She’s like a ghost ... it’s strange
ountless words have been written about Markle, but there is so much more to her story. Her childhood and teenage years were surprisingly sheltered. She was doted upon by her parents, particularly her fiercely protective father Thomas Markle, an award-winning Hollywood cinematographer who worked, almost obsessively, to help his daughter become an actress. As a result, she was a bit of a late developer in the romantic stakes.
Sonia Ardakani — mother of Suzy, her best friend at high school — says despite her stunning looks Markle didn’t start dating until well into her teens. “(Meghan and Suzy) were very good girls and they would find other ways of having fun,” she told me. “They were in all sorts of different clubs, and they liked to do things like horseriding in the park, skating and bowling.” Right: Markle and ex husband Trevor Engelson. Far right: Ice hockey star Michael Del Zotto, She was offered three scholarships after graduating, but turned them down to study theatre — and nd international relations — at Northwestern rn University in Illinois. A girl from LA, and the daughter of a mixed-race marriage, she found thee town provincial and faced prejudice. Her saviour was a flamboyant largerthan-life African-American, Larnelle Quentin Foster, now 35, who also aspired to acting. They became constant companions. “She was also quirky — and always smiling. I never saw her mad,” Foster says. His parents also adored Markle, particularly his mother, who clearly hoped they might settle down together. As much as he adored her, though, Foster could not countenance marrying Markle — he’s gay. Did Markle know? “I’m pretty sure she was. But I didn’t tell her outright because I wasn’t ready then.” After graduating from university, eager to broaden her horizons and learn Spanish, Markle spent several months as an intern at the US embassy in Buenos Aires. Already a committed feminist, with a strong social conscience, at that point she was unsure whether or not she wanted a career in the shallow, chauvinistic Hollywood entertainment industry. If anything, she was thinking then that she might become a producer. A brief trip home to Los Angeles changed all that. Markle attended a party where she fell under the admiring gaze of an acting agency manager. The next day, he watched a student film she had made. “Stick me with me — you’re going to make money,” he told her. Hawking herself around the studios was a demeaning task, though. Foster, who’d also beaten a path to Hollywood, saw how his friend was forced to compromise her high-flown ideals.
“She started doing that ‘suitcase girl’ thing on Deal Or No Deal,” he recalls, referring to a forgettable interlude when Markle was a glamorous gofer on the game show, wearing five-inch heels and a revealing red dress.
“That was just funny,” says Foster. “But it was just one of those things she needed to do to make money. It takes a while to get a movie or TV job.”
A succession of similarly unedifying roles followed on the TV soap General Hospital and crime show CSI, with Markle often appearing in scanty lingerie. Then there was a 30-second part in a box-office turkey called A Lot Like Love. This time, she wasn’t even named in the credits, which listed her only as “Hot Girl”.
That was in 2005, the year she began dating Engelson. Precisely how much influence he had on her early career is open to debate. However, as he was already making his name in Hollywood, he must have used his influence to help her progress. With his sandy hair and square jaw, in his younger days Engelson did not look unlike Prince Harry. But their personalities and, of course, their backgrounds are light years apart. The son of a wealthy, Jewish orthodontist from Great Neck, an uberaffluent town in Long Island, Engelson is a brash, go-getting New Yorker. ast year, in a podcast interview, Engelson — whose company has produced movies starring Bradley Cooper, Sandra Bullock and the late Robin Williams, and represents Trainspotting writer Irvine Welsh — described how he “hustled” his way to success.
Having started out as a lowly production assistant, he was so impressed by his bosses’ cushy lifestyle that he set out to emulate them, he said in the revealing, foul mouthed interview.
“They were great at what they did, but they didn’t look like they were working that hard and they were making a bunch of money, and they had the cutest girls on set,” he rasped.
Engelson soon moved on to work for a major literary agent, but his prospects suffered a major blow. He was fired, he admits, for using his employer’s letter-headed notepaper to pitch his own ideas. It might have finished lesser men, yet at just 24 he set up a company called Underground Films and began signing writers.
“‘I’m a gigantic believer that all this shit can come to an end tomorrow, and you gotta take advantage of the ride.” His philosophy clearly appealed to the comparatively inexperienced Markle, who was just 24 when they met. Friends say she was besotted with him, forever hugging and kissing him, and calling him ‘Trevity-Trev-Trev”. Markle moved in with Engelson, sharing the tiny, yellow bungalow with a postage-stamp garden, just off Sunset Boulevard, that he still calls home.
Had she remained a bit-part actress, they might still be living there together. But in 2010 — the year they were engaged — Markle auditioned to play the role of Rachel Zane, a sophisticated, New York legal assistant, in a new cable network series, Suits. She landed the part. Having struggled for recognition for almost a decade, she was thrilled. Engelson appeared to share her delight, hailing the success of his “badass fiancee” on Facebook. But then she jetted off to Toronto to film where, after the TV series was successfully launched, she suddenly became a big fish in what was a relative show business backwater.
For Markle, it was intoxicating. She found herself mingling with any visiting A-list celebrities and politicians eager to be associated with her fame and allure. Swept up by this seductive new world, no wonder the prospect of a five-hour flight back to Trevor and their little yellow bungalow in LA seems to have lost its appeal. Meanwhile, other powerful and attractive men were clamouring around her. Among them was Britain’s most eligible bachelor. And the rest, as they say, is history