Meghan Markle began working on her new animated Netflix show with Sir Elton John’s husband in 2018 – two years before she left Britain, it was claimed today.
The Duchess of Sussex is teaming up with David Furnish to work on the project which follows a ’12-year-old heroine who finds inspiration in influential women from history’.
Sources have now claimed to Page Six that talks about this new programme have been ‘active’ for three years – but they also told the website that the project started as a charitable venture when Meghan was a working royal.
Its report claimed the show was ‘originally just one of a number of one-off advocacy projects that Markle started work on while a working member of the royal family’.
Meghan’s husband Prince Harry told Oprah Winfrey in March that they only thought of their big deal with Netflix – said to be worth £75million – after leaving the UK for North America early last year.
It is therefore possible that the Netflix deal is something altogether separate from this newly-announced show, which Meghan could have been working on for years.
Harry had said the plan came after his family cut them off financially. During the bombshell Oprah interview, Harry said: ‘The Netflix and the Spotify of it all, that was never part of the plan.’ Meghan then added: ‘No.’ Oprah said: ‘Because you didn’t have a plan.’ And Meghan said: ‘We didn’t have a plan.’
Harry continued: ‘We didn’t have a plan. That was suggested at the point at where my family literally cut me off financially and I had to afford security for us.’
Oprah interjected: ‘Wait, hold up, wait a minute? Your family cut you off?’ And Harry replied: ‘Yeah, in the first half, the first quarter of 2020. But I’ve got what my mum left me, and without that we would not have been able to do this.’
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, pictured in July 2018 at Marlborough House in London
Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish, pictured in April, who is working with Meghan
Similar projects at the time included her charity cookbook to raise money for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and the British Vogue issue that she guest edited.
Mr Furnish, 58, also appeared to point towards the long length of the project, posting on social media two days ago that he was ‘finally able to announce’ it.
What Meghan and David Furnish have said about the Netflix show
Duchess of Sussex
‘Like many girls her age, our heroine Pearl is on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to overcome life’s daily challenges. I’m thrilled that Archewell Productions, partnered with the powerhouse platform of Netflix, and these incredible producers, will together bring you this new animated series, which celebrates extraordinary women throughout history. David Furnish and I have been eager to bring this special series to light, and I am delighted we are able to announce it today.’
‘I am delighted that we are finally able to announce this exciting animated series. Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex and I are deeply passionate about bringing the inspirational and positive stories of extraordinary women from around the world to a global audience of all ages. The team collaborating on the series are first class, and @netflix are the perfect partner.’
Meghan, 39, will be an executive producer on the Netflix project alongside him, the Sussex’s audio production company Archewell revealed this week.
Sir Elton was good friends with Harry’s late mother Princess Diana and maintained a close relationship with the Duke after her death in Paris in 1997.
In 2019, Sir Elton paid for Harry and Meghan to fly via private jet to his multi-million-dollar mansion in the South of France – and the singer vehemently defended the couple following a furious backlash over their decision to travel in a private plane, despite actively advocating for environmental issues.
Sir Elton and Mr Furnish were also among the many celebrity guests – also including Oprah – invited to attend the Sussexes’ wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018.
And Sir Elton made a guest appearance in the first episode for the couple’s new Spotify podcast, last December, in which he discussed the toll of the pandemic and his ‘hope for healing’ in the future.
The new claims by Page Six come three weeks after a row over financial support for the couple, with the Sussexes claiming on June 24 that it was false to say Prince Charles bankrolled them with a ‘substantial sum’ following Megxit.
Royal accounts made public for the first time last month showed the future king continued to fund Harry and Meghan until summer 2020 from a £4.4million Clarence House pot used to support his two sons and their families.
This contradicted what Harry told Oprah in March when he said he stopped getting financial support from his family in the ‘first quarter’ of last year. He even claimed he and his wife were reduced to living off what ‘my mother had left me’.
But Harry and Meghan’s friend and trusted journalist Omid Scobie tweeted a clip of the Oprah interview along with an attempt at a clarification.
Mr Scobie said: ‘Despite some confusing reports, Prince Charles and Prince Harry’s timelines for the period the Sussexes’ financial support ended are the same.
David Furnish said he was ‘delighted’ to be ‘finally able’ to announce the new Netflix series
‘Clarence House says funding continued until last summer (Q1 of the UK’s fiscal year is April to June) and Harry told Oprah the same.’
Details of Charles’s continued financial support for his estranged son came as both Clarence House and Buckingham Palace opened up their yearly financial accounts.
The new Netflix series, which has the working title Pearl, which will be released as part of the Sussexes’ lucrative deal with streaming site Netflix.
In a statement Meghan said: ‘Like many girls her age, our heroine Pearl is on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to overcome life’s daily challenges.
Meghan issued a statement about the new show through the Sussexes’ Archewell website
‘I’m thrilled that Archewell Productions, partnered with the powerhouse platform of Netflix, and these incredible producers, will together bring you this new animated series, which celebrates extraordinary women throughout history.’
She added: ‘David Furnish and I have been eager to bring this special series to light, and I am delighted we are able to announce it today.’
And Mr Furnish wrote on Instagram: ‘I am delighted that we are finally able to announce this exciting animated series.
‘Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex and I are deeply passionate about bringing the inspirational and positive stories of extraordinary women from around the world to a global audience of all ages.
Harry and Meghan greet David Furnish (second left) and Sir Elton John (centre) at the European premiere of the film The Lion King in London on July 14, 2019
‘The team collaborating on the series are first class, and @netflix are the perfect partner.’
Pearl is the second show from the Netflix deal that Meghan and the Duke of Sussex signed last year after Heart Of Invictus, a docuseries about the Invictus Games, with Harry both appearing and serving as executive producer.
Harry and Meghan’s deal with Netflix was said to be worth £75million, alongside their Spotify deal understood to be worth £18million.
In December the couple launched their first podcast as part of Archewell audio, reflecting on 2020 with famous friends including Sir Elton and James Corden.
Harry and Meghan’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey was first broadcast on March 7
And at a Spotify event on February they said they were ‘using podcasting to drive powerful conversations that inspire, challenge and educate’.
Meghan said: ‘We created Archewell audio to make sure that we can elevate voices that maybe aren’t being heard and hear people’s stories.’
Harry added: ‘And the biggest part of this is trying to create this community where you can share. We’d encourage everybody else to then share their own vulnerabilities within that safe space.’
In June, Meghan published a children’s book based on a poem she wrote for Harry on Father’s Day in 2019.
In June, Meghan published a children’s book based on a poem she wrote for Harry. The Bench tells the story of a relationship between a father and a son through the eyes of the mother
The Bench tells the story of a relationship between a father and a son through the eyes of the mother.
Meanwhile last month the Duchess revealed on a US radio station that she had hidden a reference to Princess Diana in her recently released children’s book.
She told NPR: ‘If people start digging, you can find sweet little moments that we have tucked in there, from my favourite flower, even my husband’s mom’s favourite flower, forgetme-nots. We wanted to make sure those were included.’
MailOnline has today contacted representatives for the Duchess of Sussex, Netflix and Mr Furnish for comment about the new Netflix show.
Are THESE the women who will feature in Meghan’s new Netflix show? ‘Inspirational’ female figures she has praised in the past
The 15 women she spotlighted as ‘forces for change’ on the cover of British Vogue
In July 2019, Meghan guest edited an issue of the fashion publication, in which she profiled more than a dozen women from around the globe whom she hailed as ‘trailblazers’.
The list included Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, actress and activist Jane Fonda, model and mental health advocate Adwoa Aboah, actress and campaigner Gemma Chan, principal ballerina Francesca Hayward, body positivity activist and actress Jameela Jamil, actress Yara Shahidi, model and mental health advocate Christy Turlington, transgender actress and LGBTQ+ campaigner Laverne Cox, model and former refugee Adut Akech, boxer and former refugee Ramla Ali, lecturer Sinead Burke, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and actress and producer Salma Hayek.
‘Inspirational’ former First Lady Michelle Obama
Meghan interviewed Obama for British Vogue’s Q&A feature while guest-editing the magazine in 2019. When opening up about her choice, she explained that Obama embodies everything she was looking for in an interview subject.
‘Turns out British Vogue famously has a back page Q&A feature that is equal parts informative and whimsical, with a special guest each month,’ she wrote in the magazine. ‘My first thought was that it needed to be someone kind, inspirational, motivating, funny, with gravitas and as much depth as levity. My second thought: it needed to be Michelle Obama.’
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem
In 2020, Meghan sat down with Steinem to discuss women’s rights, representation, and the importance of voting for an interview featured on the women’s empowerment platform Makers Women.
‘I’ve looked up to you for so long!’ she told the feminist writer and activist. Meghan later thanked Steinem for her ‘wisdom and inspiration’.
In the Duchess of Sussex’s introduction to the interview, she opened up about her shared friendship with Steinem.
‘I firmly believe that we vote to honor those who came before us and to protect those who come after us. Ms. Steinem, my friend Gloria, is one of the women I honor when I vote,’ she wrote.
‘Legendary’ poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Meghan is a great admirer of Angelou. The Duchess of Sussex quoted the Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer during her speech in Nyanga, South Africa, on the opening day of her and Prince Harry’s South African tour in 2019.
‘I read a quote a few weeks ago and it resonated with me as I’ve been watching what’s been happening here and your active efforts,’ she said. ‘Maya Angelou, the legendary poet and civil rights activist, once said: “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women”.’
The charitable Princess Diana
In Meghan and Prince Harry’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, she said that she spoke to one of Diana’s friends about the pressures of joining the royal family ‘because it’s like who else could understand what it’s actually like on the inside?’
A number of comparisons of Meghan and Diana have been made, and while she rarely speaks of her late mother-in-law, but she has paid tribute to her.
In 2019, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex shared one of Princess Diana’s famous quotes on their Instagram account: ‘Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.’