11:15am PT by Jean Bentley
'Harry & Meghan' Creators Hope the Royals Watch (and Drink Along With) Their Lifetime Movie
While the team behind Lifetime's Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance worked on an ultra-condensed timeline to get their TV movie to the air ahead of the real-life royal wedding — the one-off airs Sunday, May 13, and the couple ties the knot in real life May 19 — the rest of Hollywood wasn't necessarily up to speed with Markle's new career. On one casting list of suggested actresses to play Suits star Meghan Markle? Suits star Meghan Markle.
"We think they were having a laugh," executive producer Michele Weiss explained to reporters gathered for a recent panel about the cable movie at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills (for high tea, naturally).
Weiss and Meredith Finn, who were behind Lifetime's Flowers in the Attic and its sequel, Petals on the Wind, began working on the film the day Prince Harry and Markle announced their engagement. Screenwriters Scarlett Lacey and Terrence Coli (E! scripted drama The Royals) had two weeks to pen the script. The writing duo would incorporate real-life events as they happened, like in December 2017 when Princess Michael of Kent wore a racist brooch to the Queen's Christmas luncheon.
"We tried to be really, really truthful wherever we could. The brooch incident did not happen where it does in the movie, but it did happen," Lacey told reporters. While she and Coli certainly took liberties in telling the story, they tried to hew as close to what would have happened in real life as possible.
"We have used our imaginations in places, but there was so much available to us from Meghan's own words [in speeches and her now-defunct blog, The Tig] and [a documentary on Princess Diana's death]," Lacey added. "In addition to what is true in fact, there were things that we knew had to be true in spirit. We also knew that anyone who has dated and gotten to the proposal stage, there are always going to be things like the first kiss, the first time you say I love you, the first argument — there must have been arguments — the first time you introduce the other to your family, and then the discussion about, 'Oh, will we get married?' and then the proposal."
Murray Fraser (The Loch, PBS' Victoria) and Parisa Fitz-Henley (NBC's Midnight, Texas) play the prince and his beloved. And while writer Lacey has rubbed shoulders with the royals before — "I grew up in the polo and croquet crowd. Charles was around, and Diana was there at the beginning. I was a kid," she said — Fitz-Henley can't recall ever meeting Markle (though they have mutual friends).
"I'm sure we went up for the same things," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "We definitely have friends in common, so it's highly likely we've crossed paths at some point."
Markle has starred in a few made-for-TV movies of her own, and producers Weiss and Finn hope she watches this one (since it's about her, and all).
"If I were her, I'd watch it just for the thrill factor," Weiss said. "And our intention was to be — we admire the couple, so we hope if they watch it they think it's funny and they think it's sweet and they think that we hit on the historical import of the union."
As for the rest of the royal family, director Menhaj Huda has an inside source. "My wife’s best friend has been dating the press secretary of the palace," he said. "What I’ve heard is that they’re seriously worried about the sex scene."
Lacey says she's hoping the royal family will tune in.
"I'm pretty sure they're going to watch it.... They'll probably turn it into a royal drinking game."
Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance premieres Sunday, May 13, at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.