Prince Harry and Meghan Markle received their first award nomination for their explosive six-part docuseries that premiered on Netflix last December.
On Tuesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s “Harry & Meghan” earned a nod from the Hollywood Critics Association (HCA) in the category of best streaming non-fiction series, alongside fellow nominees “Rennervations,” “Prehistoric Planet 2,” “Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss,” “The Reluctant Traveller with Eugene Levy” and “The 1619 Project.”
However, Emmy Award voters snubbed the royal couple’s docuseries, which was not among the nominees announced on Wednesday.
Directed by two-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus, “Harry and Meghan” broke documentary ratings records for Netflix when the series’ first three episodes were released on Dec. 8. Royal expert and host of the “To Di For Daily” podcast Kinsey Schofield told Fox News Digital that she was not surprised by the docuseries’ HCA award recognition.
“‘Harry and Meghan’ scored Netflix their biggest documentary debut ever,” Schofield said. “We have to give credit where credit is due. Analytically, it is likely considered a success by all parties involved. Even if it was morbid curiosity that attracted the audience. They were still watching.”
“It was a huge hit for Netflix!” royal expert Shannon Felton Spence told Fox News Digital. “The docuseries itself was beautifully shot, told their story the way they wanted, and was one of the most watched Netflix programs of all time.”
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However, Spence noted that “Harry & Meghan,” which provided viewers with an intimate look at the couple’s romance and controversial decision to step down from their official royal roles, may have damaged the Sussexes’ images more than it helped.
Approval ratings among the British public for both Harry, 38, and Markle, 41, plummeted after the docuseries debuted. In January, the couple sparked controversy again following the release of Harry’s bombshell memoir “Spare.” Last month, Spotify abruptly ended its deal with the Sussexes following the cancelation of Markle’s podcast “Archetypes” after just one season.
“The issue isn’t the docuseries in isolation,” Spence explained. “It’s the series of royal family-focused content that has all but ruined the Sussexes’ reputations as serious philanthropists.”
“Awards don’t mean anything,” Spence added. “If awards signaled seriousness, Harry and Meghan wouldn’t be in the spot they are at the moment. They have been given awards all over the place, and it has not done anything to enhance their image. If anything it has exposed how meaningless these honors are.”
“The King: The Life of Charles III” author Christopher Andersen told Fox News Digital that he believed “Harry & Meghan’s” HCA nomination could also be seen as a testament to Garbus’ directing.
“This nomination is as much a nod to the series’ highly-respected director Liz Garbus as it is to the Sussexes, who made it very clear they had given Garbus free rein to tell their story,” he said. “Meghan was careful to stress that the end result was not exactly the way they would have told it, which I think was a very clever way of distancing themselves from the project if people wound up not liking it.”
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“But look, you’ve got to hand it to Harry and Meghan — they know how to grab us by the throat and hold our attention, and in Hollywood that’s pretty much all that counts,” Andersen added.
In September 2020, Harry and Markle inked a multiyear deal with Netflix to produce exclusive content including documentaries, docuseries, feature films, scripted shows and children’s programming. During an October 2022 interview with Variety, Markle confirmed that the couple were working with Garbus on the docuseries, which was the first project to come out of their Netflix deal.
“It’s nice to be able to trust someone with our story—a seasoned director whose work I’ve long admired—even if it means it may not be the way we would have told it,” Markle told the outlet. “But that’s not why we’re telling it. We’re trusting our story to someone else, and that means it will go through their lens.”
Schofield shared Andersen’s view that the HCA nomination was due in part to the production team behind the docuseries. She noted that Garbus and executive producer/co-director Erica Sashin “have a lot of cheerleaders within the industry.”
“This really isn’t about Harry and Meghan, their message, or who they are as individuals,” Schofield said. “The Sussexes were smart to align themselves with people that already have credibility in Hollywood.”
“I’m sure Harry and Meghan are clinking champagne glasses over that. They see [it] as artistic validation by the film community,” Andersen said. “But if the critics who had out these awards are going to be honest with themselves, they’ll see that the series was a whiny exercise in self-indulgence. The whole ‘aren’t we poor victims?’ thing wears awfully thin after a while, even in La La Land.”
Schofield also questioned the HCA’s decision to include “Harry & Meghan” in the “non-fiction” category.
“In response to the nomination, I do think there is a sense of confusion from the royal watching community,” she said. “Which is fair. Harry and Meghan’s documentary lacked an objective perspective. So much so that the BBC said in June that it would not have aired it on their channels.”
Schofield continued, “It was littered with contradictions to claims the couple had made in the past and famously excluded the royal racist narrative that they had planted during the Oprah Winfrey interview.”
In a 2021 television special hosted by Oprah Winfrey, the Sussexes leveled explosive accusations of racism against an unnamed royal family member. However, Harry and Markle did not address the allegations in their Netflix series.
“And if Meghan’s Spotify flop taught us anything, it’s that it doesn’t matter how many trophies you collect,” Schofield added. “If you aren’t consistently bringing your A game, Hollywood will move on to the next big thing and leave you in the dust.”
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In a statement to Fox News Digital, royal expert Hilary Fordwich echoed Schofield’s sentiments over the HCA’s choice of nomination category. Fordwich cited misleading footage intended to portray the couple as victims of an aggressive press that was included in the trailers for “Harry & Meghan.”
After the trailers were released, members of the British media pointed to various images and clips which purported to show the Sussexes being pursued relentlessly by paparazzi but were actually archival footage from other events.
“While the HCA-Hollywood Critics Award is in the best streaming ‘non-fiction’ category, one has to wonder if that is the correct category?” Fordwich said.
Fordwich referenced “numerous fictional depictions” from the trailers including a photograph from the 2011 premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two,” footage of photographers waiting for British reality star Katie Price and an approved snap of Sussexes in South Africa from an accredited pool photographer who accompanied them on the trip.
“Given all the fictional footage, [the docuseries] should probably be in the ‘fiction’ category,” she said.
Schofield told Fox News Digital that she was skeptical that the docuseries’ HCA award nomination would help improve the Sussexes’ brand.
“Meghan famously casted doubts on the project in her Variety interview… leaving future directors and producers that work with the couple fearful that they might undermine a potential project publicly again,” she said.
“Regarding the Sussex brand, while the series was the 2nd highest ranked documentary ever and in the U.K., became the most-watched subscription television series of last year, it certainly put them even more on the map in terms of notoriety,” Fordwich observed. “But volume doesn’t equal approval.”
Fordwich noted how the couple’s popularity had drastically fallen after “Harry & Meghan” was released. A YouGov survey of British citizens that was conducted on Dec. 7 and 8, found that 64% had an unfavorable view of Markle, and 59% had an unfavorable view of Harry.
The dislike was particularly strong among older Britons, with 79% and 84% having unfavorable views of Harry and Markle, respectively. Only 33% of the public had a favorable view of Harry, with 25% having a favorable view of Markle.
“So actually, we have proof that all their derogatory comments regarding the Royals ended up denigrating their own brand,” Fordwich said. “Selling dirt, particularly throwing one’s own family under the bus wasn’t appreciated by the British public. Decent people don’t like deceit and lack of decency.”
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Spence weighed in on the future of the couple’s deal with Netflix following the sudden dissolution of their partnership with Spotify. Though “Harry & Meghan” was a hit for the streaming giant, the couple’s other projects have fallen short of expectations. Last May, Netflix canceled Markle’s planned animated children’s series “Pearl.”
The couple’s second docuseries “Live to Lead,” which premiered on Dec. 31., failed to break into Netflix’s top 10. Harry and Markle co-produced “Live to Lead,” which featured interviews with prominent world leaders and activists, but the couple only appear in the opening titles sequence.
The Sussexes’ next project for Netflix will be “Heart of Invictus,” a docuseries that will follow service members as they prepare to compete in Harry’s Invictus Games.
“I know Harry pitched a lot of stuff,” Spence said. “It all hinges on ‘Heart of Invictus.’ Netflix knew the ‘Harry & Meghan’ docuseries was a sure thing. That’s why they required it up front. ‘Live to Lead’ was a total flop. ‘Pearl’ was canceled. They will try to get back on track with ‘Heart of Invictus’ but if it doesn’t live up to expectations, Netflix will be taking a hard look at the contract ahead of its 2025 renewal deadline.”
Spence told Fox News Digital that the HCA award nomination was not likely to improve the strained relations between the Sussexes and the royal family.
“It is customary for the Royal family to be giving out awards, not to be on the receiving end,” she said. “The Palace will be further dismayed, King Charles and Prince William were both part of Queen Elizabeth II’s decision to deny the Sussexes the ‘half in half out’ proposition they pitched. Selling dirt regarding the family, for anyone’s family isn’t acceptable.”
She continued, “Accepting this award would indicate that they are more interested in hoping to help their unpopular Hollywood presence, perhaps trying to climb back up on the ‘A’ list versus building bridges with the Royal family.”
Andersen shared Spence’s view, telling Fox News Digital, “I don’t think this will help mend fences with the rest of the royals, that’s for sure.”
He continued, “Anything that refocuses attention on the Sussexes and their complaints will just make things that much worse. The King will hate having things churned up yet again.”
“From Harry and Meghan’s standpoint, an award ceremony or two will, however, add a little lustre to their brand–and that’s what they’re all about,” Andersen added.
Schofield told Fox News Digital that she doubted the royal family were even aware of the couple’s HCA nod.
“I don’t think the royal family will have any clue about this nomination — let alone care,” she said. “Harry and Meghan’s Hollywood ambitions are white noise.”
Fox News Digital’s Cortney O’Brien contributed to this report.
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