Much of the attention that Meghan Markle garnered over the weekend for her “triumphant” return to the spotlight at two of Beyonce’s Renaissance performances in Los Angeles focused on her being photographed dancing next to her glum-looking husband Prince Harry, but also mingling with a roster of A-listers, including Tyler Perry, Kelly Rowland, Kerry Washington and assorted members of the Kardashian family.
Less attention was paid to a potentially more significant connection Meghan enjoyed at Monday night’s performance. According to photos published by the Daily Mail, the Duchess of Sussex was photographed seated next to Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos, which raises a host of questions and speculation about her status in Hollywood and where her loyalties lie.
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – JULY 28: Chief Content Officer for Netflix Ted Sarandos speaks onstage during the Netflix portion of the 2015 Summer TCA Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 28, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
On one hand, Sarandos is overseeing her and Harry’s $100 million deal to produce content for the Los Gatos-based streaming service, which will allow them to establish themselves as media moguls. So, it makes sense that Meghan would want to socialize with such a powerful colleague. Among other things, her appearance with Sarandos bodes well for her and Harry’s future with Netflix, after they were spectacularly dumped by Spotify earlier in the summer and labeled “grifters” for their failure to produce more than a handful of podcast episodes.
Given that Meghan also sat in the same row as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, his fiancée Lauren Sanchez, and Kris Jenner, her fans proclaimed that the Los Angeles-born duchess had joined “billionaire’s row.”
— TV Fanatic (@TvKhaleesi) September 5, 2023
On the other hand, Sarandos has emerged as one of the “villains” in the historic and increasingly painful and costly Hollywood strikes, which involve SAG-AFTRA — the union for TV and film actors. During her bombshell 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, the former TV star famously declared she was a proud member of SAG-AFTRA, and the union voiced public support for her.
The one-time star of “Suits” told Winfrey that she badly missed her membership in the union when she joined the British royal family and desperately sought help with her mental health struggles. Meghan said she told the HR department at Buckingham Palace, “Because in my old job, there was a union, and they would protect me.”
Mid-interview, the union voiced its support for the bereft Duchess of Sussexes by tweeting: “We are still here for you, Meghan. Everyone deserves the protection of a union.”
— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) March 8, 2021
Two years later later, Meghan has not indicated that she’s there for SAG-AFTRA. The Daily Mail reported that she has been silent since SAG-AFTRA joined the writers union in striking for a fair share of the billions that Netflix and other major Hollywood studios earn from streaming.
Meanwhile, Puck founder Matthew Belloni and the New York Times described Sarandos and Netflix as one of the top “villains” in the strike, which has essentially shut down much of TV and film production in Hollywood. Along with Warner Bros Discovery boss David Zaslav and Disney CEO Bob Iger, who notoriously called actors and writers demands “disruptive” and “unrealistic,” Sarandos is seen as one of the greedy Hollywood honchos who are making a fortune while rank-and-file actors and writers struggle to make ends meet in the age of streaming.
Since SAG-AFTRA began striking, two demonstrations have taken place outside Netflix’s headquarters in Los Gatos. Hollywood stars also have lashed out at the company, including in the days leading up to Meghan’s appearance with Sarandos.
At the Venice Film Festival last week, Adam Driver asked why Netflix, Amazon and other multbillion-dollar studios can’t find a way to meet the demands of their artists — but smaller studios can. Driver, who was nominated for best actor for Netflix’s “Marriage Story,” was in Venice to promote the Michael Mann film “Ferrari,” which wasn’t produced by one of the studios that are the targets of the strike.
Aaron Paul also hit out at Netflix after walking the picket line last week with his “Breaking Bad” co-stars Bryan Cranston and Jesse Plemons, CNN reported. As “Breaking Bad” streams on Netflix, Paul said he is not earning any residuals. One of the chief complaints by striking actors and writers is that they have been cut out of earning residuals when their TV shows or films play on Netflix or other streaming services.
“I think a lot of these streamers, they know they have been getting away with not paying people just fair wage and now it’s time to pony up, and that’s just one of the things we’re fighting for,” Paul said.
Like “Breaking Bad,” Meghan’s legal drama “Suits,” which originally aired on the USA cable network from 2011 to 2019, has enjoyed a new life on Netflix and has been one of the top trending shows over the summer. It’s not likely though that the Duchess of Sussex will complain if she’s not earning residuals, given her friendliness with Sarandos at Beyonce’s concert. Her Archewell Productions also makes her a producer now, so she’s probably going to fall in line with “management” in the framework of strike politics.
Meghan’s appearance with Sarandos, Bezos and other powerful industry figures prompted the Daily Mail to surmise that she attended Beyonce’s performance Monday night more for business purposes than pleasure.
From Netflix’s perspective, the company is still happy with its relationship with Meghan and Harry, even if Harry’s “Heart of Invictus” documentary series didn’t fare so well on the streaming service, as Newsweek reported. Page Six reported that the company “shelled out” at around $3 million to purchase the rights to Carley Fortune’s romantic novel, “Meet Me at the Lake,” so that Meghan and Harry’s Archewell Productions can produce it.
The company explicitly voiced confidence in its future collaboration with the couple in June. A Netflix spokesperson said” “We value our partnership with Archewell Productions. Harry & Meghan was Netflix’s biggest documentary debut ever, and we’ll continue to work together on a number of projects, including the upcoming documentary series ‘Heart of Invictus.’”