Will Smith took home the award for best actor in a film for his portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’ father, Richard Williams, in King Richard at the 2022 SAG Awards.
Smith beat out fellow nominees Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog), Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick … Boom!) and Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth).
The actor excitedly jumped out of his seat and appeared to be shouting with glee after his name was called, embracing co-stars Aunjanue Ellis and Saniyya Sidney.
The win is Smith’s first SAG Award after three nominations. Backstage he reflected on the past year, which also saw him release a memoir, Will.
“It’s been a time of deep personally reflection and it is resulting in an artistic comprehension and growth as a man and growth as an artist,” he said. “I’ve never had this kind of growth spurt in my life.”
Onstage, he paid tribute to the real family he and his co-stars portray in the Warner Bros. film.
“That may have been one of the greatest moments of my career just now because my name was called for King Richard sitting next to Venus Williams,” Smith said, with the camera cutting to the tennis great at the King Richardtable.
He continued, saying of the tennis stars’ father, “Richard Williams is a dreamer like no one has ever known. He has a power of belief that borders on insanity and sometimes tips over the border, which is absolutely necessary to take something from impossible to possible.”
Backstage, Smith said he could understand the concept of believing “something that’s not yet true, and you have to believe it powerfully even though it doesn’t exist and the universe hasn’t opened the door for the thing to enter the world yet, and you have to believe it fully.”
“This is a thought universe so I think it’s really critical to be able to dream wildly even if it’s not something that people view as realistic,” he added.
Onstage, Smith also thanked Ellis for “demanding authenticity,” saying she did her real-life counterpart “wonderful justice.”
As for the girls who played the young Williams sisters, Sidney and Demi Singleton, Smith said, “to walk you around this room tonight, to parent you on this film, to deliver you into this business has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life.”
Backstage, he reflected on that further, saying “this business can be so brutal and many times I’ve seen young people’s spirit broken by the brutality of this business.”
“I took it as such a personal endeavor,” he added. “I took the Richard Williams perspective of protector and just watching their faces on their journey, I just got overwhelmed with the joy of being blessed enough to escort them to the doors of this profession.”
Onstage, Smith he thanked the real Williams sisters, who serve as executive producers on the film but didn’t agree to that credit until they saw the movie, for how they “entrusted me and our group with your story.”
Recalling how they withheld approval until seeing the finished product, Smith and Venus Williams laughed, and Smith said he understood.
Smith is seen as the frontrunner for the best actor Oscar for his role in King Richard and he previously won the Golden Globe, at what was an untelevised ceremony, for his role in the film. He’s also up for the BAFTA and Critics Choice awards for best actor.
Watch Will’s acceptance speech below.
— SAG Awards® (@SAGawards) February 28, 2022