Following the Queen’s death, Prince Harry and Meghan are returning to the Royal Spotlight as Hollywood projects are launched

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LOS ANGELES – The death of Queen Elizabeth II comes as Hollywood watches another monarchy drama unfold in its own backyard: the continued expansion of her grandson’s media empire.

In recent weeks, Prince Harry and wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have stepped up efforts to build Archewell, the media company they founded after stepping down from their royal duties in 2020. Now is the next phase of the couple’s ambitions — including a hit -podcast and a forthcoming memoir – must contend with the seismic news of the Queen’s death at 96.

On Thursday, shortly after the announcement of the queen’s death, Archewell’s website presented only a black screen with the simple message, “In loving memory of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”

It was in stark contrast to the activity that has characterized the company in recent months, including podcasts, appearances around the world and several revealing interviews. Still, the Queen’s death puts the spotlight on the couple’s past as they try to carve out a future, highlighting the tension they face producing entertainment in Hollywood when so many viewers want more details about the British family they left behind.

Two major deals are the focus of Hollywood’s attention: one with Netflix Inc.

and another with Spotify Technology SA, valued at more than about $120 million.

The Netflix deal has yet to produce any releases, although several projects are in development and should premiere within the next year, according to a person familiar with the matter, including a documentary about the Invictus Games. A children’s show called “Pearl,” which Meghan developed, was shelved by the streaming service amid major strategic shifts in the company’s animation division.

But last month, the Duchess of Sussex’s podcast “Archetypes” debuted at No. 1 on Spotify’s podcast charts. For a time, it released “The Joe Rogan Experience” and another podcast dedicated to the new “Game of Thrones” spinoff that aired on HBO.

Meghan’s first episode of “Archetypes” included a conversation with tennis legend Serena Williams about the word “ambitious,” and later episodes feature guests including singer Mariah Carey (“diva”) and comedian Mindy Kaling (on “the stigma of being single”). Entertainers like Constance Wu and Issa Rae are slated to fill out the first season.

Her podcast’s guests, Meghan said, “all in one way or another carried the bulk of the labels that we want to separate.”

“Of course I know a thing or two about these labels myself,” she added.

Prince Harry, 37, and Meghan, 41, moved to Montecito, California, a dramatic turn of events even by the standards of the Queen’s 70 years as monarch. After Archewell’s formation, Prince Harry and Meghan met with skeptical reactions in Hollywood, where so-called “vanity deals” often produce few hits. The company, the couple said, would focus on nonprofit activities as well as develop film and television projects along with audio offerings.

After leaving their royal duties, Prince Harry and Meghan’s entertainment work served as an extension of their advocacy priorities. Prince Harry worked with Oprah Winfrey on a mental health series for Apple Inc.,

and Meghan narrated a documentary about elephants for Walt Disney co.

The question of whether audiences would turn out for programming from Prince Harry and Meghan beyond royal dishing was heightened in a March 2021 sit-down interview with Ms Winfrey, which drew huge ratings and generated weeks of media coverage after Meghan revealed fresh details of tensions among the royals. That summer, Penguin Random House said it would publish the Prince’s memoirs.

The publisher has not specified a date for the memoir’s arrival. A media blitz has accompanied Meghan’s new podcast show; the couple were in London to attend the WellChild Awards when the prince was summoned to Balmoral Castle, the Scottish estate where the queen, whose health was declining, had been staying.

Now the funeral plans for the Queen offer fresh material for the loyal royal watchers who have followed the couple’s relationship with the royal family like an addictive soap opera. As the Queen’s health worsened on Thursday, Prince Harry left to be with his family – one of the few reunions he has had with his father and brother since 2020. Meghan stayed behind.

In an interview with the publication the Cut to promote “Archetypes,” Meghan offered a window into her life in Montecito that has been largely off-limits, including scenes from her son’s preschool pickup and additional commentary on royal life. She also revealed that the pair run Archewell from the same office, sitting next to each other behind the same desk.

“Most people I know and a lot of my family, they’re not able to work and live together,” Prince Harry said in the interview with the Cut.

Write to Erich Schwartzel at erich.schwartzel@wsj.com

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