Jacinda Ardern has sought to distance herself from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, insisting that her involvement in a forthcoming Netflix documentary series was not connected to the couple.
The New Zealand prime minister is among seven “extraordinary leaders” interviewed on Live to Lead, a series inspired by Nelson Mandela and both presented and co-produced by the Sussexes.
Released on Dec 31, it features seven, 25-minute episodes featuring, among others, climate change activist Greta Thunberg, the late associate justice of the US Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg and feminist campaigner Gloria Steinem.
Ms Ardern’s office issued a statement on Tuesday clarifying that her interview took place more than three years ago and that her involvement had nothing to do with the Duke and Duchess, who were only brought in at a relatively late stage.
It said: “In early March 2019 the prime minister was approached by the Mandela Foundation to participate in a project to develop accessible resources on key attributes of leadership targeted at aspiring young leaders around the world, based off a one-hour interview.
“Originally we were advised the output would be printed and digital books, short films and audiobooks.
“The interview was conducted on November 8, 2019. In March 2020 a short book entitled Jacinda Ardern (I Know This to be True) was published based on the interview.”
Other participants have contributions published
The statement explained that other participants also had their contributions published, including Ms Ginsburg, Ms Steinem, Ms Thunberg and Stephen Curry, an American basketball player.
It went on: “In March 2021 the Nelson Mandela Foundation advised the prime minister’s office that they had secured an agreement with Netflix to broadcast the series of interviews, including the 2019 interview with the prime minister.
“In May this year the prime minister’s office was notified that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would introduce the series; Noting this was nearly two and a half years after the interview had been recorded and permission for its use by the Mandela Foundation had already been provided.
“All communication throughout has been with the foundation (there has been no communications with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex regarding the project).”
Ms Ardern met the Sussexes during their tour of Australia and New Zealand in 2018, when the Duchess was pregnant, and later said she had been impressed by Meghan’s stamina.
“Pregnancy is an often tiring time, but the way she gave everything her all was incredible,” she said. “She’s an amazing woman and I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know her.”
Ms Ardern was said to have sent a floral arrangement to the couple the following year, on the birth of their son, Archie.