How Lifetime's 'Harry & Meghan' Star Parisa Fitz-Henley Became Meghan Markle (Exclusive)

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Lifetime Harry & Meghan
Lifetime

The most highly anticipated event of the year, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal wedding, is just nine days away.

Ahead of their nuptials, fans of the couple will get to see their fairy-tale love story played out in Lifetime's Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance, premiering Sunday, May 13.

ET recently spoke with Parisa Fitz-Henley, the 41-year-old actress portraying Meghan in the film, where she opened up about what fans can expect from the movie, and what it was like becoming the beloved bride-to-be onscreen, alongside Murray Fraser as Prince Harry.

Lifetime Harry & Meghan
Lifetime

"You're going to get a chance to see not just the sweetness and love that we are all drawn to, but also the challenges that they face as a couple that I think make them so strong and intriguing," she teased of her and Murray's take on Meghan and Prince Harry. "Lifetime and the creators of this did not gloss over the obstacles to this relationship and as a result, I think it makes the movie a real testament to their union as well as a celebration of all that they've found together."

"We're going to get to see them in their sweet, private moments," she continued. "We're going to see them dealing with being in the public eye, and then we get some really funny, silly moments, too."

Read our full Q&A below.

ET: Hi, Parisa! Congrats on the role of Meghan. When did you first hear about the film, and did you know you'd be going in for the role of Meghan before your audition?

Parisa Fitz-Henley: I first learned about the film a few weeks after it was announced that Meghan and Harry were engaged. I heard about their engagement video on Twitter. A lot of my friends, who aren't really as into celebrities or celebrity news, kept commenting on this interview. And I was like, "OK, I'm going to take a look and see what this is all about." I was so taken with Meghan and the interview with them as a couple that I said to my manager, "If they ever make a movie about this, I'd love to audition for it." She just seems like a really intriguing character.

It was just a few weeks later that I got an email with a script saying, "Hey, if you're interested, [audition]." And very quickly, I got myself together -- I was in the woods with my parents at the time, just checking emails from time to time -- and I was like, "All right, I'm gonna scrub off the dirt and get to work."

Before seeing the engagement interview, did you know anything about Meghan?

I love the show Fringe and I had seen her on a couple of episodes, but I didn't know who she was or her name. Unfortunately, in all the advertisements I saw of Suits, it was always the guys that were advertised, so I didn't know that she was on it. It was only after seeing the engagement interview that I started paying closer attention to her… especially after I got that audition!

Lifetime Harry & Meghan
Lifetime

Once you found out you were going to play the future royal, what type of research did you do to familiarize yourself with her?

I watched all the videos I could find of her -- I'd watch interviews, I'd watch bits of her work, read pieces of her writing, study her actions and just try to absorb as much as I could.

Through your research, what would you say was the most surprising thing you discovered about Meghan?

I think for me, what was most surprising was the coverage of her. People focused so much on her being an actress and leaving her career rather than looking at this person who studied both theater and international relations. She spent almost a decade in the theatrical arena and then is now moving into international relations. It's kind of a no-brainer to me and not a departure from anything that she is about. In particular, I don't feel like she's leaving or giving up a career, but has expanded her role in the world.

Walk us through filming days. What was the experience like and how did you get into character?

This was a very quick shoot, about five weeks. I've worked a lot of television and indie film and theater, so I had that experience of just like, "You gotta make it happen and do it as quickly as possible." Everybody involved approached it in a very focused and efficient way. We of course had long days and long weeks doing it, but to get into character, I would just continue to watch things of hers and pay extra attention to the things that I think she would pay attention to. She's a very pleasurable character to play, obviously.

Lifetime Harry and Meghan
Lifetime

We heard that changes to the script were made as breaking news came in about Meghan, Harry and the royal family. How different was the final script from the original?

There were some changes, but I would say the original script I first read is pretty close to what we ended up with, and it was solid from the get-go. I couldn't believe how short of a time they wrote it in. Honestly, I personally thought they must have assumed that the engagement would come, so they had been writing this over time and just adding things, but that's not what happened -- they actually wrote it in a few weeks.

We got a sneak peek look at the movie, and there's a pretty steamy scene between you and Murray as Meghan and Harry. Were you surprised to see that scene written into the script?

Talking about scenes like that, it's hard to do it justice. It's a romance, so it wasn't surprising to me that we would see romantic moments with them. But yeah, as an actor, it's important to me to do things that feel truthful to a character in a situation.

Looking back, what would you say was your favorite part about being involved with this film and getting to play out Meghan's love story?

One of my favorite parts was the experience we had with the animals, one in particular that I won't reveal, was really special. As an actor, we get times where we get really unique experiences, and anything where you get to be in nature or interacting with nature is a real luxury and one I really appreciate.

Harry & Meghan A Royal Romance
Lifetime

And I would say the most difficult experience was a pretty emotional scene where we had such an incredibly cold day to shoot a scene where it was supposed to be springtime and we weren't dressed for that. It was so cold that, for the first time ever, I got scared preparing to go outside. I was actually, like, physically scared for a moment. I had to do some deep breathing and be like, "You're going to be OK," because I knew I was going to be standing outside for an extremely long time in cold weather and I was not dressed for it.

One of the writers from the film, Scarlett Lacey, previously revealed that Kensington Palace is aware that the movie is happening. If Meghan were to watch it, are you at all nervous about what she'd think of your portrayal?

This definitely has a lot of eyes on it, that's for sure, and a lot of critical eyes. For me, I've had incredible amounts of positive feedback so far -- lots of encouragement on social media and it's been so sweet. I imagine someone at Kensington Palace will watch it to be aware of what's going on because their public relations team is very professional on point. But whether Harry and Meghan will watch it, they obviously have way more to do right now than to pay attention to anything like this, but maybe someday for a laugh they'll have a look. But I don't expect them to be scrambling to watch the premiere.

Actor to actor, though, I always hope that another actor respects my work. If she were to watch it, I would hope that she would in turn feel respected by the performance.

With everything you've learned from studying her so closely, if you had the opportunity to speak with Meghan in person today, what would that conversation look like?

From my heart, I would just want to encourage her in everything that she's doing. Not that she needs any, I think that she has great support already and an awesome backbone in her own volition, but I would just throw my hat into the ring, just to be like, "Hey, girl, I got your back. Keep doing what you're doing."

Obviously, there's a lot of obsession over the royal family in another series, The Crown. If the show were to ever need a Meghan, would you be open to playing her again? Are you a fan of the Netflix show?

I am utterly obsessed with The Crown! I would say, without a doubt, I'd be interested. They're doing so much incredible work. I mean, who wouldn't want to be a part of it in some way?

Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance premieres Sunday, May 13 at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.

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