Oprah’s bombshell interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sent shockwaves around the world as their discussion dealt with racism, mental health and the monarchy. Everyone from reality television stars to even bigger names had some kind of reaction. But, it was Meghan Markle’s Suits television dad, Wendell Pierce, whose comments went viral, prompting the veteran actor to make a few clarifications.
Many perceived Wendall Pierce’s initial reaction about the Meghan Markle interview to be dismissive and judgmental of Markle's struggles, especially given their former father-daughter relationship on Suits. In a follow up interview with Entertainment Tonight, Pierce clarified what he really meant, and said:
I supported Meghan in the press the year I lived in London while I was doing Death of a Salesman and would never demean a person's mental health. My words were twisted. A classic tabloid trick. That was not the spirit of what I was saying.
Wendall Pierce’s initial comments came across to many as downplaying Meghan Markle's perception that she was under a mental health crisis and faced racist scrutiny while being an official royal. He certainly didn't seem to offer as much rallying support for his former Suits daughter as her other past co-stars. Ahead of the Oprah interview, Patrick J. Adams lambasted the allegations of Markle being a bully.
For his part, Wendall Pierce claimed to not know much about the controversy and his views are now much more supportive of Meghan Markle. The Chicago P.D. star elaborated by noting that he believes his comments were purposely taken out of context in order to fan the flames of drama during a particularly sensitive time in our history. He stated:
My comments were about the obsession around the royal family and it shouldn't take priority over the deaths of the pandemic. I'm living and working in Budapest. I'm not into the royals and my point was we are all complicit in this whirlwind of royal obsession that feeds the tabloids while so much death is around us. That's the wrong priority. I've known 12 people to die. I didn't see the interview or know it was about her suicidal thoughts.
The interview was indeed explosive, prompting a global social media dialogue about exactly how racist or belittling the British royalty and its tabloids might be. The initial airing on Sunday brought in roughly 17.8 million viewers. That's good business for CBS, which is set to cut its normal primetime lineup in order to re-air the interview on March 12.
The network had teased and taunted the public with many clips of Meghan Markle and Oprah up until it's official airing. The buildup inevitably created a divide among celebrities and fans alike,with many feeling that either you're with Markle or you're against her. Without knowing the deeper issues discussed, though, Wendall Pierce initially opted for the safer route of saying that, speaking in general terms, the world's problems weren't hinging on tell-alls from former royals. His initial comment to Britain’s LBC radio station was:
A couple of hundred people are going to die, even this hour, in the U.K. It is quite insensitive and offensive that we are all complicit in this sort of Palace...gossip. In the midst of so much death, I think it is insignificant.
It does seem unfair to crucify Wendall Pierce for wanting the primary focus to be on life-or-death matters. But, the conversation surrounding Meghan Markle's Oprah interview is but a continuation of a larger cultural dialogue we're having about the mechanisms in place that may allow someone like Britney Spears to have a public breakdown, or push Markle to think, at five months pregnant, that her life wasn't worth living.
We often like to situate celebs as the public hero or public villain because it is easier, and perhaps more entertaining. However, the problem with doing so is, like in this case with Wendall Pierce, good intentions can get lost in the hype.