Parisa Fitz-Henley plays Meghan Markle in Lifetime’s movie chronicling Markle’s fairy-tale romance with Prince Harry, which will culminate in their May 19 wedding at Windsor Castle.
So it’s only appropriate that Fitz-Henley, 40, is on the phone to talk about “Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance” the same day that Markle’s TV character, “Suits” lawyer Rachel Zane, marries Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) on the USA series (the final episode for both actors).
“That is weird,” says Fitz-Henley, who bears a striking resemblance to the 36-year-old Markle. “When I’m not done up as her, I don’t see [the resemblance] as much, but when I saw her engagement video I thought, ‘She’s biracial, I’m biracial (Jamaican-American). We kind of look alike.’ When I have the hair and they’ve done my makeup, then I’m like, ‘Dang — from certain angles I definitely see it.’ ”
Fitz-Henley — co-starring opposite Murray Fraser in “Harry & Meghan” — brings a lot of experience to the part, including a starring role in NBC’s “Midnight, Texas” and episode arcs in “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage.” She says she’s ready for whatever slings and arrows (on social media and elsewhere) may come her way once the movie airs.
“What I noticed is the attention [on the movie] was far greater than I would have expected,” she says. “Am I aware of people who say, ‘She’ll never live this down’? Sure. I can’t really control what people do; I just have to follow my intuition, and I was really drawn to this. I felt really good about doing it.”
Fitz-Henley hadn’t seen “Suits” before winning the role, but knew Markle’s work from her appearances on the old Fox series “Fringe” (Fitz-Henley has watched the entire series … twice). “When I saw the engagement interview with [Harry and Meghan] … I thought, ‘Wow, this is a really intriguing woman, and I feel I kind of look like her if my hair was straight. And I feel like I could have something to offer.’”
In “Harry & Meghan,” Markle — who has a Caucasian father and an African-American mother — encounters racism as her relationship with Prince Harry heats up. Fitz-Henley says she can relate.
“It definitely hits home,” she says. “I’ve experienced loads of racism, cloaked and not-so-cloaked. I’ve been in situations where there’s disapproval of me because I’m biracial and I don’t fit into one category or another. Certainly being biracial has opened doors for me, some of which I think shouldn’t be opened. A lot of time when Hollywood is looking for a black actress, they’re more than happy to have one [who] closely resembles someone who’s white as possible.”
She says she hasn’t heard from the future Duchess of Sussex directly — but has heard from people who know her.
“People have reached out: ‘It’s so funny you’re playing her, I knew her from high school’ or ‘We worked together,’” she says. “But what’s been interesting to me is that true friends don’t dish on friends — so I don’t really hear anything about her, just that some folks know her.”
“Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance” 8 p.m. Sunday on Lifetime
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