By ANDREW DALTON and MARCELA ISAZA
Meghan Markle’s road to royalty ran through Hollywood.
The American actress set to marry Prince Harry on Saturday spent her formative years in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Hollywood, a more working-class place than its famous name suggests.
It was home to the progressive elementary school and Catholic high school where she starred in musicals and got her first lessons in the social activism she says will now be her life’s primary purpose. And it was home to a far more unlikely place for a future royal to be raised – the television studio where she spent after-school hours with her cinematographer father on the set of the sitcom “Married ... With Children.”
Those who doted on the show’s shaggy dog have no trouble remembering her even decades later.
Melba Farquhar, whose husband, Ralph, was a supervising producer on “Married ... With Children,” made a habit of bringing dinner leftovers to Buck, a Briard who became a canine star. Before one Friday night taping she noticed a girl of about 10 watching her with quiet fascination.
“This little girl, and it was Meghan, was so interested, she asked me, ‘Are you saving your food for the dog?”’ Melba Farquhar told The Associated Press.
On a subsequent Friday, Meghan showed up with her own leftovers.
“She had saved some of her dinner to give to him, and wanted to know if it was OK if she fed the dog this time,” Farquhar said. “She was just so sweet.”
“And now,” Farhquar said in disbelief, “she’s going to be in the royal family.”
Most who recall the young girl expressed similar shock that she is now marrying Prince Harry, but say she’s more than prepared for the gravity of her new role, and could transform what it means to be a member of the royal family.
“My thought, truly, was ‘he is so lucky. He has no idea,’” said Maria Pollia, a favorite high school teacher of Markle’s. “When you think about the circles that Prince Harry is in, and when you think about the many, many accomplished women that he has known all his life, there is something that I know about Meghan, which is her genuineness, her compassion, her depth, is something that I’m not sure that all of those women share.”
Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, is retired and has been living in Mexico. Her mother, Doria Ragland, is a social worker who still lives in Los Angeles. He could not be reached for comment, and she did not respond to interview requests from the AP.
Neither has spoken publicly since the engagement was announced, part of a media silence that has also included Markle’s close friends and most of her cast mates on the TV legal drama “Suits,” which aired her final episode last month.
Markle’s parents will meet the queen before the wedding and will have a special role in the ceremony.
They divorced when she was 6, but jointly raised her, and she spent many hours with her father at Sunset Gower Studios, about a mile from each of her schools, where he oversaw the lighting and camera crew for much of the 1987-to-1997 run of “Married ... With Children,” a span that saw his daughter grow from 5 to 15.
The set was a warm and family-friendly place, crew members said. The lowbrow show itself often was not, reveling in trashiness and toilet humor that made it “a really funny and perverse place for a little girl in a Catholic school uniform to grow up,” Markle told Esquire magazine in 2013.
And for Markle, a lifelong dog devotee whose beagle and Labrador mix were the stars of her now-deleted Instagram account, it had the added bonus of Buck.
“Tommy used to bring her on the set a lot, and of course she was always hanging around and petting Buck,” said Steven Ritt, the dog’s owner and trainer, who recently gave an interview with a wolfish black pup named Ariel at his feet. “A lot of kids gravitated toward Buck.”
Ritt said Markle’s gentle manner made her a natural with animals.
“Meghan was always kind of an old soul, even as a child, a little more mature than some of the children around the set at her age,” he said.
Markle’s love of dogs may also serve her well in her royal role. It already has, at least in her intimidating first meeting with the queen at Buckingham Palace.
“The Corgis took to you right away,” Prince Harry said, looking at a laughing Markle during a joint interview in November. “For the last 33 years, I’ve been barked at,” he said, then gestured to his fiancee. “This one walks in, absolutely nothing. Just wagging tails.”
“Just laying down on my feet during tea,” Markle said.