During his acceptance speech for his SAG Awards win for “Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor” in “King Richard,” Will Smith took a moment to thank Serena and Venus Williams for the opportunity to embody the role as their father in the critically acclaimed biopic film.
“Aunjanue you pushed every single day. You demanded authenticity and you did it in such a beautiful and quiet, powerful way,” he said, according to Blavity News. “Saniyya and Demi these two young ladies…you guys are actors, so you know how sometimes your on-screen characters kind of bleed into real life. 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.”
Smith’s heartfelt speech moved both viewers at the SAG Awards and at home, but Ellis has recently revealed how her co-star showed support in not just his words but also his actions.
BET reports that in an interview with The Breakfast Club, the Academy Award-nominated actress shared that reports in November 2021 of Smith granting bonuses to the “King Richard” cast wasn’t the full truth. After Ellis penned a letter to him sharing she was lowballed for her pay, Smith took the matter into his own hands to ensure she and the fellow cast members were paid better for their work.
Aunjanue Ellis Speaks On Will Smith Paying It Forward
“He did, but I think what’s important to say about that…and I think it’s important that I say this. As I said, after you get the job, the fight is not over. You know you have to fight for equal pay and that kind of thing. I did that job, and I’m thankful for it, but I could have gotten paid better. So I told him this, and he did something about it,” Ellis told the radio station.
She continued: “As a result of his doing, his responding to the letter that I wrote to him, not only did he address that with increasing my pay, but the other actors in the movie also got their pay increased, which is the proof of when the Black women do well, everybody does well.”