Will Smith hit with ‘colorism’ backlash after new role announced
Will Smith is set to star as tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams’ father, Richard, in the aptly titled “King Richard,” but the former “Fresh Prince” isn’t getting a very royal welcome.
The biopic centers on the athletes’ father, Richard Williams, and comes from a spec script by Zach Baylin. The script, NBC News reports, was runnerup on 2018’s Black List, a highly respected barometer for sought-after screenplays.
Despite his lack of a background in tennis, reported Deadline, which originally broke the news, Williams “overcame tremendous hardship, skepticism and his own troubled past to raise two of the game’s greatest players.” He even went so far as to create “a 78-page plan for [Serena and Venus’] professional tennis careers.”
Obviously, his efforts paid off, as Serena is widely regarded as the sport’s best female player in history, a result of her 23 Grand Slam tournament wins. Venus has seven Grand Slam wins to her name.
While Hollywood is clearly intrigued by the project — set to be produced by Tim White and Trevor White’s Star Thrower Entertainment — the public has a different view. The news elicited colorism-related backlash given that Smith has lighter skin than Williams.
The term “colorism” is used to describe “the privileging of light skin over dark,” something Hollywood has been accused of more than once.
Clarence Hill Jr. said that while he considers himself a fan of Smith, “there are other black actors for this role.” Similarly, Valerie Complex tweeted about the film, “Colorism at work,” while George M. Johnson reminded people, “Skin color matters in how folk were treated and navigated spaces.”
Though some might argue that Smith being African-American renders the issue moot, the decision to cast him as Williams has been equated to the casting of Scarlett Johansson in “The Ghost in the Shell.” Smith is considered too fair-skinned, according to some on Twitter.