Richard Williams and his daughters, Venus and Serena, are the focus of King Richard. But most of the movie’s story follows the Williams sisters’ development as tennis players, first being tutored by Richard and his wife, Oracene, before being turned over to established coaches who could refine their raw skills and put them on the path toward professional careers.
A key figure in Venus and Serena’s development was coach Rick Macci, who runs a professional tennis academy in Florida and previously coached Jennifer Capriati and Andy Roddick to stardom. In King Richard, Macci is portrayed by Jon Bernthal, probably best known for playing Shane on The Walking Dead and Frank Castle in The Punisher.
This was a very different role for him, as demonstrated by the floppy haircut and mustache Bernthal wears on screen. As we said in our review of King Richard, the mustache is magnificent and Bernthal’s performance as Macci is probably the most amusing part of the movie. He’s just laid out by the force of nature that is Richard Williams, who knows his daughters are tennis sensations and refuses to follow the conventional path for junior players so that Venus and Serena can have regular childhoods.
Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live to promote the film, Bernthal was naturally teased about that mustache which he wants everyone to know was real.
“That’s my mustache, man! That’s my mustache,” Bernthal told Kimmel. “Not only that, I kept it. We got shut down for six months and I kept that mustache.
“And my kids, man — little Billy Bernthal — would tug on that mustache every day. My wife would not make out with me for six months. But I believed in the spirit of this film so much. I took so much crap for that mustache.”
Bernthal acknowledged that he’s not the first actor people might think of for a role like this because of his frequent tough-guy screen persona. But he wanted to be in the movie because the themes of fatherhood and sports resonated with him.
Fans of Bernthal and late-night TV know that he’s a great talk show guest, always outgoing and funny with a story that usually pokes fun at his image. If he’s listed as a guest, tune in. Bernthal will talk about the rules of filming sex scenes for cable TV. Want him to talk about his break-dancing days? He’ll do it and show off some moves.
And since Bernthal mentioned the aspects of parenthood and sports that appealed to him in King Richard, he shared the disbelief and anguish he felt when his son told him not to chatter from the stands at his baseball games anymore.
“I feel like my chatter’s great. I feel like my chatter’s amazing,” said Bernthal before giving an example of his baseball cheers. “Then Bill’s like, ‘Me and the guys have been talking, and you’re really embarrassing me. I’m like, ‘My man, you were walking around with poop in your pants just a few years ago. I can’t embarrass you.’ He really hurt my feelings, man.”
Bernthal also said that he loves to drive fast — or thought he did until he started working with Will Smith.
King Richard is currently playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max until Dec. 29. It’s a good choice for something to watch with the family over the Thanksgiving holiday.