ‘Maybe a lot of daughters wouldn’t react the same way, but I know the struggles he’s had these last few years.
‘His health is better now, but I know he still doesn’t feel like himself, doesn’t feel like he’s perfect. And if he doesn’t want to be up there in front of a lot of people, I completely understand.’
She added: ‘Look, when we first came on the scene, there were a lot of people who didn’t get him. I don’t think a lot of them wanted to get him. I don’t think a lot of them could have anyway.’
Serena and Venus’ father Richard, now 78, spends less time in the spotlight these days following a stroke he suffered in 2016.
King Richard is set for release on 25 November.
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