Rolling Out

Saniyya Sidney reflects on playing Venus Williams and working with Will Smith

Saniyya Sidney reflects on playing Venus Williams and working with Will Smith
Saniyya Sidney, who portrayed Venus Williams in King Richard, at the 2022 NAACP Image Awards. (Photo by Rashad Milligan for rolling out)

Saniyya Sidney is only 15 years old but has the poise of someone far beyond her years. After landing a role in the 2016 film Fences, Sidney returned to the silver screen with the daunting task of portraying Venus Williams in King Richard.

The film, which stars Academy Award-winning Will Smith, shows an intimate look at the origin story of Venus and Serena Williams, the sister tennis legends from Compton, California. Although nowadays, Serena is widely regarded as the greatest tennis player ever, Venus is who the film focuses on more because the older sibling exploded on the sports scene first.

At the 2022 NAACP Image Awards in Beverly Hills, California, Sidney spoke with rolling out about playing the legendary Venus and working with the legendary actor Smith.

With the release of King Richard and to be here at the 2022 NAACP Image Awards, how has this past year been for you?

Honestly, a dream come true. I’m so excited to be here. I think the NAACP means everything to me. And this movie is just something that I’m very proud of, and we’re getting recognized for it.

What did it mean to you to play a figure like Venus Williams?

Oh my gosh, she’s like my childhood hero. Getting to grow up and see her playing on the court inspired me to just go out there and do what I love to do. To play her is a dream come true.

How was it working with Will Smith?

[He’s] the funniest person I ever met. He’s like my dad, honestly. I love him so very much, and he’s so talented.

Have you seen the “Bel-Air” spinoff yet?

Yes. It’s really good. I’m actually very proud of it.

I think it’s something that is very important right now, and I love how it’s mixed into our generation today. So yeah, it’s very good. I like it a lot.

To a specific younger group of Black girls, they may not know who Venus Williams is, but they know you from watching the movie. What do you want to say to these younger girls who are looking up to you and have dreams and aspirations to get where you are?

Always believe in themselves. Always make sure they know who they are, and look in the mirror and say, “I’m capable of anything.”

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