The following article appeared in the July 25, 2005 issue of People Magazine
Venus and Serena Share the Grind
LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) - Venus and Serena Williams don't spend a lot of time sitting on their hands. Between the championship tennis matches, photo shoots, red carpet appearances and their line of fashion and interior-design items, the celebrated siblings are studies in perpetual motion.
So what possessed them to sign on for "Venus & Serena: For Real," a six-part documentary series premiering Wednesday, July 20, on ABC Family?
Older sister Venus Williams, 25, anticipates the question and has her answering volley prepared.
"Our show's all about, pretty much, the grind," she says. "The grind of having to be on top of our games, the grind of keepin' up with everything that we do: charity work, awards shows and of course, practice. And also trying to find a moment, like, to make sure we're with our family, which we do have a lot of moments.
"We wanted to do a reality show because we just felt like a lot of the shows out there weren't reality. And Serena and I thought, 'Well, our show will be reality because we don't, literally, have time for anything else.'"
"It's a family project for us," Serena, 23, says. "It's not just myself and Venus. It turns out you get to learn a lot about my older sisters, like Isha and Lyndrea, and my mom and my dad. And you get to see the dynamic relationship that all of us have, so it's really cool."
Once the sisters had committed to the notion of doing this reality show, they took the project to executive producers Fernando J. Hernandez ("'Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen + Dave") and Robert Pura ("D-Tour"), whose work they knew from various MTV productions.
"From our experience at MTV and with all the celebrities that we've worked with over the years, one of our strengths is that we get to know our subjects, learn who they are and what their dynamic is, then go from there," Hernandez explains.
"We get very close to our subjects, we befriend them, so they learn to trust us and confide in us. As producers and storytellers, that allows us to get in there and get those intimate moments in a way that doesn't feel intrusive to them. After a while, there's not much that seems off-limit to them, and we don't have to do a lot of self-editing."
Of course, all this assumes that any camera team is able to keep up with this pair of human whirlwinds, who keep such breathless personal schedules that basic logistical constraints can become a major issue.
"These women are absolute rock stars," Pura says. "At one point, we were in five cities over eight days. Logistically, when you have a crew of 20 people that need to move from Point A to Point B, while following Venus and Serena at the same time, it's a real challenge.
"But there's always a learning curve on both sides. Obviously, when we were starting out, the girls were unaware of how hard it was for us to move, how much that involved. They think they'll just go about their lives as usual and we'll keep up. They don't realize there has to be some planning involved, with a few days notice."
"After that one week when we followed them to five cities, we were absolutely exhausted just keeping up with them, and you have to remember, this is what almost every week is like for them. We were astonished by their ability to multitask," Hernandez says.
Shooting almost every day over the course of six weeks, the filmmakers were able to capture moments ranging from triumphant to comical to disappointing in the sisters' lives. Audiences don't need to brace themselves for anything truly shocking.
"It's not as if there are a lot of 'dark' things to uncover about Venus and Serena anyway," Hernandez says. But the sisters believe their fans may be surprised by some of the more modest revelations in these six weekly half-hour episodes.
"I think people are going to be surprised how we go into the office," Venus says. "Like, after our practice and after our training, Serena goes to her fashion office and I go to my interior-design office down the street.
"We both just love fashion," Serena says. "We kind of design our outfits that we wear on the tennis court, and we went to school for two and a half years at the Art Institute. We kind of just had this whole fashion background for as long as we can remember. We were making clothes for even our dolls when we were really young.
"We just aspire to be fashion-forward, and I went on into clothing, and Venus branched out into interior. It's kind of cool to see, and we just have so much fun and enjoy it so much."
Underscoring almost every aspect of the sisters' lives, however, is their tight relationship with the rest of their family, something Serena says she hopes fans really take to their hearts.
"A lot of people can relate to us because we have a lot of issues that everyone else would have," she says. "This is our life, and I think ABC Family is a perfect venue for us, because this whole show is about family."
"It's not a game," Venus adds, "not something that we walk away from at the end of a few weeks. It's something that we live all of our lives."
The following article appeared in the June 28, 2004 issue of People Magazine
The following article appeared in the February 2, 2004 issue of Newsweek Magazine