Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern only found out she'd feature in Prince Harry, Meghan Markle show same day trailer dropped

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she only found out on Tuesday she was featuring in a Netflix documentary series presented by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

That's despite her office being told last year that Netflix had secured the right to broadcast an interview Ardern filmed with the Nelson Mandela Foundation in November 2019. Her office was then told earlier this year that the documentary would be presented by the Sussexes.

"The Mandela Foundation has kept the office up to date with what they have intended to do with interviews, but I have not stayed close to that, so I became aware of what was happening with it yesterday," she said at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

It was also on Tuesday that the trailer was released for Live to Lead, an upcoming Netflix documentary series presented and produced by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It will feature interviews with a number of global figures, including Ardern, former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and climate activist Greta Thunberg. 

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ardern said it's up to the Mandela Foundation how the three-year-old footage is now used.

"Roughly three years ago I undertook an interview with the Mandela Foundation. They were producing resources for future leaders, with a focus on young leaders," she said.

"As is common practice, the Mandela Foundation hold the rights to do what they will with that interview. I continue to stand by that. This is now their footage, their transcript and it is ultimately a matter for them what they choose to do with it.

"I have not been involved in the decision-making around what happens next, nor have I had direct contact with the Sussexes over what is happening next."

Asked if she would have done the interview if she knew it would end up in the Netflix documentary, Ardern didn't answer the question.

"It was an interview I absolutely stand by. The Mandela Foundation do excellent work. They've already produced a number of resources from their conversations with a wide-ranging group of individuals. 

"I gave over those rights for that interview, which is not uncommon practice. I stand by doing that. It is ultimately for them to decide."

Ardern also revealed she hasn't watched any of the recent Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Netflix content. 

"I wouldn't read too much into that. It is a very busy time of year and there has been a lot on the agenda," Ardern said. 

Ardern with the Sussexes at an event in New Zealand in 2018.
Ardern with the Sussexes at an event in New Zealand in 2018.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are controversial royal figures due to their decision to ditch their senior royal roles in January 2020 for independence in the United States. Since then, they've conducted a number of interviews where they've been highly critical of their relatives.

The pair have also started a production company to also make content for Spotify and Netflix. 

A Netflix documentary series called Harry and Meghan was released earlier this month in which the couple discussed meeting each other and the impact of being part of the royal family.

It has received overwhelmingly negative critic and audience reviews.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office to Newshub on Tuesday confirmed Ardern was approached by the Nelson Mandela Foundation in early March 2019 "to participate in a project to develop accessible resources on key attributes of leadership targeted at aspiring young leaders around the world, based off a one hour interview".

Ardern's team was originally advised the content that would be created from the interview would be printed and digital books as well as short films and audio books.

The interview took place in November 2019, and a few months later in March 2020, the first of the content was published. 

"In March 2020 a short book entitled Jacinda Ardern (I Know This to be True) was published based on the interview. Other participants who also had their contributions published based on their interviews included Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Greta Thunberg and Stephen Curry."

A year later, in March 2021, the Nelson Mandela Foundation advised the Prime Minister's Office that it had secured an agreement with Netflix to broadcast the series of interviews, including the interview with Ardern. 

"In May this year the Prime Minister’s Office was notified that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would introduce the series; noting this was nearly two and a half years after the interview had been recorded and permission for its use by the Nelson Mandela Foundation had already been provided.

"All communication throughout has been with the Nelson Mandela Foundation (there has been no communication with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex regarding the project)."

The Nelson Mandela Foundation project is called I Know This To Be True and is a collaboration between the organisation and creative agency Blackwell and Ruth.

Blackwell and Ruth is led by New Zealanders Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday. Blackwell is also directing the Live to Lead documentary, based on the content produced for I Know This To Be True.