“Keeping Up With the Sussexes” or “The Real Royals of Montecito?”
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have reportedly welcomed Netflix crews into their Montecito estate to produce a new “behind the scenes,” “t-home with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex-style series about their life in California, which could help them fulfill their $100 million deal to produce content for the streaming giant, Page Six is reporting.
“I think it’s fair to say that Netflix is getting its pound of flesh,” a highly placed Hollywood insider told Page Six.
Netflix is pushing the Sussexes to allow it to air the series late this year, Page Six said. This timing would coincide with the release of Harry’s hotly-anticipated tell-all memoir, in which he’s expected to offer a “very harsh” assessment of life in the British royal family, as famed editor and “The Palace Papers” author TIna Brown recently told the Washington Post.
The Sussexes, however, would prefer to put off the series until 2023, with a producer telling Page Six: “The timing is still being discussed, things are up in the air.”
With their Archewell Productions company, Harry and Meghan signed a lucrative Netflix deal in 2020 after they stepped away from royal life and moved to California. They promised to produce scripted series, documentaries, features and children’s programming.
Thus far, they haven’t produced anything that’s been released. Earlier this month, the couple suffered a blow when it was learned that crisis-hit Netflix had dropped Meghan’s much-ballyhooed animated children’s series, “Pearl,” from its lineup, amid a wave of cutbacks.
On the other hand, it’s well known that Netflix has been filming Harry for “Heart of Invictus,” another documentary series about his work with the Invictus Games. Netflix crews were seen filming Harry and Meghan last month at the international sporting event for wounded servicemen and women, which took place in the Netherlands, Page Six and other outlets have reported.
Netflix crews also have been shadowing Harry and Meghan for a “much juicier” program, Page Six reported, filming inside their home in Santa Barbara County, Page Six said. It’s not known, though, whether the couple allowed the cameras to film them with their children, Archie and Lilibet, whose images they have closely guarded.
It also has been previously reported that camera crews followed the Sussexes on their trip to New York City last September, where they met with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Kathy Hochul, visited the United Nations and a school in Harlem, and participated in Global Citizen Live, a 24-hour event broadcast from Central Park.
If Harry and Meghan are indeed allowing a behind the scenes look at their life, it would delight their fans, but the choice would give new ammunition to critics, who are quick to seize on any contradictory messages they put out.
For one thing, as Tina Brown observed, Harry and Meghan famously said they wanted to step away from royal life in 2020 in order to preserve their privacy. Brown said that Meghan faced harsh, invasive and, at times, racist treatment from the British tabloid press.
“It’s one thing to be traumatized by the British press,” Brown told the Washington Post. “It’s another to say you want privacy and that you’re extremely anxious about security, and you’ve got to pay for your own security, and then to sit down for a global interview with Oprah Winfrey. So, what are the contradictions going on with Meghan and Harry? You know, why should we take them seriously?”
Harry and Meghan may have no choice since leaving royal life, according to Brown and other royal observers. They’ve had to scramble to monetize their fame and are under pressure to produce not only content, but hit shows in order to fulfill their deals with both Netflix and Spotify, Brown said.
Thus far, they have only released one, 34-minute podcast episode for Spotify, which aired in December 2020.
“I think that more savvy advisors … could tell them the whole problem with entertainment deals is that you have to deliver hits,” Brown said. “Anyone can — if they’re lucky — can sign a major entertainment deal. But where’s the product?”
Brown and other royal observers have said that the Sussexes will probably need to continue to play up their connections to the royal family in order to keep people interested. “The royal brand,” Brown said, is one of the most powerful, well-known brands on Earth.”
Prince Charles’ biographer, Tom Bower, agreed in an interview with the Daily Mail that, as “Brand Markle” is struggling, Netflix may expect the couple to produce content related to the royal family in order to be relevant and to help boost the streaming service’s slumping subscriber numbers. Netflix, which also is dealing with a collapse in share value, has predicted it could lose another 2 million subscribers between now and June, the Daily Mail said.