A year after Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in a fairy-tale wedding, she said in an extraordinary interview broadcast on Sunday night, her life as a member of the British royal family had become so emotionally desolate that she contemplated suicide.
At another point, members of the family told Harry and Meghan, a biracial former actress from the United States, that they did not want the couple’s unborn child, Archie, to be a prince or princess, and expressed concerns about how dark the color of the baby’s skin would be.
An emotional but self-possessed Meghan said of her suicidal thoughts: “I was ashamed to have to admit it to Harry. I knew that if I didn’t say it, I would do it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Meghan, 39, made the disclosures in an eagerly anticipated, and at times incendiary, interview on CBS with Oprah Winfrey that aired in the United States in prime time. In describing a royal life that began as a fairy tale but quickly turned suffocating and cruel, Meghan’s blunt answers raised the combustible issues of race and privilege in the most rarefied echelon of British society.
Here are the main takeaways from the interview.
For viewers to come together in this age and in this economy for television at an appointed time — interrupted by commercials even! — requires a high bar.
The ratings aren’t in, but tonight many watchers were reminded of the skill, empathy and just all-around mastery of communication and focus of Oprah Winfrey as interviewer. Even if it was all showbiz, even it was all an act, for viewers it felt engrossing and moving.
This is when a generation that didn’t grow up watching Oprah now realizes how she has a unique gift.
— deray (@deray) March 8, 2021
Ms. Winfrey, of course, was one of the creators of interview television when she wasn’t busy winning Tonys, Peabodys and getting Oscar nominations. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” began in 1986 and concluded, 25 seasons later, with more than 5,000 episodes, in 2011. She has said she has interviewed 37,000 people.
oprah’s “what” is so powerful
— hunter harris (@hunteryharris) March 8, 2021
It was 1993 when Ms. Winfrey interviewed Michael Jackson in an event that stopped people in their tracks. (Prince Harry was not yet a teenager.) It was at the time the most-watched televised interview in history, with tens of millions of people tuning in. (The New York Times reported 62 million viewers; Ms. Winfrey claimed 90 million worldwide.)
I didn’t actually quite understand Oprah’s singular genius as a broadcaster and interviewer until I became one but she’s legit on another level.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 8, 2021
Journalists on Twitter paid tribute to the techniques Ms. Winfrey used in the interview, which was simultaneously intimate and charged, kind but firm. The power of her attention is riveting.
If Oprah ever interviewed me, I too would dime out my whole family.
— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) March 8, 2021
It’s Oprah’s follow up questions for me. A journalism interviewing masterclass.
— Nneka M. Okona 🇳🇬 (@afrosypaella) March 8, 2021
Behind the scenes, nearly every interview ends the same way, Ms. Winfrey said in a recent interview herself. The participant, no matter how wealthy or famous, asks: “Was that OK? How was that? How did I do?”