VIDEO: First Look - THIRTEEN's American Masters Series Profiles Sports Legend Billie Jean King
For the first time, THIRTEEN's American Masters series profiles a sports figure: Billie Jean King (born Nov. 22, 1943), a determined woman who has been a major force in changing and democratizing the cultural landscape. American Masters Billie Jean King premieres nationally Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 8-9:30 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings) to commemorate three 40th anniversaries: the Billie Jean King v. Bobby Riggs "The Battle of the Sexes" match on Sept. 20, 1973, the founding of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) by King on June 20, and the U.S. Open becoming the first Grand Slam tournament to award equal prize money to men and women. This new documentary traces the incredible life of one of the most important female athletes of the 20th century as her 70th birthday nears.
American Masters looks back to the 12-year-old Long Beach, California, girl who played tennis on public courts, observed disparity and, as she soared athletically, never stopped trying to remedy inequality. During her professional tennis career, King won 39 Grand Slam titles, helped form the Virginia Slims Series (pre-cursor to WTA Tour), founded the Women's Sports Foundation and Women's Sports magazine, and co-founded World TeamTennis (WTT). Her competitiveness on the circuit was matched by her efforts on behalf of women and the LGBT community, and her commitment to prove there is strength in diversity.
In American Masters Billie Jean King, King presents her own story with perspective from fellow tennis stars that played alongside her or were influenced by her, among them Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Ilana Kloss (King's partner), Maria Sharapova, Serena and Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, and members of the Virginia Slims Circuit "Original 9," including Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Nancy Richey, and Valerie Ziegenfuss. The film also features new interviews with a diverse cast of characters from King's unparalleled life: former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, friend and fellow activist Sir Elton John, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Bobby Riggs' son Larry and "Battle of the Sexes" trainer Lornie Kuhle, King's brother Randy Moffitt and ex-husband Larry King, and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to President Obama, who chose King as the first female athlete to be awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. King is also a member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Through these interviews and archival footage, the film illustrates the life of a woman whose journey became not just a battle for personal glory but a sociopolitical battle for equality for all.
"Billie Jean King embodies the art of sports, of humanism, and of activism. For more than 50 years, her excellence and example have sparked the way for changes that enrich us all," said Susan Lacy, creator and executive producer of American Masters."Billie Jean's star on our cultural landscape shines brighter and brighter, with no end in sight."
Since its 1986 premiere, American Masters has earned 24 Emmy Awards - including eight for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special - 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, and two Producers Guild Awards. Now in its 27th season on PBS, the series is a production of THIRTEEN. WNET is the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York's public television stations, and operator of NJTV. For 50 years, THIRTEEN has been making the most of the rich resources and passionate people of New York and the world, reaching millions of people with on-air and online programming that celebrates arts and culture, offers insightful commentary on the news of the day, explores the worlds of science and nature, and invites students of all ages to have fun while learning.
To take American Masters beyond the television broadcast and further explore the themes, stories and personalities of masters past and present, the companion website (http://pbs.org/americanmasters) offers streaming video of select films, interviews, essays, photographs, outtakes, and other resources. American Masters is also seen on the WORLD channel, a 24/7, full service multicast channel featuring public television's signature nonfiction documentary, science and news programming, broadcast in nearly two-thirds of the United States.
American Masters Billie Jean King is a production of New Black Films, Media Squared Films PLC, and THIRTEEN's American Masters in association with Goldcrest Films International and WNET. James Erskine is director, producer, and writer. Victoria Gregory is producer. Susan Lacy is American Masters series creator and executive producer.
American Masters is a production of THIRTEEN. The series is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, Anne Ray Charitable Trust, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Jack Rudin, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers. Corporate support for American Masters Billie Jean King is provided by The Weinstein Company.