Layla Crawford is starstruck on and off the tennis court.
"They've visited us on set. We've gone out to dinner with them a few times, talk to them on the Zooms and things like that," Layla said at Cirque du Soleil's Red Carpet Premiere of OVO on March 16. "They're really nice. They're very sweet people, very supportive."
She added, "And they're pioneers, especially for young Black women like me, so it means a lot."
Thought it was an incredible experience, she said that working on the film with the tennis stars also added pressure for the cast to do their best to represent their story. Layla, who plays Venus and Serena's sister Lyndrea Price, described it as "beautifully overwhelming."
"A lot of people know that they wanted to make sure the movie was to their standard," she said. "So the fact that they like signed on it and they loved it, it just means so much to me, because not only are we exploring their world, we are honoring them and their story. It's such an important one that that needs to be told."
The film—executive produced by Venus and Serena—follows the story of their upbringing with their father Richard Williams (played by Will Smith) as they discover and pursue their passion for tennis. Rounding out the onscreen family, Aunjanue Ellis played their mother Oracene Price, and Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew and Daniele Lawson played sisters Yetunde and Isha Price, who Oracene welcomed during a previous marriage along with Lyndrea.
Layla said, "I'm glad to be a part of their realm, and to be a part of the entire experience."
She also told E! News about working with the rest of the cast, including "generous and humble" Will Smith, who co-produced the film. "Will is an amazing human in general," she said. "He's just so kind and advocates for everyone and makes sure everyone's comfortable."
While the fun times on set may have ended, the support for each other continues. Layla mentioned that the cast is still active on their group chat, saying, "We're all texting pretty much every day."