Disneynature's latest documentary Elephant hit Disney Plus on Friday (April 3). The nature doc follows African elephant Shani and her young son Jomo as their herd journeys hundreds of miles across the Kalahari Desert. The herd is led by fellow elephant Gaia—their matriarch—and faces numerous challenges as they follow in their ancestor’s footsteps to find a green paradise to call home. Elephant is narrated by Meghan Markle, as well.
While chatting with People, Elephant filmmakers Mark Linfield and Vanessa Berlowitz recalled meeting the Duchess of Sussex for the first time in Botswana back in 2017, as well as what it was like to work with her in the recording studio. “She was absolutely intrigued by the elephants and transfixed, especially by the female empowerment side,” Berlowitz told People. “How important the matriarchs are to the story; it really is all about female leadership. It’s a different form of power — it’s about consensual leadership. It’s also very inclusive, as well — very contemporary. She was absolutely fascinated by that.”
Meghan and Prince Harry were in Botswana at the time to aid Dr. Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders with his conservation efforts. The Sussexes' helped Dr. Chase protect 25 elephants by fitting them with satellite navigation collars, which they shared with their followers on Instagram. "These collars allow the team at EWB to track the elephants, as well as to learn their essential migratory patterns to keep their corridors safe and open so future generations of elephants can roam freely," they wrote.
After meeting Meghan and Harry in Botswana, Linfield and Berlowitz realized Meghan would be a perfect fit for their narrator. “We actually tried her voice against the picture, right then,” Linfield revealed. “She had done United Nations women’s speeches, and they just worked great.” Two years later, Meghan did, in fact, end up recording the narration for Elephant at Pinewood Studio's in London in October 2019.
Since Meghan was a new mom at the time she recorded her voice over, Berlowitz said the Duchess clearly related to many of the film's themes, especially those about mama elephant Shani and her young son Jomo. “She had a small child,” Berlowitz said. “You could totally tell she was identifying with [elephants] Shani and Jojo, and keeping little ones in tow. She felt like a normal mom going through the normal trials and tribulations of bringing up a baby. Like one of us.”
Harry also joined Meghan at the studio and he even pitched in, too. “It was amazing having [Harry] there,” Berlowitz continued. “He had a connection to Botswana, of course.” Since Harry has spent a lot of time in Botswana over the years, he helped Meghan with some of the pronunciations in her script.
Filmmaker Roy Conli—who also helped bring Elephant to life–had nothing but glowing words to share about his time with the Sussexes. “She made it her own,” Conli said of Meghan's voice over work. “I always say, ‘If you feel something, do it, make it organic.’ She’s such a diligent professional and she wanted to get it right. It was a delight all the way around.”