'Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal's Tiffany Smith Talks Stepping Into Meghan Markle's Shoes
Lifetime is celebrating Memorial Day in a special way with the premiere of their new original film Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal.
A follow-up to the film Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance, Becoming Royal tells the story of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as they embark on their life as a married couple. The film covers their lives from their engagement to a short time after their wedding, following Meghan's assimilation into the royal family.
Tiffany Smith and Charlie Field step into the royal couple's shoes for the movie, premiering Monday, May 27 at 8/7c. Below, Smith discusses the challenges of taking on a real-life person through a role, recreating that famous wedding look, working with Field and more.
You've appeared in shows like Supernatural and Jane the Virgin as well as correspondence work — how does a film role like this differ from those?
Tiffany Smith: I feel really lucky because I think a lot of the jobs that I've gotten have been really natural to me in a lot of ways. With Jane the Virgin, I played a reporter, and with Supernatural — not necessarily natural that I got to use superpowers, but getting to use spells and stuff was something that I was practicing since I've been a little kid.
And then with the Meghan role, there's so much of her that kind of fell into place, where I went to school for broadcast journalism and she went to school for public relations. I'm an actress in L.A. and so was she at some point. There's a lot of things that kind of had overlapped. But obviously with the Meghan role, it's a different one in that she's a real person that I'm portraying. ... So it was really fun to get to create this character for me and then spend some time with her.
Do you keep up to date with the royals or were they not on your radar so much before landing the role?
I think the way the world is right now, if you follow anything pop culture, you are hearing stuff about Meghan and Harry. I wasn't digging into it as much until I went to the first audition, and now I think YouTube and Instagram and everything thinks I'm obsessed with them. [Laughs] Because every morning I wake up it's like, "You have a new video" and it's about Meghan and Harry.
I definitely dove in a lot more head-first after booking the role and wanting to see more. Especially because I think there's so much that we see in the tabloids and the magazines. Our writer is wonderful and [so is our] director and we can take so much stuff from what everybody knows publicly, but a lot of the movie is what happens behind closed doors, and you kind of just have to take what we do know and internalize that and see where, for me as a person, it would take me.
This film is a follow-up to last year's Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance. Was there any pressure going into this, knowing fan expectation?
I was really excited because I watched the first one and I really liked it. There was a lot in the first one that really struck close to home. And I think Parisa [Fitz-Henley] and Murray [Fraser] did such an amazing job. Once I booked the role, I actually had a friend who knew Parisa, so I reached out to her and she and I chatted on the phone. We got to have that connection, and after filming we actually had lunch together and just sat and chatted and it was really fun.
The first movie is a lot about their romance and then falling in love. And so I think with this one, what made it easier for me to separate and not necessarily feel like I want to do the same job as Parisa or be exactly like she portrayed Meghan, is that this one is a lot more about her fitting into the Royal Family. It's not necessarily so much about them — the flirtation and falling in love — it's more about their relationship moving forward, and so it felt very different.
Is it fun playing a real-life person or is there added pressure to get things right?
Yeah, I mean there's definitely a different pressure there, because I think any role you take on, you want to do it justice. This one, obviously, I wanted to do justice to the fans that enjoyed the first film and Parisa's performance. Then also the fact that Meghan is a real person and there's so much stuff about her that I respect, and wanting to do a good job with that. It is a different kind of feeling than if you're just creating a character.
I worked with an acting coach — her name is Leigh Kilton-Smith and she and I talked about it a lot. [She told me,] "Before you go to set, do as much research as you can and kind of get it in your head, and then when you're working, throw it away because what you put inside is going to come out anyway." So that really helped me a lot because I think you can get really caught up in trying to be exactly like the person. ... I can emulate her and kind of try my best but I'm never going to be Meghan Markle.
You recreate Meghan's wedding look in the movie. What was it like getting to wear the iconic ensemble? What emotions did you go through seeing yourself as her?
Yeah, it was really surreal. It was a custom build and so we did fittings and I had to go get my measurements taken, and then we showed up and tried on the dress for the first time.
The most bizarre moment was the first day that we were on set. [It definitely felt] like I fully stepped into someone else's shoes. And then seeing how the crew and everybody on set looked at me — it felt like Inception where it was just like, "What is happening? I know what this image is because I've seen it so many times but it's me... but no, it's Meghan."
Your resemblance to Meghan Markle is nearly uncanny. Did you ever have people say you look like her before landing this role?
I moved from New York awhile ago and some of my girlfriends there had been watching Suits for a long time — I hadn't been watching. They were like, "We watch this show and when we miss you, there's this girl on it and she reminds us so much of you, even how she talks and stuff."
So I had an idea of who Meghan was before everything and just casually was like, "Okay, yeah, I guess I could see it." And then when [she and Harry] started dating and it was a lot more public, I started getting it a lot more around.
What should viewers expect from the film?
We pretty much pick up where the last one left off. They're engaged, leading up to the wedding — the experience is getting to the wedding — and sometime after as well. The biggest thing for me for this movie is really taking someone who knew what she signed up for, marrying Harry and [taking on] this whole new life for herself. But it really is her figuring out how she fits into all of that and staying true to herself while also being true to this new family that she's a part of.
What was it like getting to work with Charlie Field?
Charlie is great. We didn't actually get to chemistry test before, which usually you get to do for projects. But this one, they were just so sold on both of us that it was a really fast turnaround and we showed up in Vancouver and we met. Right before we got up there, actually, I had a friend who's from Vancouver and he was like," I have tickets to the Canucks game, do you want to go? I have two of them if you want them." And I was like, "Yes, and I'm going to invite Charlie," because as soon as we get there we really needed to hit the ground running, just having that chemistry and having that comfort and ease with each other. Because like I said, the first film was them falling in love, and this one is [that] they are very comfortable with each other and in each other's space.
So we went to a hockey game and production set up an escape room for us, which was really fun. Just the two of us went. And I will say that I definitely solved more of the puzzles than Charlie did. So we had some fun doing that and it was really, really great because he's so easy to work with and there's some times where you work with actors and you have a really similar way of working. Fortunately for us, we really did. ... And it was a really awesome partnership for the two of us. I think that comes across on camera and I hope that it does for everybody too.
Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal, Movie Premiere, Monday, May 27, 8/7c, Lifetime