Prince Harry and Meghan Markle cut most of their ties to the royal family to become Hollywood royals, or at least they’re trying to be.
The couple will produce a new Netflix romance based on New York Times bestselling novel Meet Me at the Lake, that has a still unannounced release date. This is their latest project after a series of much-scrutinized productions since stepping down from the royal family in 2020 after becoming disenchanted with royal life.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s media company, Archewell Productions, bought the rights to the novel and will work with streaming giant Netflix to produce a movie adaption, Penguin Random House confirmed on Wednesday.
Meet Me at the Lake, written by Carley Fortune, is a love story about a couple, Will and Fern, who meet and fall in love in a whirlwind 24 hours before having to part. The two promise to meet a year later, but when Will seemingly stands Fern up, it’s another 10 years before their paths cross again.
Though the story isn’t about being royal, the main characters have many undeniable similarities to Harry and Meghan. For starters, the book is set in Toronto, where Meghan spent seven years filming the television series Suits. It addresses postpartum depression, which Meghan spoke about in a 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey. And Will wrestles with the loss of a parent from an automobile accident, a direct parallel to Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, who famously died during a paparazzi car chase in 1997.
“I’m so thrilled about working with Netflix and Archewell to bring Meet Me at the Lake to the screen,” book author Fortune told Vogue. “Will and Fern’s love story is dear to my heart, and I can’t imagine a more perfect partnership.”
The news comes after the couple has faced criticism over recent failed projects and canceled deals.
New royals of Hollywood?
Harry and Meghan split with the royal family in January 2020, explaining in their six-part Netflix documentary Harry & Meghan that while many factors contributed to their departure, the Palace’s alleged poor treatment of them was the final straw.
After stepping back, Harry and Meghan were cut off from their security detail and royal annual income. In the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, the Sussexes and then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge William and Catherine, now Prince and Princess of Wales, were paid more than £5 million, or over $6 million, from King Charles, then Prince of Wales, according to the BBC. The amount covered the two couples’ public duties and some private expenses.
Harry and Meghan now live in Southern California. Their move was largely funded by Harry’s $10 million inheritance from his late mother, according to Forbes. Now the couple makes the bulk of their earnings through their production company, Archewell.
Archewell struck a $100 million deal with Netflix in September 2020 to “produce programming that informs, elevates, and inspires,” according to the company’s website. The Harry & Meghan documentary was part of the partnership, as is their upcoming movie Meet Me at the Lake.
Archewell also had a $20 million deal with Spotify to produce podcasts. Archetypes, an audio show in which Meghan talked to high-profile stars like tennis player Serena Williams and singer Mariah Carey about the labels and stereotypes they face as women, came from this partnership.
Most recently, Harry published his tell-all memoir, Spare, in January, which sold a record-breaking 1.4 million copies on its release day, surpassing former president Barack Obama’s record with his 2020 memoir. Harry was rumored to have received a $20 million advance for the book.
All in all, the couple’s movie, television, podcast, and book deals have made them an estimated $135 million, according to Forbes.
However, their Netflix and Spotify deals haven’t produced the smash hits they expected.
Netflix shot down two of their television show ideas and canceled an animated children’s show called Pearl. People familiar with the matter said that Netflix is unlikely to renew the couple’s deal, which runs through 2025, the Wall Street Journal reported.
And in June, Spotify and Archewell ended their podcasting deal after two and a half years. The companies said in a joint statement they had “mutually agreed to part ways.”
Sports reporter and Spotify executive Bill Simmons branded Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as “f***ing grifters” after they cut the partnership having only produced 13 episodes.
“I wish I had been involved in the ‘Meghan and Harry leave Spotify’ negotiation. ‘The F***ing Grifters.’ That’s the podcast we should have launched with them,” Simmons said on his podcast, The Bill Simmons Podcast, in June. “I have got to get drunk one night and tell the story of the Zoom I had with Harry to try and help him with a podcast idea. It’s one of my best stories… F**k them. The grifters.”
Correction, Aug. 9, 2023: An earlier version of this article misstated the role Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will play with their upcoming Netflix film. They will be its producers.