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WME’s Jill Smoller and Carlos Fleming on Venus, Serena, & “King Richard”

The two WME executives and longtime agents representing the Williams sisters get Boardroom set for the new Will Smith-led biopic

Before Venus and Serena were “Venus and Serena,” they were a couple of young girls whose father saw something special in them that no one else would have dreamed. It was that utterly, magically unique.

And nearly four decades, a combined 636 professional match wins and 30 grand slam singles titles, and 13 grand slam doubles titles later, we arrive at the release of King Richard.

The Will Smith-led biopic tells the story of how Richard Williams first showed his daughters the game of tennis and planted the seed for a legacy that would reverberate far beyond the sport. And ahead of the film’s US theatrical and streaming release Friday, Boardroom spoke with Serena Williams‘ longtime agent, WME partner Jill Smoller, and Carlos Fleming, himself a WME partner who represents Venus, to take stock of the two legends’ titanic achievements and the driven dad who built the foundation for it all.

Jill Smoller with Serena Williams (DAVID X PRUTTING/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

SAM DUNN: How, in your mind, does Richard Williams differ from a stereotypical “stage parent”?

CARLOS FLEMING: He had a vision and was fearless in remaining true to his objectives. Venus and Serena also had the ability to back up his vision.

Most “stage parents” are oftentimes characterized by pursuing their own unfulfilled dreams through their children, Richard Williams was not that. He simply wanted his daughters to have a better life whether through academics — Isha went to Georgetown Law School — or athletics.

SD: Will there ever be another Venus and Serena? Could there ever be?

JILL SMOLLER: I don’t think there will ever be a carbon copy of their story. They have had to overcome barriers and obstacles like no other and have paved the way for so many future generations.

CF: The fact that their accomplishments are so historic and they were the firsts is impossible to replicate. There might be other championship sibling duos, but they truly transformed the sport of tennis.

Carlos Fleming with Venus Williams (Vallery Jean/FilmMagic)

JS: Richard Williams was so far ahead of his time. He advocated for his daughters like no other, but was also very protective and nurturing at the same time.

SD: Did you make a personal contribution to the film?

CF: WME reviewed the original script, shared it with the family, and ultimately negotiated the overall deal for the family with Warner Brothers.

Securing their sister Isha a role as a producer on the film proved to be invaluable, as she did an exceptional job in helping the writers and directors capture the respective voices.

SD: Who do you think will be leading the way in the next 20 years of tennis?

CF: If I was that good at seeing the future, I wouldn’t be a sports agent!

Venus & Serena Williams’ Career Accomplishments

VENUS WILLIAMS

Singles record: 815–264 (75.5%)
Doubles record: 185–37 (83.3%)
Mixed doubles record: 28–8 (77.8%)

Grand Slam singles titles: 7
Grand Slam doubles titles: 14
Grand Slam mixed doubles titles: 2
Olympic medals: 5 (4 gold, 1 silver)

Career prize money: $42,280,541
Key endorsements: Nike, Ralph Lauren, Wilson, EA

SERENA WILLIAMS

Singles record: 855–152 (84.9%)
Doubles record: 190–34 (84.8%)
Mixed doubles record: 27–4 (87.1%)

Grand Slam singles titles: 23
Grand Slam doubles titles: 14
Grand Slam mixed doubles titles: 2
Olympic medals: 4 (4 gold)

Career prize money: $94,518,971
Key endorsements: Nike, Wilson, Lincoln, Intel, Beats by Dre

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King Richard, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and starring Will Smith in the title role, premieres in theaters and on HBO Max on Nov. 19 in United States.