'King Richard' Fact-Check: Did Venus Williams' Dad Really Interrupt an Interview to Scold a Reporter?

In the biographical drama about Venus and Serena Williams' father, Richard Williams is shown defending his older daughter when a journalist interrogates her confidence early in her career

Tennis players Venus and Serena Williams pose in 1991 in Compton
Richard Williams with his daughters in 1991. Photo: Paul Harris/Online USA/Getty

King Richard doesn't shy away from how fiercely its namesake protected his daughters.

The new biographical drama about Richard Williams, the 79-year-old father and coach to Venus and Serena Williams, follows Richard and wife Oracene Price's real-life journey to make their daughters tennis champions.

In the early '90s at the start of the sisters' careers, Richard and Oracene decided to relocate their family — which also included Oracene's daughters from a previous relationship: Yetunde, Isha and Lyndrea Price — from Compton, California, to Florida so Serena and Venus could train at the Rick Macci Tennis Academy.

In one scene shortly after the family's 1991 move, Richard (Will Smith) becomes unhappy with a reporter's line of questioning for Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and interrupts the interview to scold the journalist.

In reality, the interview happened just like the moment played out on screen. Venus, then 14, was sitting down with then-ABC News correspondent John McKenzie to discuss an upcoming match.

"I know I can beat her," a smiling Venus told McKenzie, who followed up, "You know you can beat her?"

When McKenzie noted that Williams was "very confident," the teen confirmed, "I'm very confident." He continued to prod, asking "why" Venus could be so confident — at which point Richard's voice could be heard off screen.

"Alright. Cut right there if you don't mind," said Richard. "And let me tell you why. What she said, she said it with so much confidence the first time, but you keep going on and on."

When McKenzie complained about the interruption, Richard entered view to push back: "You've got to understand that you're dealing with an image of a 14-year-old child. And this child gonna be out there playing when your old ass and me are gonna be in the grave."

He continued to defend his daughter: "When she says something, we done told you what's happening. You're dealing with a little Black kid — and let her be a kid. She answered it with a lot of confidence. Leave that alone."

In King Richard, Smith as the Williams patriarch gives a condensed version of the same speech to the fictional reporter for his line of questioning.

The Williams sisters have praised the film, with Venus telling Entertainment Weekly, "I love that it captured the innocence — the innocence we still hang on to, actually. It's kind of difficult for me to say, 'Oh, this film shows me.' Because me is Serena. Me is my sisters."

She continued, "And there's no me without her, and I could have never done what I've been able to achieve on the court without her because I was also watching her and learning."

King Richard is in theaters and on HBO Max now.

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