Dressed in chinos and plaid shirts and spilling profundities about climate change with an accent thicker than treacle, Prince Harry is the polar opposite of the classic reality star.
When rumours began circulating that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex might be doing a reality show as part of their much-hyped Netflix deal, many refused to believe it. But why is the idea really so shocking?
The royal couple’s relationship with the press is well documented. Last year Harry criticised the tabloid’s coverage of his wife Meghan Markle, and has spoken of his disdain towards certain press tactics: “I won’t be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum,” he stated in an ITV documentary last year.
But those on the inside say Harry isn’t typically hostile with the media.
Numerous pap shots have surfaced during his short time living in California already, and they’ve shown the prince looking relaxed in front of the camera.
He’s been going about his day job; campaigning and volunteering with charities such as Baby2Baby, which helps children in poverty.
“They may have had all these lofty ideas about producing epics highlighting environmental causes and the poverty gap, but Netflix obviously want their pound of flesh,” a source reportedly told the newspaper.
“It will all be very tasteful, and not Katie Price and Peter Andre-style reality TV, but they want to give people a glimpse into their lives and see all the charity work they do.”
Addressing the rumours, a representative for the couple said in a statement: “The Duke and Duchess are not taking part in any reality shows.”
Of course, ‘reality TV’ is a broad term. The representative’s statement appears to confirm the couple won’t be followed by cameras in the typical reality show format, but part of the couple’s Netflix deal could be a documentary-style project featuring them in front of the camera.
We already know that Harry and Meghan have founded a production company and signed a deal with Netflix to create new documentaries and feature films.
“Our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope,” the couple have said. “As new parents, making inspirational family programming is also important to us.”
In Scotland today, The Duke of Sussex and Travalyst have hosted a summit to launch their next phase of work, putting communities first, with a mission to create a more sustainable tourism industry. • “We are a coalition of partners with a shared goal to transform the future of tourism and travel for everyone – to give people access to better information and ensure the future development of tourism positively supports the destinations that the industry relies on, and that their communities depend on. We believe travel is a good thing. It is the heart of human experience, of cultural connections and of new friendships.” - The Duke of Sussex Travalyst is working to build a future where people are able to take holidays and trips that have social, environmental and economic benefits to communities and destinations built in. There is an increasing desire for these types of trips – and we want to make them a reality for everyone. At today’s summit in Edinburgh, representatives from across the Scottish tourism sector discussed the need to encourage and incentivise sustainable practices across the supply chain, in a way that meets the needs of consumers who want more clarity on how to choose more sustainable options. Image © PA / SussexRoyal
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So what might they produce?
Experts that spoke to HuffPost UK believe it’s likely that any docu-film project that the couple put out with Netflix will be focussed more on their campaigning work than the couple themselves, and will be similarly as controlled as their photoshoots showing them conducting charity work in California.
“I would imagine such a reality show would revolve around causes and charity work close to Harry and Meghan’s heart,” says Samir Hussein, a royal photographer who has snapped Harry since 2010. He believes the idea of the couple being in front of the camera isn’t so far-fetched.
“Provided the reality show was on [Harry’s] terms then he will come across as comfortable,” Samir says.
A show where Harry and Meghan go about their activism in Los Angeles is certainly easier to imagine, even if it’s the inside of their home - and lives - that we really want to see.
Paul Braund, a TV producer who has developed ideas for documentaries in conjunction with royal palaces including Kensington Palace, agrees.
“All you really want to see is what they’re really like together, what the dynamics are, does Meghan really wear the trouser?” says Paul. “But I’d be very surprised if they did anything reality-like. It’d be amazing if they did, but I can’t imagine anything fly-on-the-wall-esque.”
Majesty Magazine editor and royal expert Ingrid Sewart says Harry has always been comfortable in front of the camera.
“As Prince Harry is probably one of the most photographed people in the world – because he was in front of the camera from the moment of his birth when he was carried by his mum out of hospital 36 years ago – I think he will be good,” predicts Ingrid.
“He does, however, need to loosen up a bit and not be so serious. But if he is being followed by a camera rather than speaking directly into a lens, he should manage this well.”
The question about what he will become is dependent on who advises him.
But producing a good TV show takes more than just a comfortable performance in front of the camera: it requires the perfect team behind it too, reminds PR expert Mark Borkowski.
“They’ve hardly got the talent to be producing,” he says. “If you think of something like Obama’s great hit on Netflix, think of all the people who got involved to make it: he was a figurehead who bought in lots of people. I’m not seeing any trade news at all so I would assume they’re still playing around with the hype.”
Mark believes that when it comes to the Netflix deal, the devil will be in the detail.
“The question about what he will become is dependent on who advises him,” he says. “Some of the biggest names in Hollywood get submerged in their own ego and hubris and are suffocated rather than listening and being challenged by critical people who keep them on message.”
Providing Harry finds the right team, what does it take to produce a show featuring the most talked-about couple in the world?
“There’ll be so many ideas,” says Paul Braund. “It would be a huge team that would come up with a bunch of wild ideas and a few would get pitched to the couple.”
Countless independent production companies and their development teams would be drumming up new ideas, he says.
“It would need to be something really credible,” says Mark. “Commissioners always ask, ‘Why now?’ ‘What’s the reason for doing this show now?’ I’ve been in the industry ten years and I’ve pitched 500 channels. You need the right time, the right access, the right talent involved, and a really unique idea no one’s heard of before.”
With the right packaging, photographer Samir believes a production crew should embrace the fact that Harry will probably want to focus the show on his charity work. That will “help him not be too preoccupied with the cameras,” and “allow him to focus on what he cares about in a natural way,” he says.
When shooting passion projects, such as last year’s ITV documentary, Harry is easy to work with: “It would be rare for him to issue special requests,” says Samir.
Whatever the final product, Harry’s establishment upbringing will result in the couple “wanting final say and a lot of creative input,’ believes Paul.
“You always see a guy who didn’t want to get on with the life he was born into,” says Mark Borkowski, who believes Harry can make a strong success of a career in TV. “He can easily become a campaigner in some sense: not quite an Attenborough, but someone who understands the issues of mental health.
More than a trusted and familiar voice on climate change and equality, Mark believes the prince could go one further, positioning himself as a modern kind of national treasure - one that feeds his home nation as well as the US.
“He could become the ultimate agony uncle as he gets older,” he suggests.
The question left unanswered, of course, is what the contents of the Netflix deal means for Harry and Meghan away from the world of entertainment. Will public opinion soar with the couple allowing us into their lives, and could the shows they produce bring some of their tabloid detractors on side?
They may not care what other people think - but there’s no denying that when these documentaries drop they’ll be some of the most talked-about pieces of entertainment around, defining a new era for the royal family and Harry and Meghan alike.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.