LOS ANGELES — Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, having resettled in California, on Wednesday unveiled new Hollywood careers.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have founded a yet-to-be-named production company and signed a multiyear deal with Netflix, which will pay them to make documentaries, docu-series, feature films, scripted shows and children’s programming — giving the couple a global platform six months after their dramatic decampment from the House of Windsor.
Harry and Meghan may appear on camera in documentary programming. But she has no plans to return to acting, according to a representative. She last appeared in the cable drama “Suits” in 2018.
“Our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope,” the couple said in a statement. “As new parents, making inspirational family programming is also important to us.” They added that Netflix’s “unprecedented reach will help us share impactful content that unlocks action.” Their productions will be exclusive to Netflix, which has 193 million subscribers worldwide.
It is unclear how much Harry and Meghan will be paid, given their lack of producing experience. A Netflix spokeswoman declined to comment.
The streaming service, however, is known for backing up Brink’s trucks when it wants to be in business with high-profile people, particularly when other entertainment companies also want their services. In recent months, Harry and Meghan have quietly talked with Disney and Apple. Two executives involved in those discussions said representatives for the couple at one point were seeking a deal in the neighborhood of $100 million. Variety reported last month that the couple had also met with NBCUniversal.
Harry and Meghan have been living in the Los Angeles area since March, staying for a time at a Beverly Hills mansion owned by Tyler Perry and delivering food to the needy during the early part of the coronavirus pandemic. They soon filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit against tabloid photographers, saying that paparazzi had flown drones overhead to capture images of their son, Archie, who turned 1 in May. Harry, 35, and Meghan, 39, have since bought a $14.7 million home in Montecito, an oceanside enclave about an hour north of Malibu where Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres also have estates.
“We’re incredibly proud they have chosen Netflix as their creative home and are excited about telling stories with them that can help build resilience and increase understanding for audiences everywhere,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s co-chief executive and chief content officer, said in a statement.
Netflix is under pressure to keep its pipelines flowing as it competes for viewers with Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Hulu, Peacock and the traditional broadcast networks. Family programming is particularly important to Netflix, and Harry and Meghan already have an animated series in development that is focused on inspiring women. Last week, Netflix released “Rising Phoenix,” a documentary about the Paralympic Games; Harry, who founded the Invictus Games for wounded veterans, appears in the film.
Content centered on social messages — racial justice, gender equity, environmental stewardship — has been hot in Hollywood for some time, and Netflix and Participant Media, founded by the eBay billionaire Jeff Skoll, have been at the center.
Participant and Netflix backed Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed 2019 mini-series, “When They See Us,” which depicted the excruciating toll that persecution and incarceration had on the teenage boys known as the Central Park Five. In 2018, Netflix struck a deal with Barack and Michelle Obama to produce shows and films. That partnership in March yielded “Crip Camp,” a feel-good documentary about the origins of the disability rights movement that is an early favorite to win the 2021 Oscar for best nonfiction film.
Netflix executives have said the Obamas have also proved to be valuable as a magnet for other deals: In Hollywood, the cool kids want to be around other cool kids.
“The value of this signing to Netflix is unquantifiable,” Jonathan Shalit, chairman of InterTalent Rights Group, a London agency, said in an email. “Never before has a real-life royal of this magnitude gone commercial and to Hollywood.”
Meghan and Harry, the second son of Prince Charles, abruptly announced in January that they planned to step back from their royal duties, seek financial independence and spend part of the year living in North America. It triggered the most serious crisis for the British royal family since the death of Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, in a car crash in 1997. The news media labeled the fracas Megxit.
After emotionally charged negotiations, Queen Elizabeth II granted the couple’s wishes in return for their agreeing not to use their most exalted titles, His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness. The couple also agreed to give up public funding — setting off a tabloid guessing game about how they would finance their lifestyle, including paying for security.
Harry and Meghan used to draw some income from the Duchy of Cornwall, a hereditary estate owned by Prince Charles, but that ended with their departure from Britain. Harry also inherited several million dollars from his late mother. Before their 2018 marriage, Meghan, then Meghan Markle, worked as an actress in “Suits.”
In June, they signed a deal with the Harry Walker Agency for speaking engagements, with per-speech fees estimated at $1 million and topics (for Harry) including mental health and grieving. (Harry Walker also represents the Obamas.) There has been widespread speculation that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex could copy another part of the Obamas’ playbook and make a podcast deal with Spotify. A Spotify spokesman declined to comment.
The production company being established by Harry and Meghan will operate independently from their charitable foundation, which is called Archewell. The couple shut down their previous philanthropic endeavor, SussexRoyal, in March after they agreed to stop using the term “royal” for commercial or charitable activities.
Harry and Meghan — beloved by millions of fans, who see them as daring and modern, and reviled by an equally vehement faction, which sees their royalty-spurning actions as unbecoming — have long been expected to set up shop in Hollywood. Before he gave up his Royal Highness title, Harry signed on for a project with Ms. Winfrey and Apple TV+ involving mental health. And Meghan provided narration for “Elephant,” a nature documentary that arrived on Disney+ in April.
In January, a video resurfaced of Harry that had been recorded by a fan in July 2019 at the London premiere for “The Lion King.” It caught the prince talking up his wife’s vocal talent to Robert A. Iger, who was then Disney’s chief executive. As with seemingly everything related to Meghan, the video created a stir online, prompting representatives to clarify that the duchess had been approached to narrate “Elephant” before Harry’s red-carpet schmooze.