Game, set, match: “King Richard” star Will Smith won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams’ father, Richard.
“It may have been one of the greatest moments of my career right now…because my name was called ‘King Richard,’ sitting next to Venus Williams,” the actor said during his speech. of acceptance during the ceremony on Sunday evening. He pointed to Williams, who attended the show and was one of the film’s executive producers alongside his sister, Serena.
Smith’s win cements his status as a frontrunner in the race for the Best Actor Oscar, which the star has already been nominated for three times but has yet to win.
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, “King Richard” dramatizes the childhood and early teenage years of the Williams sisters. From an early age, their father and coach, Richard, had boundless confidence in their ability to become champions. The film shows his determination as well as how some of his methods rubbed the predominantly wealthy and white tennis establishment the wrong way. It also illustrates, to some extent, how her larger-than-life character has strained her relationship with their mother, Oracene, played by Aunjanue Ellis, who also received SAG and Oscar nominations for her performance.
“You pushed every day. You demanded authenticity,” he said of Ellis. “And you did it in such a beautiful, quiet, and powerful way. And you did Mrs. Oracene wonderful justice.
He also thanked Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, who played young Venus and Serena respectively.
“Richard Williams is a dreamer like no one you’ve ever known,” Smith said of his character in the film. “He has a power of belief that borders on madness and sometimes swings over the line, which is absolutely necessary to take something from impossible to possible.”
Smith also jokingly called out Venus and Serena Williams and their family for not putting their names on the film “until you see the final draft.”
“I understand,” he said. “It’s cool! It’s real! It’s true because sometimes we screw things up!”
Other nominees in the category were Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”), Andrew Garfield (“Tick, Tick…Boom!”), and Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”).