A former model and reality star turned TV producer and ‘InstaMom’ is the latest executive through the revolving door at Meghan and Harry’s broadcasting business, it was revealed today.
Tracy Ryerson, 43, is the new Head of Scripted Content at Archewell Productions amid rumours the Sussexes are pitching to Netflix to make a feminist-focused prequel to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, which focuses on the world’s most famous jilted bride Miss Havisham.
Tracy is a TV executive who worked for the production company behind Peaky Blinders. But she became a famous name in the US for appearing in two seasons of The Real L Word, which filmed her and her stand-up comic partner Stamie Karakasidis, who had three children from a previous relationship.
The couple took their relationship on screen after Tracy realised she was gay in her mid-twenties and met Stamie. 13 years later they still remain together. Tracy describes herself on social media as a ‘TV producer, sometimes actress, always InstaMom’.
Ms Ryerson, who is nicknamed ‘T Rye’ by friends, could be tasked with working with Netflix, who signed the couple up for a reported $100million in 2020. There have been claims that Archewell is looking to hire writers to create ‘feel-good’ shows including romantic comedies for the streaming giant.
Netflix is rumoured to be considering parting ways with the Sussexes’ after Spotify axed their deal. Spotify executive and popular podcaster Bill Simmons called them ‘f***ing grifters’ and yesterday the Duchess of Sussex has been dismissed as a talentless broadcaster by one of Hollywood’s most powerful figures.
Actress and turned TV producer Tracy Ryerson is now working for Meghan and Harry as the new Head of Scripted Content at Archewell Productions
Former model Tracy appeared in the reality show The Real L Word, following the lives of a group of lesbian and bisexual women in Los Angeles
Ms Ryerson remains in a relationship with Stamie Karakasidis, a stand up comic and now LA real estate agent
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak during the 2021 Global Citizen Live festival in New York
The Real L Word ran for three seasons from 2010 to 2012 and was the first reality television series to follow the lives of a group of lesbian and bisexual women in Los Angeles. It was hailed as a breakthrough show for the LGBTQ community.
After The Real L Word, Tracy and Stamie appear to have pitched a new reality series called “My Four Moms’ to ‘cover lesbian parents who split up and how they parent the kids they share’. But it was never made. Stamie is now a real estate agent in LA.
Tracy then starred in Kiss Her I’m Famous but it was axed after one season. After a few small parts and TV ads she then moved behind the camera.
The Sussexes’ Netflix deal ends in 2025 and Tracy may be tasked with keeping it on track.
She worked as Head of TV for Rare Birds Productions, a production company with ties to Warner Bros. Previously she worked on Hollywood films and TV shows for London-based Caryn Mandabach Productions including Peaky Blinders, Oceans 13, Westworld, Nancy Drew and Tarzan.
Most recently she worked for Fabula, a production company set up by Twilight star Nikki Reed and her husband Ian Somerhalder, star of The Vampire Diaries and Lost.
Harry and Meghan’s offices and businesses have been described as a ‘revolving door’. The Sussexes have reportedly lost 16 staff since 2018. However, they did not officially launch the Archewell organisation and its related businesses until late 2020.
The most recent two key staffers to leave Harry and Meghan were reportedly Fara Taylor, who leads the Archewell Productions marketing team, and internal content head Ben Browning. This appears to have been their 16th staff departure since they were married five years ago.
Yesterday Jeremy Zimmer, who has guided the film careers of stars such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Damian Lewis, gave his withering verdict on the abilities of Meghan after streaming giant Spotify axed its £18million deal with her and Prince Harry after just one podcast series.
Mr Zimmer, the chief executive of United Talent Agency, said he was not surprised that Spotify had ditched the couple.
‘Turns out Meghan Markle was not a great audio talent, or necessarily any kind of talent,’ he said.
Speaking to the news website Semafor at the Cannes Lions advertising festival in France, Mr Zimmer added: ‘And, you know, just because you’re famous, doesn’t make you great at something.’
Spotify is said to have pulled the plug on its deal because it ‘expected more content’ from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their Archewell Audio team, according to Variety magazine.
L World actress Tracy Ryerson (right) in Venice, California, with celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels
Spotify has ended its lucrative deal with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to produce podcasts
Jeremy Zimmer, the chief executive of United Talent Agency, said he was not surprised that Spotify had ditched the Sussexes. ‘Turns out Meghan Markle was not a great audio talent, or necessarily any kind of talent,’ he said.
Archewell delivered just one series – 12 episodes of Meghan’s Archetypes show last year on the social stereotypes surrounding women – and a 30-minute festive special in 2020 featuring a handful of celebrity friends and their son Archie.
Archetypes was an initial ratings success when it was released last summer and talks for a second series were said to be under way before they stalled.
The Sussexes highlighted a joint statement from themselves and Spotify saying they had ‘mutually agreed to part ways’.
This week it was claimed that pop superstar Taylor Swift rejected the chance to appear on Meghan’s podcast, even though the duchess sent her a personal invitation. After Meghan sent her a handwritten note, Ms Swift declined through her representative, according to The Wall Street Journal.
And while the couple’s £80million Netflix deal has still seen only a documentary about themselves and the series Live To Lead materialise, it appears they are about to delve into the world of Charles Dickens. The Sussexes are said to be working on a prequel to his 1861 novel Great Expectations, which focuses on a character based on Miss Havisham.
Bad Manners will see the character cast as a ‘strong woman living in a patriarchal society’.
The show is in development but has yet to get the green light from Netflix, it has been claimed.
According to The Wall Street Journal, it is ‘unlikely’ Netflix will renew the couple’s deal when it ends in 2025.
A spokesman for the talent agency WME, which recently signed Meghan, said: ‘The team behind Archetypes remain proud of the podcast they created at Spotify.
‘Meghan is continuing to develop more content for the Archetypes audience on another platform.’
The 16 former staffers to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex who have since left their employment
Fara Taylor – January 2023
Fara Taylor led Archewell’s marketing team
Fara Taylor led Archewell’s marketing team. She opted to leave the firm in January 2023.
She oversaw the team during the release of the couple’s Netflix docuseries and Harry’s memoir, Spare.
Ms Taylor’s departure comes as the Sussexes were planning to ‘streamline the company’s marketing arm.’
Ashley Hansen, Archewell’s head of communication, will lead the marketing team moving forward.
Oscar-nominated producer Ben Browning has quit working at Archewell following the success of the couple’s Harry & Meghan docuseries
Ben Browning – January 2023
Oscar-nominated producer Ben Browning has quit working at Archewell following the success of the couple’s Harry & Meghan docuseries.
Mr Browning, the company’s internal content head, played an ‘integral’ part in the production of the Netflix series.
Harry & Meghan was the platform’s most-streamed documentary series debut, amassing 81.55 million hours watched in the first week after release.
Archewell had followed Harry & Meghan with its Live to Lead documentary, created in partnership with the Mandela Foundation.
Live to Lead did not receive the same global response as the couple’s docuseries.
Rebecca Sananes – December 2022
Rebecca Sananes has quit as head of audio at Archewell after just 18 months in the role, according to the Daily Telegraph and US gossip website Page Six.
She was hired to produce Meghan’s Spotify podcast, Archetypes, in July 2021, but has been replaced by media executive Serena Regan.
It has not yet been decided whether a second series of Archetypes will be commissioned.
Mandana Dayani – December 2022
Mandana Dayani stepped down as president of Archewell, the couple’s media empire and charitable foundation, at the weekend.
A spokeswoman for Meghan and Harry said the pair would ‘take full lead of their company’.
With her US media connections, the Iranian-born activist was considered one of the Duke and Duchess’s most important advisers. She has been at Archewell, where she oversaw day-to-day operations, for less than 18 months.
In a statement, Ashley Hansen, Meghan and Harry’s global press secretary, last night said that Ms Dayani ‘has been an integral part of Archewell and we are grateful for her passion, commitment and leadership’.
Toya Holness – May 2022
Toya Holness, who has a degree in strategic PR from the University of Southern California, joined the Sussexes in October 2020 and was promoted to oversee their PR on both sides of the Atlantic in March last year.
She has previously been described as ‘Meghan’s shadow’ – having often been seen wearing the same style of power suits and Hollywood sunglasses.
The former football player had been one of a small band who speak to Harry and Meghan daily, but is understood to have parted ways with the couple, The Sunday Times reports.
She was said to have ‘wanted out’ after finding herself ‘having to fulfil a great many functions for the couple’, insiders claimed.
Catherine St Laurent – March 2021
The executive director of Harry and Meghan’s Archewell Foundation Catherine St-Laurent stepped down after just one year to take on a ‘senior advisory’ role at the organisation.
Catherine St Laurent
Ms St-Laurent took on the position of chief of staff and executive director of the Sussexes’ non-profit enterprise in April 2020.
The Canadian mother-of-two was said to be ‘the bright hope to run their organisation’.
It was revealed that Meghan and Harry’s UK PR chief James Holt would take on the director role instead.
And, in a sign of the couple’s growing ventures across the pond, it was also announced that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have hired veteran producer Ben Browning to head up their film and TV company.
Natalie Campbell – June 2020
Natalie Campbell, a diversity campaigner, was Harry and Meghan’s big hire to lead their cherished Sussex Royal charity foundation.
She worked with Meghan on cookbook Together, which shone a light on the Hubb Kitchen, a group who came together to prepare fresh meals following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.
Poached from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Foundation in August 2019, she worked for the Sussexes for less than a year before leaving for a new job.
Sara Latham – March 2020
Sara Latham, former director of communications, was among a group of 15 employees to have lost her job from Megxit.
She previously worked for Barack Obama and was hired when the rift between the Sussexes and Cambridges happened.
In his bombshell book Courtiers, Valentine Low writes: ‘At the back of [colleagues’] minds was the feeling that anyone leaving the Sussex team would be best advised to think of a good excuse. Meghan did not like it if she thought it was about her.’
Clara Loughran – March 2020
The New Zealander, 33, first worked for the Cambridges where she met her now husband, PR executive Nick Loughran.
She was handed a key role as the Sussexes project manager, overseeing their charitable projects and helping with their wedding plans. She lost her job when the couple left for a new life.
Samantha Cohen – October 2019
Cohen, the Queen’s assistant private secretary, was planning to leave Buckingham Palace in 2018.
However, she agreed to stay on to help guide the Duchess of Sussex through her first months in the Royal Family.
An Australian who joined the Palace press office in 2001, tough-talking Cohen was respected in Royal circles.
She left as the couple’s private secretary last year to work for environmental charity Cool Earth.
Amy Pickerill – March 2019
Ms Pickerill had been tipped to become Meghan’s private secretary after Cohen before she unexpectedly quit as a key aide in May 2019.
The former Treasury press officer had played a key role in Harry and Meghan’s tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga in October 2018 – their first Royal tour as a married couple.
Meghan described the loss of her assistant private secretary as ‘very sad’ and sources insisted the split was amicable.
Jason Knauf & Christian Jones – March 2019
Senior communications secretaries Jason Knauf and Christian Jones left to work for the Cambridges.
Mr Knauf was found to have submitted a formal complaint in October 2018 to Prince William’s private secretary, Simon Case, about the bullying he said various members of the household had been subject to.
The Sussexes have always vehemently denied allegations of bullying as a ‘calculated smear campaign’.
Senior communications secretaries Jason Knauf (left) and Christian Jones (right) left to work for the Cambridges
Female protection officer – January 2019
In January 2019, a female royal protection officer also quit her job as the top bodyguard for Meghan.
The officer, who has not been named for security reasons, had been head of Meghan and Harry’s security for less than a year when she left the role.
At the time, a Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘It’s for personal reasons and absolutely nothing to do with the Duke or Duchess, who are hugely disappointed at losing her.’
Melissa Toubati – November 2018
Deputy communications secretary Katrina McKeever
Meghan’s PA, Melissa Toubati, left after just six months, said to have handed in her notice after the Duchess had left her ‘in tears’ with her demands. Meghan denies the claims.
Katrina McKeever – September 2018
Deputy communications secretary Katrina McKeever quietly departed the Kensington Palace press office in September 2018.
She had a key liaison role with Meghan’s family, including her father Thomas Markle. In Finding Freedom, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand say McKeever ‘left on a good note with the Sussexes’.