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Prince Harry describes his former life as a ‘cross between The Truman Show and a zoo’

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during the Oprah interview

Harpo Productions / Joe Pugliese

The Duke of Sussex, 36, has appeared in a 90 minute episode of US actor Dax Shepard’s podcast, Armchair Exepert, to promote his upcoming Apple TV series on mental health (The Me You Can’t See). Shepard has been hosting the podcast since 2018 and has interviewed the great and the good, from The O.C’s Rachel Bilson to Amy Poehler, amongst many hundreds of famous others. A short bio describes the show as being about the ‘messiness of being human’.

In the podcast, the Duke has described the ‘pain and suffering’ of his upbringing as he said he left the royal family because he wanted to ‘break the cycle’ with his own children. He also compared his royal life to ‘a mixture between The Truman Show and being in a zoo’. The Truman Show is a 1998 film starring Jim Carrey, about a man who is oblivious to the fact that his entire life is a TV show.

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Shepard told Harry: ‘You’re in the tiniest in-group of all time, there’s the whole country and then there’s you guys. You’re standing in one direction and they’re standing in another direction looking at you. I was likening it to The Truman Show – have you seen that movie?’ Harry responded: ‘Yep, yep. It’s a mix between The Truman Show and living in a zoo.’

Shepard added: ‘You were kind of cast into a movie without being asked.’ Harry replied: ‘The biggest issue for me was that being born into it you inherit the risk, you inherit every element of it without choice.’

In the wide-ranging interview, Prince Harry said he had ‘always felt different’ and suggested he felt far more connected with the people he had met in Africa and on other continents than those within the confines of the palace. He credited the impact his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales – Tatler’s June issue cover – had had on him; because all she wanted to do was to ensure they had as normal a life as possible as children.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Neil Mockford / GC Images via Getty Images

Harry, who now lives in Montecito, California, also revealed that in the early days of his relationship with Meghan they met up in a London supermarket and pretended not to know each other.

He said: ‘The first time Meghan and I met up for her to come and stay with me, we met up in a supermarket in London, pretending as though we didn’t know each other, texting each other from the other ends of the aisle. There were people looking at me, giving me all of these weird looks, coming up to say hi or whatever but there I am texting her whilst we’re shopping, asking if this is the right thing and she’s replying, “No, you want the parchment paper.”

‘It was nice with a baseball cap on looking down at the floor, walking along the street and trying to stay incognito. Not sure how many times I’ve done that, trying to walk down the street and stay incognito is like “Whoa, signpost, someone’s dog,” it’s amazing how much chewing gum you see and how many shoes.

‘So living here [in Montecito] now I can actually lift my head and I feel different, my shoulders have dropped, so have hers, you can walk around feeling a little bit more free, I can take Archie on the back of my bicycle, I would never have had the chance to do that.’

Meghan, Harry’s wife, is currently pregnant with the couple’s second child, who will be a sister to two-year-old Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. On the subject of parenting, when asked if he was consciously trying to ‘parent’ his son, Archie, in a different way to his own upbring, he said: ‘Yeah… Isn’t life about breaking the cycle? There’s no blame. But certainly when it comes to parenting, if I have experienced some kind of pain or suffering because of the pain or suffering that perhaps my father, or my parents had suffered, I’m going to make sure I break that cycle so I don’t pass it on.

‘As parents we should be doing the most we can to say, you know what, that happened to me, I’m going to make sure it won’t happen to you.’

The Duke suggested that the fairytale dream of princes and princesses was out of step with reality. ‘My wife had the most amazing explanation to that: “You don’t need to be a princess, you can create the life that will be better than any princess.” And that’s coming from her own lived experience. We got together and she was like “wow, this is very different to what my friends at the beginning said it would be”.’

The Duke took pleasure in the course of their lives having been ‘altered’ thanks to their relocation. ‘The best thing is to be aware enough to go, “I reject this, I’m going to push this out of my life, I’m not going to share it with anybody else.” Why would I share something I hate with somebody else? I’m going to share the good stuff.’

Listen to the full 90 minute conversation here.

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