TV & Movies

Lifetime Did Not Shy Away from the Real-life Racism in the Royal Love Story

"We definitely pay attention to the reality that they faced," says Parisa Fitz-Henley, who plays Meghan Markle in Lifetime's 'Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance'

Parisa Fitz-Henley as Meghan Markle dances with Murray Fraser as Prince Harry in Lifetime's Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance (Photo courtesy of Corus)

Parisa Fitz-Henley as Meghan Markle and Murray Fraser as Prince Harry in Lifetime’s Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance(Photo courtesy of Corus)

Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance, which first aired on May 13, was almost as highly anticipated as the royal wedding itself—OK, maybe that’s stretching it a bit, but we were definitely stoked. I mean, let’s be real, between the whirlwind romance and the fact that Meghan Markle is literally marrying a prince, this love story was made to be a movie. However, Lifetime was careful not to present this as a typical fairytale. In fact, A Royal Romance got surprisingly serious in the way it handled the very real racism this couple has faced.

For Jamaican-American actor Parisa Fitz-Henley, who plays Markle in the film, the racism that the couple endured is an essential part of their story—and therefore a crucial part of the film.

“The thing that is romantic is when you see people who are able to work together and be there for each other and understand each other through difficulties—in addition to all the sweet things that we associate with romance in a general sense,” said Fitz-Henley. “So we definitely pay attention to the reality that they faced because that’s part of what makes them a strong and interesting couple.”

Though the film starts out like any other romcom—you know, boy meets girl, boy casually takes girl to Botswana for a second date—things get real when Prince Harry (Murray Fraser) first tells his fam about Markle. As Harry gushes about his feelings, Kate Middleton (Laura Mitchell) points out that Markle is American, divorced and her mother is Black—aspects of her identity that could make her unpopular amongst other members of the royal family and the public. 

“Think of what we went through because I was a commoner,” Middleton says, a reference to real-life media coverage that questioned if she was worthy of marrying into the royal family.

This type of treatment is then demonstrated through a scene where Markle is supposedly meeting Prince Harry’s fam for the first time. After she experiences some classic casual racism, including being asked how she got her hair so straight, she steps away from the party—and finds herself having to explain to Prince Harry that the fact that she’s an actor and he’s a prince aren’t the only things that have made their lived experiences different.

“I’m American, I’m from California, I’m divorced, and uh, and then I’m half-Black,” she explains. “This can never be my world, it’s just how things are.”

When Harry tries to tell her that they can change all that together, she checks his privilege, saying, “You have never seen how ugly people can get about this.” Then, she tells him the story that real-life Markle recounted in the July 2015 edition of Elle: what it felt like to hear her mother get called the N-word.

“You think that things are changing and then you just have to turn on the news and see what’s happening in the world, or have a conversation with someone at tea and you see that they are not changing fast enough,” Markle says. Like, dayum Lifetime, way to drop some #realtalk.

The scene is followed by one where Markle’s mother is harassed by the paparazzi, who ask her questions about her dreads and how she thinks the Queen will feel about her grandson dating a Black girl. This brief, yet powerful reenactment was inspired by the real-life harassment that both Markle and her mother faced. The media coverage prompted Prince Harry IRL (and depicted in the film) to pen an unprecedented official statement, calling out, “the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”

The film further depicts Prince Harry’s allyship in their adaptation of the infamous racist brooch situation. The real-life incident involved Princess Michael of Kent wearing a blackamoor-style brooch to a Christmas lunch that Markle was also attending. In the Lifetime film, this scene was reimagined as if it happened at Pippa Middleton’s wedding (for which Markle wasn’t in attendance) and a fictional character named Lady Victoria was donning the offensive accessory. In the film, it is Prince Harry who calls out the brooch—and in doing so, makes some pointed comments about his own family’s colonial past.

“It’s a symbol of our imperialist domination in Africa, something we should be bloody well be apologizing for, not flaunting,” Prince Harry says to Lady Victoria.

I was expecting this film to be a Lifetime version of The Prince and Me, but pointed moments like these set it apart. Twitter users also seemed to seriously appreciate the fact that Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance didn’t gloss over the racism that has plagued this otherwise super sweet love story.

And tbh, watching Markle and Harry (well, Fitz-Henley and Fraser) overcome everything from royal traditions to racist relatives made us even more excited to see these two lovebirds get their real life happily ever after this Saturday.

Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance airs Saturday, May 19 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on W Network, as part of W’s Always and Forever​ movie event.


Wait, There’s No Maid of Honour?! + Every Other Detail We Know About the Royal Wedding Thus Far
Meghan Markle’s Toronto: Insiders Share All Her Favourite Spots
Exsqueeze Me, Is Meghan Markle About to Move into Kensington Palace?
Elaine Lui Answers All Your Questions About Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Is This The Woman Who Introduced Prince Harry to Meghan Markle?