Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had no idea she would be participating in the latest Harry and Meghan Netflix vehicle when she recorded her interview for the project.
Despite Ardern featuring prominently in the trailer released this week, she has never spoken with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, about the series.
The episode nearly sparked a minor constitutional crisis with Ardern, a sitting Prime Minister, appearing to take the side of the renegade prince against his father King Charles, New Zealand’s Head of State. However, Ardern’s office has confirmed the footage was taken from a November 2019 interview for an earlier project, sparked by the legacy of Nelson Mandela - not Harry and Meghan.
Ardern features prominently in the trailer for Live to Lead, a documentary project from the Duke and Duchess which follows hot on the heels of an explosive Netflix documentary series the pair made about themselves, titled Harry and Meghan.
Ardern’s name is included among seven others who spoke for the documentary, which Harry said was “inspired by Nelson Mandela, who once said ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.’”
The trailer features a clip from one of Ardern’s speeches to the United Nations General Assembly.
Ardern appeared blindsided by the release of the trailer yesterday.
“In early March 2019 the Prime Minister was approached by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to participate in a project to develop accessible resources on key attributes of leadership targeted at aspiring young leaders around the world, based off a one-hour interview,” the spokesman said.
“Originally we were advised the outputs would be printed and digital books, short films and audiobooks,” they said.
In March 2020 a short book entitled Jacinda Ardern (I Know This to be True) was published based on the interview. Other participants whose contributions were published based on their interviews included Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Greta Thunberg and Stephen Curry, the spokesman said.
In March 2021, the Nelson Mandela Foundation advised Ardern’s office they had secured a deal with Netflix to broadcast a series of interviews, including hers.
It was only in May this year that Ardern’s office was notified that Harry and Meghan would be involved in the series.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said they were told Harry and Meghan would “introduce the series”.
At this point, nearly two and a half years had elapsed from the time the interview was recorded, and permission for its use by the Nelson Mandela Foundation had already been provided.
The spokesman said that all communication for the project has been with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, who first made contact about the interview. There has been no communication between Ardern or her office and Harry and Meghan about the project.
Harry and Meghan will executive produce the series and, according to industry reports, appear in it as well.
There is another Kiwi connection too. The show is produced by Blackwell & Ruth, a company founded by Kiwis Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday.
Blackwell will also direct the series, according to Variety, an entertainment industry trade publication. Despite the New Zealand connection, the series received no taxpayer-funded production grants.
Ardern would have been likely to turn down any involvement in a Meghan and Harry project, so as not to be seen to be taking a side in the increasingly ugly fight between the pair and the royal family, headed by King Charles.
Ardern is in a more complicated position than any of the other participants in the documentary, given she heads up the Government in the name of Harry’s father, King Charles, New Zealand’s head of state.
It would be quite inappropriate for any sitting Prime Minister to pick a side in that conflict.
The series will be released on Netflix on December 31.
It would appear that many of the other interviews were recorded some time ago. One of the interviewees is US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who died in 2020.