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Tennis players Venus and Serena Williams pose in 1991 in Compton

Source: Paul Harris / Getty

Will Smith is gearing up to take on the role of Richard Williams, the force behind his daughters, tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams.

According to a report by Deadline, Smith will star in the biopic King Richard which takes a deep dive into the joy, pain and triumph of Williams, a man who raised his children in Compton, California, honing them to become two of the greatest tennis champions in the world. Serena has won 23 grand slams, while Venus has won seven.

While many heralded Smith’s accomplishments as an actor and voiced excitement in anticipation of the a-lister’s acting skills. But then there were just as many others who blasted the announcement, signaling Hollywood’s default practice of casting lighter actors in films about prominent Black men and woman with darker hues. Some suggested that actors Mahershala Ali or Idris Elba may have served better in the role. Those who stood in support of Smith brought up the fact that Smith played men of a darker hue in two former biopics, Chris Gardner in The Pursuit Of Happiness and Dr. Bennet Omalu in Concussion.

And while that may be true, it does not negate the argument that actors of lighter complexions are offered more visibility and positioning, especially for actors of Smith’s generation. Hollywood has become more cognizant of diversity across the diaspora, but there is still so much more work to go.

Williams is known for being fiercely protective of his children, and the media of the late 90’s and early 2000’s expressed harsh criticism over the optics of a strong Black man raising two powerful Black women.

While Richards has stepped down from coaching his daughters, his presence is still a fixture of stoicism for his daughters while they battle it out against opponents on the court. Williams has been less prominent after suffering health issues over the last several years.

Tim White and Trevor White will produce the film along with Smith who is currently in production filming Bad Boys 3.

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