They left the UK in 2020 to live in the Hollywood Hills, rub shoulders with A-listers and immerse themselves into new showbiz careers. But two years on from their departure, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have little to show for it – and were last week dealt another blow when it emerged that one of Meghan’s Netflix projects had been cancelled.
After stepping down as senior royals and promising to “work to become financially independent”, the couple – who share three-year-old Archie and Lilibet, who turns one next month – established their new life, moving into an £11m Montecito mansion and signing lucrative deals with some of the world’s largest media giants.
They signed a £71m contract with Netflix and another worth £18m with Spotify to produce content under their own brand, Archewell Audio.
They also signed up with Apple TV, which aired Harry’s five-part docu-series with Oprah Winfrey, The Me You Can’t See, which wrapped up filming last May.
For a while the couple seemed to have stalled with their projects, with Spotify said to have been “mystified” at the lack of content from them, after releasing just one podcast in a year.
Last month, things looked as if they were finally moving in the right direction as the pair took along a Netflix camera crew to The Invictus Games – and Harry, 37, also, reportedly, brought them with him when he popped in to see his grandmother at Buckingham Palace. Meanwhile, it was announced that 40-year-old Meghan’s long-awaited podcast Archetypes – which will focus on female stereotypes – would be launched this summer.
However, in what was no doubt a huge blow for the couple, Meghan’s animated children’s TV show Pearl, which she’d planned with her famous pal David Furnish, was scrapped last month, amid Netflix’s cutbacks. Now, PR expert Nick Ede – who runs PR company East of Eden – tells Closer he believes the couple are now under pressure to deliver something brilliant.
Nick says, “When Harry and Meghan first moved to Hollywood and branched out on their own, they were hot property. The media giants were all chomping at the bit, and Harry and Meghan were keen to make as much money as possible, so they signed legacy deals – contracts lasting for more than five years – which gave them a hell of a lot of money. These deals are great, but it also means you have to deliver. There’s no escaping that they haven’t produced much yet.”
Since leaving the UK, Harry and Meghan have taken multiple shots at the royal family, primarily during interviews with A-list stars. During an interview with US TV host Oprah last March, they accused a member of the royal family of making racist remarks about the colour of their unborn baby’s skin. They also claimed they were refused help when they reached out about Meghan’s suicidal thoughts.
In a podcast with actor Dax Shepard weeks later, Harry claimed he felt “trapped” within the royal family and at the Invictus Games he told host Hoda Kotb that he wanted to ensure his grandmother “had the right people around [her].”
The rift looked no closer to healing when, last week, Buckingham Palace issued a statement saying that Harry and Meghan would not be appearing on the balcony or carrying out royal duties at the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June. Minutes later, the Sussexes released their own statement, making it clear they would be coming to the UK for the festivities with their children, despite not being part of the official ceremony.
And Nick says their rift with the royals is their biggest selling point. “That’s what the media giants will want because their biggest audience are people who love to hear them trash the royal family. That is what will get them the ratings. Meghan’s children’s book did averagely. Maybe Netflix was worried about that. And it just shows that Harry and Meghan’s brand isn’t untouchable.
“People will assume Pearl didn’t come out because it was going to flop. It’s a bit of a disaster, money has been spent, reputations on the line. Now, there will be a lot of pressure on Harry and Meghan to deliver.”
Meghan previously had a career in showbiz, starring in hit legal drama Suits for seven years, running her beauty and lifestyle blog The Tig and launching two clothing lines.
But since she’s returned to LA, Meghan, has turned her attention to humanitarian projects, launching her women’s 40x40 initiative on her birthday, speaking at Covid vaccination awareness concert Vax Live and reportedly even considering a move into politics.
But Nick says she – and Harry – need to cultivate their brand. He says, “When Meghan was in Hollywood before, she was in Suits and looked gorgeous and people wanted to know her secrets. She launched her blog and it worked. I think that could still work for her now, but she needs to make sure it doesn’t jar with her humanitarian work. Meghan needs to think carefully about the route she wants to go down and her next move.
“My advice would be for them to just create the content and get stuff out. From a PR perspective, I really wouldn’t have promoted those massive deals until they had tangible, actual content, because now they are under a huge amount of pressure and scrutiny. They both need to desperately get their heads down and get working. People are going to get confused, frustrated or bored otherwise.”
While Meghan has had experience in the world of Hollywood, Harry hasn’t – and Nick adds that he thinks the prince will really struggle.
“Harry looked like he was thriving during The Invictus Games – but that was part of his old life,” says Nick.
“At the moment, he’s not actually doing anything that he didn’t do in the royals. I don’t think he really understood showbiz, or understood its fickle nature. While the doors flew open for them at first, they’re not now. They both need to work out their next moves in order to save themselves from even more scrutiny, and they need to do so fast.”