In the week before the royal wedding, Thomas Markle decided not to attend after an arrangement with paparazzi to stage photos ahead of the big day was revealed

By Stephanie Petit
May 17, 2019 12:27 PM

Meghan Markle‘s complicated relationship with her father will be center stage in a new Lifetime movie about the Duchess of Sussex’s romance with Prince Harry.

An exclusive sneak peek of Lifetime’s Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal, starring Charlie Field and Tiffany Marie Smith as the royal couple, imagines Meghan receiving a phone call from father Thomas Markle in the lead-up to her wedding.

Meghan’s character checks in with her dad about gossip that he had suffered a heart attack, then confront him about staged paparazzi pictures showing him getting ready for his trip to the U.K. for the couple’s big day.

“Talking to the paps, getting paid by the paps is not the answer, Tom,” Prince Harry‘s character says. “If you’d listened to me, none of this would have happened.”

“You lied,” Meghan adds.

“Fine. Maybe it would be better for you guys if I was dead. That way you can pretend to be sad,” Thomas replies before hanging up the phone.

Overwhelmed and realizing that her walk down the aisle will be alone, Meghan runs outside.

“Listen, it’s not about your father and it’s not about the gossip writers. It’s just about you and me,” Harry’s character comforts her.

He adds, “Ever since I was a boy, I’ve been in the public eye. The worst moments of my life played out in the news and on the TV. We can get through this, Meghan. I love you and you love me, and that’s all that matters, right?”

“Right,” she says. “That’s all that matters.”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in new Lifetime movie

In the week before Meghan’s May 19, 2018, wedding to Prince Harry, Thomas decided not to attend after an arrangement with paparazzi to stage several photoshoots ahead of the big day was revealed. Thomas and Meghan’s half-sister Samantha, who claimed responsibility for arranging her father’s paparazzi photos before the wedding, then continued to speak critically of her to the U.K. tabloids.

In an emotional letter dated August 2018, Meghan wrote that she never heard from her father that he wouldn’t be coming — nor did she receive messages from him about his heart attack, which he said occurred just before her nuptials.

“You’ve told the press that you called me to say you weren’t coming to the wedding — that didn’t happen because you never called,” Meghan wrote, according to the letter published by The Mail on Sunday.

“I have only ever loved, protected, and defended you, offering whatever financial support I could, worrying about your health,” she continued. “So the week of the wedding to hear about you having a heart attack through a tabloid was horrifying. I called and texted…I begged you to accept help — we sent someone to your home…and instead of speaking to me to accept this or any help, you stopped answering your phone and chose to only speak to tabloids.”

Meghan Markle and Thomas Markle
Tolga Akmen - WPA Pool/Getty Images; Good Morning Britain/ITV

A longtime friend of Meghan’s said that after the paparazzi photos emerged, “Meg and Harry were still so focused on getting [Tom] to London.”

“The next morning when the car got there [to take him to the airport], he wouldn’t get in,” explained the close friend, one of five who spoke to PEOPLE. “[Later] Meg heard he had a heart attack and she’s calling and texting, even up to the night before the wedding. It was like, ‘Please pick up. I love you, and I’m scared.’ It was endless.”

“He knows how to get in touch with her. Her telephone number hasn’t changed,” said the close friend. “He’s never called; he’s never texted. It’s super painful, because Meg was always so dutiful. I think she will always feel genuinely devastated by what he’s done. And at the same time, because she’s a daughter, she has a lot of sympathy for him.”

Meghan, 37, ended up walking down the aisle at her wedding alone for the first half before taking the arm of Prince Charles as she approached her soon-to-be husband.

Meghan Markle and Prince Charles
Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The new Lifetime movie, a sequel to the 2018 hit TV movie Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance, will examine the newlyweds’ love story, “pulling back the curtain to reveal the untold joys and challenges of life inside the royal family during their pivotal first year of marriage. Beyond blending their families and cultures, Harry and Meghan’s core values are put to the test as they try to find the balance between honoring royal tradition and staying true to their beliefs.”

Charlie Field and Tiffany Marie Smith as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Field and Smith are replacing Murray Fraser and Parisa Fitz-Henley, who portrayed the royal couple in Lifetime’s original film last year. Field is a rising red-headed actor whose credits include the National Geographic series Genius, while Smith has appeared in small roles on Jane the Virgin and Supernatural.

The movie will premiere on Memorial Day: Monday, May 27 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.