Emmy-nominated actress Aunjanue Ellis made a recent appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to speak about her role as Venus and Serena William’s mother in the new film “King Richard.”
“How much did you know about Serena and Venus and their upbringing before you got involved in this?” asked Kimmel.
“I saw this great 60 minutes episode years and years ago,” said Ellis. “I saw these like two girls with beads in their hair and interviewed their father and I just remember thinking you know ‘What’s going to happen to these girls?’ you know, and then years later I see him at Wimbledon and everything that Mr. Williams said would happen to those girls happened.”
When it came to her knowledge about Oracene Price, Ellis admitted she didn’t know much about her before playing her.
“I didn’t know their mom was involved in their tennis-playing like she actually was out there especially with Serena spending a lot of time teaching her to play tennis,” she said. “When I was preparing for the role, I do what all actors do when they are preparing for the role they go to Wikipedia. I got to do my research and they said that she was a coach and I had a total cynical response to that I’m like you know, you’re a doting mother in the stands clapping for your kid but that does not make a coach right? And then I started working on the film and I found out that she was as much their coach as Mr. Williams was their coach.”
For the role, Ellis had to learn a bit of tennis, a sport she had no previous knowledge of.
“This is the biggest job I’ve ever had in my life you know and you know working with this big movie star and big studio movie and I gotta say, I thought that I would have like a body double or someone come on and do all that stuff [playing tennis] for me,” she said.
She admitted that after her role and learning tennis, she didn’t fall in love with the sport herself.
“I’m not a tennis fan, but I am a Venus and Serena fan,” said Ellis.
Ellis opened up about what it was like to work with a star as big as Will Smith and said she was intimidated at first, but once she got to know him and work with him more she realized how generous and kind of a person he is.
“It’s like working with Santa Claus a little bit,” she said.
Ellis is already said to be an Oscar contender for her role in “King Richard” and Kimmel went on to ask what her reaction to a nomination would be and what the film meant to her.
“I just love that that all these filmmakers came together, our director, Will, and they said ‘We want to tell the truth about this woman,’ and I just love the idea that it’s the story of King Richard but it’s also the story of this family and this woman who did everything for her family, so I’m really excited about that you don’t see those stories all the time,” she said.
“King Richard” is out in theaters and on HBO Max now.
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