When Meghan Markle announced she was exiting legal drama Suits after seven seasons, it left many fans asking – why did she decide to leave this successful show and character behind?
As we‘ll explore in depth, Markle‘s royal relationship and impending marriage to Prince Harry necessitated she relinquish her acting duties. But other factors like her expiring contract also facilitated her surprising departure from the show.
Let‘s look back on Markle‘s journey through all seven seasons of Suits, the key events that led to her exit, and how both her life and the show changed dramatically after she left.
Meghan Markle‘s Seven Season Journey as Rachel Zane
Before becoming royalty, Meghan Markle was best known for playing paralegal-turned-lawyer Rachel Zane on USA‘s hit show Suits from 2011 to 2018.
During those seven seasons, Zane evolved from a wide-eyed ingenue to a seasoned attorney fighting discrimination and injustice. She also had an on-again, off-again office romance with Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams).
Some key Rachel Zane plot points over the seasons:
Season 1: Rachel is introduced as a paralegal who dreams of attending law school. She begins secretly dating Mike, who she doesn‘t know lied about being a lawyer.
Season 2: Rachel discovers Mike‘s secret but agrees to stay quiet. She starts law school and continues her romance with Mike.
Season 3: Rachel passes the LSATs and starts at Columbia Law School. She gets jealous of Mike mentoring another law student.
Season 4: Rachel begins working as a law clinic student defender. She moves in with Mike after some ups and downs.
Season 5: Rachel proposes to Mike after some soul searching. They plan a wedding for the end of season.
Season 6: Rachel passes the bar exam and starts working as an attorney at Pearson Specter Litt. Her father objects to her wedding.
Season 7: Rachel and Mike have a surprise courthouse wedding. They later leave Seattle together after surviving firm drama.
Over the seasons, Markle earned praise for portraying Rachel as smart, ambitious, and compassionate. Her character was universally liked both by fans and critics.
The Whirlwind Royal Romance That Changed Meghan‘s Trajectory
Meghan Markle met Prince Harry on a blind date in London in July 2016, setting in motion events that would alter the course of her acting career forever.
As their relationship progressed, Markle continued her Suits filming duties in Toronto while navigating increased scrutiny, press attention, and royal obligations.
Key relationship milestones:
Oct 2016: News breaks of Prince Harry‘s new mystery girlfriend but she isn‘t identified yet.
Nov 2016: Harry confirms he is dating Markle through a public statement condemning invasion of her privacy.
Sept 2017: Meghan gives her first public interview about Harry and makes first public appearance with him at the Invictus Games.
Nov 2017: Harry proposes to Meghan in London. Their engagement is publicly announced.
May 2018: Harry and Meghan are married at St George‘s Chapel in Windsor Castle. She becomes Duchess of Sussex.
This whirlwind royal romance clearly meant Markle could no longer juggle acting with the duties of becoming British royalty. Her exit from Suits became inevitable.
Why Meghan Markle Ultimately Left Suits
Relationship With Prince Harry Was The Primary Driver
Once her relationship went public in late 2016, Meghan was thrust into the spotlight like never before. As things got serious with Harry in 2017, it became impossible for Markle to plan a royal future while living in Toronto and continuing her acting career.
Saying goodbye to Suits was a necessary sacrifice so she could focus on her royal duties and marriage. Markle chose true love over acting ambitions.
Transition to Role of Duchess Was a Full-Time Job
After their spectacular May 2018 royal wedding was watched by over 29 million U.S. viewers alone, Meghan settled into life as Duchess of Sussex. This entailed charity work, public appearances, meeting dignitaries, royal tours, and representing the British monarchy.
Clearly these obligations as Prince Harry‘s wife didn‘t leave room for a simultaneous acting career. Suits filming would have hindered her ability to immerse herself in royal life.
Her Contract Ended After Season 7
A contributing factor was that Markle‘s contract on Suits was scheduled to expire after season seven finished filming in November 2017. However, according to show creator Aaron Korsh, Markle was willing to renew her contact if needed.
So while the timing aligned well with her departure, Markle exiting when her contract ended was more of a natural segue than the primary reason behind the decision.
How Meghan‘s Exit Impacted Suits
Big Shoes to Fill for Showrunners
Markle wasn‘t the only major Suits player to leave – Patrick J. Adams (Mike Ross) also said goodbye after season seven when his contract expired.
Losing the show‘s central will they/won‘t they couple left showrunners with a steep challenge to continue the show‘s momentum.
Fans questioned if Suits could survive without Mike and Rachel, who anchored so many storylines. The void they left was undoubtedly noticeable.
Ratings Declined But Show Went On
Suits remained on the air for two more seasons after Markle and Adams‘ departures. But ratings data shows the exits did impact viewership:
|Season||US Viewers (Millions)|
|Season 7 (with Markle and Adams)||1.35|
|Season 8 (without Markle and Adams)||1.00|
|Season 9 (final season)||0.70|
While still successful, Adams and Markle‘s absence contributed to an almost 50% ratings decline over two seasons. Their characters clearly drove viewer interest.
However, Suits ultimately continued its winning formula even without two fan favorites at the center, proving its staying power.
Meghan Markle‘s Post-Suits Life As a Royal
Greater Fame But More Scrutiny
Trading Hollywood for royalty ensured Meghan Markle became more famous worldwide than her acting career ever achieved.
But her every move also faced intense public scrutiny – from family drama playing out in tabloids to critics judging her fashion choices. She endured a lot of vitriol many felt was unfair.
Still, she handled the pressure with grace and continued using her platform to champion issues she‘s passionate about.
Focus on Philanthropy and Activism
As Duchess of Sussex, Markle has focused on gender equality, education, animal welfare, and modernizing the monarchy:
She collaborated on a bestselling charity cookbook to support the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
She guest edited British Vogue‘s September 2019 issue highlighting trailblazing women.
She narrated a Disney nature documentary in exchange for a donation to Elephants Without Borders.
She and Harry stepped down as senior royals in 2020 to gain "financial independence" and avoid intense scrutiny.
They signed deals with Netflix and Spotify to fund their new ventures and amplify diverse voices.
Clearly Markle has embraced activism and philanthropy – she‘s determined to utilize her royal platform to impact people‘s lives beyond the ceremonial duties.
Conclusion: The End of An Era for Both Meghan and Suits
While Markle‘s exit from Suits after seven seasons came as a shock initially, it signaled the exciting new chapter ahead as a royal humanitarian.
For the show, it marked the end of an era given her popularity and all Rachel Zane contributed to its success.
But as Markle starts making her mark beyond Hollywood, the legacy and lessons of Suits will stay with her. It was where she got her big break, and she hasn‘t forgotten that.
As Meghan Markle herself said about leaving the show:
“I don’t see it as giving anything up. I just see it as a change… We were very, very fortunate to have that sort of longevity on a series… I’ve ticked this box, and I feel very proud of the work I’ve done there, and now it‘s time to work with [Harry] as a team.”
Her journey from eager actress to devoted humanitarian proves Meghan will continue to take on new challenges and make a difference.