As if playing Meghan Markle isn’t nerve-wracking enough, Tiffany Marie Smith didn’t have a face full of makeup to hide behind.
The Duchess of Sussex is known for her natural beauty routine — like showing off her freckles on her royal wedding day – and the 36-year-old actress tapped to portray Meghan in Lifetime’s Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue that they stuck to that while filming.
“It’s the least amount of makeup I’ve ever had to wear on set, which was awesome,” Smith explains, adding: “When we did hair and makeup it was nice because it still felt like me, just a tweaked version.”
It doesn’t hurt that Smith could be Meghan’s body double. After Meghan and Harry’s romance went public, friends and strangers alike told her that she could pass for the former Suits star.
“I’d be going places in L.A. and more often than not, it was British people that would come up to me like, ‘You know who you look like?’ ” she recalls.
Around the time Meghan and Prince Harry became engaged in Nov. 2017, Smith was actually working in London— and unintentionally tricking even more people into thinking they had spotted the soon-to-be bride. Smith remembers being asked if she was Meghan while out for a run — adding that her L.A. Dodgers baseball cap and workout wear (the real Meghan hails from California and is a dedicated yoga fan) didn’t help.
Even while out with friends in London, they noticed stares — and knew that people were mistaking Smith for the royal.
“I definitely owe them a drink for that,” she jokes.
But it takes more than just looks to portray the Duchess of Sussex. Smith watched YouTube videos of Meghan to study the small things she does — like tucking her hair behind her ears — and get a feel for her personality, both alone as half of a power couple.
“I watched their engagement video quite a few times, just because there’s so much about them that’s based off their chemistry and how they interact with each other,” Smith says. “Some of that is on-camera, obviously, and that’s the only stuff we really get to see, but there’s some videos online where the microphones were off but they were just kind of goofing around together. That, for me, was a really special moment to get to see.”
She continued, “A lot of our movie is things we’ve seen in the press or publicly, but a large part of it is stuff that happens behind closed doors and things that we haven’t really seen. That’s the stuff that you have creativity and ideas of how we think it might play out, but really that moment on-camera was the only thing you can dig into where it’s like, ‘This is what they’re like when they don’t think they’re being filmed.’ It was just such a sweet moment between the two of them.”
But the key to transforming into Meghan? The famous Duchess Slant, a go-to move for royal women. Instead of crossing their legs at the knee, they elegantly place one ankle over the other and slant their legs to the side, creating a flattering silhouette.
“As soon as you have to start thinking about your posture and how you’re carrying yourself and how you would sit, it immediately gives a different energy to everything that you’re doing,” Smith shares.
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Field and Smith are replacing Murray Fraser and Parisa Fitz-Henley, who portrayed the royal couple in Lifetime’s original film last year. Field is a rising red-headed actor whose credits include the National Geographic series Genius, while Smith has appeared in small roles on Jane the Virgin and Supernatural.
“There’s obviously nerves taking on a role of someone who’s alive – and there’s nerves because the first film was so great. Parisa and Murray did such a great job that we really wanted to do honor not only to Meghan and Harry but to the performances in the last movie,” Smith says.
The movie will premiere on Lifetime on Memorial Day: Monday, May 27 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.