SERENA and Venus Williams’ father has opened up about his next career moves after the success of the Oscar-winning movie ‘King Richard’ starring Will Smith.
The tennis patriarch, 80, had little involvement in the Hollywood biopic, which told the story of his daughter’s journey to success.
But now he is set to have his own time in the spotlight with the major release of his documentary, On The Line, which premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
He also revealed to The U.S. Sun he is in early talks for a tell-all second book about life after Serena and Venus achieved worldwide fame, and his three marriages.
Richard is still in the middle of a messy divorce from his wife, Lakeisha, who stands accused of stealing his social security checks, and transferring vehicles and his home into her name, according to bombshell court documents.
But before he works with a ghost writer to lay bare all of the details, he’s going back to his roots with the new documentary.
Described as an “emotional reckoning” featuring unaired interviews spanning the 1980s to the present day, Richard retraces his past “from the poverty-stricken streets of Shreveport, Louisiana to the grass courts of Wimbledon.”
The movie tells the tale of how he fought back against systems and racial oppression and violence, “breaking every rule of the lily-white tennis establishment to forever change the sport”.
The film, which is directed by Stuart McClave, includes his son Chavoita LeSane, 49, as one of the producers, and the pair say they are looking forward to its full release this year.
Richard, who struggles with communication problems after multiple strokes, told The U.S. Sun: “It comes out in February, I just wanted people to see me a little better,” joking he’s still “ugly” but agreed to appear on screen to tell his story.
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His son Chavoita said: “The documentary is in my dad’s words. I know a lot of people focus on the Venus and Serena story, but I feel we all know the Venus and Serena story.
“They grew up in front of the cameras. But I feel like the world doesn’t know the Richard Williams’ story. Like who created them, what was the thinking, what madness?
“How does a parent create a number one and a number two [in sport] that’s phenomenal, especially in a very racist sport. It’s tennis.
“How do you get two kids to believe in themselves that much? I have children now, it’s hard to get them out of bed and make them go to school in the morning, you know?
“I wanted his POV [point of view] to be seen, his true voice to be heard. I’m ecstatic. Everybody who’s seen it, they are all blown away.
“The documentary was filmed about a year ago, maybe a year and a half. He speaks to the best of his ability [after his health struggles in recent years].
“A lot of great people that participated in this documentary, it really captures my dad’s voice and it was important to me for it not to be a Venus and Serena documentary.
“That’s the story for the girls. Learning to play tennis from a drunk guy named Old Whiskey. My dad’s story has so many different complexities. It’s crazy. Like how prejudiced we are within our own race.
“He would go out there [but] because he didn’t have on the clothes they had on, because he didn’t have the new tennis balls, because he didn’t have the best tennis rackets …
“The people who knew the blacks who knew how to play tennis didn’t wanna play tennis with him. Those are crazy stories. Those are his stories.
Visionaries are people who aren’t afraid to be different.”
Chavoita LeSane on his father, Richard Williams
“Growing up in Shreveport, wanting to be a golfer, going out to golf in the early morning, then having to deal with the KKK just because he took a liking to golf clubs and golf balls. So those are the stories I want to stand out now.
“My dad’s sort of been throughout my life more of the storyteller with me. So we would ride for hours and I would just listen to all of the stories and the stuff he would tell me about being a kid in Shreveport.
“I know a lot of people may think I’m crazy or may hate this statement or whatever but I really don’t give a care, I think my dad’s like a modern-day Frederick Douglass or Malcolm X or Dr. King in a sense because he’s a visionary, and visionaries are people who aren’t afraid to be different.
“And I’m not saying he’s in politics or anything weird like that, but he’s not afraid to go against the grain. He’s not afraid to say, ‘You know what? I’m different. And I’m not afraid to be different. I’m not afraid to be who I am, even though everybody else is telling me I need to be this.'”
Richard initially told his story in his memoir, Black and White: The Way I See It, which was released back in May 2014.
His son said he struggles to talk about the past since his strokes some years ago, and revisiting some places he frequented in his youth wasn’t easy.
“He doesn’t like thinking on and speaking on the past nowhere near as much as he used to, but I can remember stories he would give me about Lil’ Man and his other friends.
“He would talk about stealing from stores and how he would time himself stealing, stuff I made sure was in the book Black and White.
“Now, he doesn’t speak much on the past at all. He says the past is the past.
“I remember we went back to some of the areas [for the documentary], to where he saw people being hung. I think Lil’ Man was hung from a tree and he saw his hands cut off.
“It terrified him so bad it brought him to tears while we were there and we left immediately.
“Before, it wouldn’t have bothered him like that. So I just know since my dad had the strokes, he’s different.”
But he’s still also planning to put pen to paper again with the help of a ghost writer, with his son revealing there’s a book deal on the table.
“The first book was really about him and the beginning of his life,” Chavoita said. “It didn’t go into much about life in the game of tennis and his marriages.
“He’ll pick out his [ghost] writer, but we can’t say too much about it at the moment. It’s exciting, there’s a lot to come that we are looking forward to.”