LOS ANGELES – 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 said.
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 that 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.
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 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.
In plays like the musical “Into the Woods,” often lit by her father who would volunteer, Markle would use the stage in the Immaculate Heart Catholic School gym to develop the acting chops that would land her a role on “Suits,” joining fellow Immaculate Heart alums-turned-TV-stars Mary Tyler Moore and Tyra Banks.
Pollia pushed Markle to overcome an initial timidity and volunteer at a Skid Row soup kitchen, which Markle would do for most of her last two years of school. In interviews nearly 20 years later she shared the advice that Pollia had given her: “Put the needs of others above your own fears.”