Heritage

How Meghan Markle's Acting Career Is Influencing Her Role in the Royal Family

She isn't leaving the world of theater behind.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES / MAX MUMBY/INDIGO
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When Meghan Markle announced that she was giving up her acting career, the decision made perfect sense. Not only did it mean she was able to throw herself into royal duties wholeheartedly, but her choice was an acknowledgment of how difficult it would be to juggle the two. She described it as a "new chapter," but the question remained as to whether the Duchess of Sussex’s new role meant a complete break with her past career or whether those skills and experiences could have a place in her new world.

This week we saw that they can—and that they will. The Duchess brought together her old life with her new one as she made her first visit to the National Theatre as its new patron. With the position being described as a "natural fit," staff and students at the institution spoke of their delight at her bringing not only her significant profile, but also an understanding of their world.

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Markle meets director Emily Lin of the Pericles company, the National Theatre’s first Public Arts production in 2018.

"She could relate to it and to what we were telling her which was great," Tamykha Patterson, 28, a lighting technician and former apprentice, told T&C after Wednesday’s visit. "She said that when she was doing acting she did study theater. You had to go to costume and to make-up and to wigs and the bits and pieces and get it all together."

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Patterson added about the Duchess: "She’s really down to earth. I feel like she’s great for this building. I think she will draw in a different audience to what we have."

Before the public visit, 37-year-old Markle spent time at the theater behind the scenes, telling a group of school children on Wednesday how she had snuck in to watch a performance before Christmas and that she hadn’t wanted leave.

She also met with the theater’s Artistic Director Rufus Norris before the announcement was made in January that she would be taking over the patronage from the Queen. "It’s a fantastic moment for us," Norris said. "The Duchess, with her background, is a very natural fit for the organization."


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Markle taking in a performance by school children at the theater.

Norris added how he had chatted with her about her time studying theater and international relations at Northwestern University, saying they spoke about her knowledge of the Greek tragic heroes and "what a big part of her time at Northwestern that was."

However, it was not the productions but the community work of the theater that Markle most wanted to highlight. "She was very clear about the areas of our work that she wanted to get an insight into," says Norris. "Any member of the public can come see the shows that we do, but the other work, which is huge, is obviously less visible to most members of the public. She’s been very clear from the beginning that it’s that work—it’s the community work, it’s the nationwide work, it’s the education work, the representation—that she’s really passionate about."


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Markle as Rachel Zane on Suits

Markle may have spent a decade building for a career in television—eventually landing a major role on the legal drama Suits—but, her training was initially in theater. She also volunteered at a performing arts after school program for children in L.A., and it is the ability of theater to enhance communities that seems to be how she most hopes to bring together her old world and the new.

So while the life of a royal—like that of an actress—may often be glamorous, it seems that we are perhaps more likely to see the Duchess visiting rehearsal rooms and community programs than we are to see her attending premieres.

There can be no doubt that the National Theatre’s work was given a huge boost on the world stage this week as Markle visited. Of course, said Norris, they are looking forward to seeing her "as often as she’s got time for."

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When asked when the pregnant Duchess would next be back, he quipped: "Obviously she’s got her own production coming up."

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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