Best Actor Oscar favorite Will Smith taking 'King Richard' buzz in stride

As "King Richard," Will Smith has found the role of a lifetime and is widely expected to win his first Oscar for playing the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams.

He was working the the carpet at the National Board of Review Awards at Cipriani in Midtown, and that's where I caught up with him.

He's been called the Best Actor of the year by his peers in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), was honored by broadcasters at the Critics Choice Awards, and was recognized with an Image Award from the NAACP.

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Additionally, he was honored by the British Academy of Film and TV (BAFTA) last weekend.

He's not taking anything for granted.

"I'm not even thinking about it like that," he said.

And if you don't believe him, he understands.

"You know, it always sounds like actors trying to be humble saying, 'Well, you know, I don't think about awards in that way. I'm about the work. I stay focused on the work,'" he said. "It's not that."

"King Richard" tells the story of how one father from Compton overcame tremendous odds to train his daughters for greatness, and it feels like a culmination for the star who last earned an Oscar nomination 15 years ago.

"I do feel it's his time," the movie's director, Reinaldo Marcus Green, said. "He devoted himself to the role of Richard Williams, and from the moment I met him, he gave 100% to me."

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For his part, Smith insists the power of the ensemble and the focus on the Williams family as a whole unit are what makes the film so special.

"I'm finding myself with the attention being on the hearts and the experience the people around me rather than where or not my name gets called," he said.

Is he a sure thing? Smith has been around long enough not to get too cocky, and the star said he couldn't think about winning because he was too focused on a request from his two young co-stars who played the Williams sisters.

Sanaya Sidney and Demi Singleton asked him to please introduce them to Andrew Garfield, and he spent most of his time that night trying to make that happen.
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