Game, set, match: “King Richard” star Will Smith has 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.
“That may have been one of the greatest moments of my career just now ... because my name was called for ‘King Richard,’ sitting next to Venus Williams,” the actor said during his acceptance speech at Sunday night’s ceremony. He pointed at Williams, who attended the show and was one of the film’s executive producers alongside her sister, Serena.
Smith’s win cements his status as the front-runner in the race for the Best Actor Oscar Award, which the star has previously been nominated for three times but has yet to win.
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, “King Richard” dramatizes the childhood and early teen years of the Williams sisters. From the time they were young, 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 rich and white tennis establishment the wrong way. It also illustrates, to some degree, how his larger-than-life persona strained his relationship with their mother, Oracene, played by Aunjanue Ellis, who has also received SAG and Oscar nominations for her performance.
“You pushed every single day. You demanded authenticity,” he said of Ellis. “And you did it in such a beautiful and quiet, powerful way. And you did Ms. 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 insanity and sometimes tips over the border, 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 saw the final project.”
“I get that,” he said. “It’s cool! That’s real! That’s real because we be messin’ stuff up sometimes!”
The 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”).