Behind-the-scenes documentary series are becoming quite the trend in the sports world, and the latest along those lines is an HBO production about Serena Williams. The Being Serena series, produced in partnership with IMG’s Original Content group, will comprise five 30-minute installments that will air on HBO and its streaming platforms Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT beginning on May 2.
Here’s the short teaser trailer HBO released for the series Monday, featuring Williams talking about the challenges of competing while pregnant and as a new mother, and saying “I don’t know if there’s anything left for me in tennis, but I’m not done yet”:
The HBO release has some interesting further details:
BEING SERENA will provide viewers unprecedented access to Williams during her pregnancy, new motherhood and marriage, while documenting her journey back to supremacy on the court. Viewers will experience her life from every angle as the intimate first-person show delves into her landmark career, family life and expanding role as a businesswoman and investor in the worlds of tech, fashion, fitness and philanthropy.
“HBO is honored to work with Serena Williams on such a personal project,” says Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports. “Even though she has been in the spotlight since her teenage years, Serena continues to capture the imagination. With our partners at IMG, we look forward to giving viewers a revealing, behind-the-scenes portrait of her life on and off the court.”
“Serena Williams is a force unlike any other,” said Mark Shapiro, Co-President of WME and IMG. “Her entire life is one of the hero’s journey, and it has been a privilege to work with her as she enters this next phase. HBO was an incredible partner in developing a unique look into Serena’s world, and we look forward to sharing this all-access story with the world in May.”
Yes, that’s former ESPN executive vice president for programming and production Mark Shapiro, who’s been WME-IMG’s co-president since November 2016. And he was involved in a lot of notable films and series over the years at ESPN, from A Season On The Brink to The Junction Boys to the ill-fated Playmakers, and has since had a variety of notable roles from CEO of Six Flags to CEO of Dick Clark Productions, plus consulting for the NFL Network and other entities.
IMG has done plenty on the content side, too, including two previous partnerships with HBO: 2016’s “Gonzaga: The March to Madness,” looking at that team’s quest for its 18th consecutive NCAA men’s basketball tournament berth, followed by 2017’s “UConn: The March to Madness,” spotlighting the UConn women’s team’s quest for their fifth straight national championship.
A Serena Williams series is perhaps particularly interesting considering that she’s generally seemed to keep her private life pretty private. Events like her wedding last November have been talked about more, but even that had tightly controlled coverage with a Vogue exclusive (full of remarkable details). But maybe this is a larger trend, as we also saw notoriously-private star Tom Brady break that mold with a Facebook all-access series this year. And maybe it’s along the lines of what’s worked for The Players’ Tribune and other outlets that have given athletes and teams more control over telling their stories. At any rate, it should be interesting to see how Being Serena turns out, and just what it shows us about Williams and her life.