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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - PARIS — She is at war with the Queen — now the "Pope" is turning on Meghan Markle.
The Duchess of Sussex is the butt of a string of catty quips in the new television series, "The New Pope", which premieres on HBO and Sky Atlantic Monday.
The timing of the show — the follow-up to "The Young Pope" — could not be worse for the American actress, whose bombshell announcement that she and Prince Harry were stepping back from frontline royal duties, has rocked the British monarchy.
The cheeky smash-hit Vatican drama that saw Jude Law's dishy American pope struck down by a heart attack in the first series, has Markle bombarding his replacement with demands for fashion advice in the second.
"What a nuisance!" barks the fictional Pope John Paul III played by Hollywood star John Malkovich as his butler takes another call supposedly from Markle.
"Wear the yellow Dior because it plays up the contrasts with your complexion," Sir John Brannox, the aristocratic English prelate played by Malkovich tells Markle in one scene.
"No, Meghan I am adamant, wear the yellow," he adds.
"She calls me 25 times a day for beauty tips," he later confesses to the Vatican's spin doctor.
While Markle — who wore Dior for the baptism of son Archie in July — does not appear herself, she is a recurring presence in the series' early episodes.
"They want to be influencers but they have no idea of color combinations," Malkovich's character adds in one of many takedowns aimed at Markle, who has complained about being persecuted by the British tabloid press.
Her husband has branded some of the criticism of the mixed-race former "Suits" star as racist.
In the series, Brannox is voted pope after Law's immediate replacement, Pope Francis II, dies in mysterious circumstances after threatening to give away all the Church's riches.
"What will Meghan do without me?" Malkovich sighs after he finally agrees to be pontiff.
The American actress — whose feminism and social media savvy has made her an uncomfortable fit for the British royals — is the target of a further jibe about her supposed lack of breeding in the show.
Despite its gags at the expense of Markle, "The New Pope" — which also features a "resurrected" Law — is being billed for its feminist take on the inner workings of the Catholic church.
As well as a teasing trailer that featured Law's pope walking along the beach in a pair of skimpy white swimming trunks, it has the Vatican's nuns go on strike and actresses Cecile de France and Ludivine Sagnier in key roles.
Sharon Stone and Marilyn Manson also play themselves.
"The Church is much more sexist than the rest of the world," the series' creator Paolo Sorrentino, the Bafta-winning maker of the 2013 film "La Grande Bellezza", told AFP.
"Women absolutely do not have the same rights; they cannot say Mass, they live according to how men want them to. This is a situation that will end," he added.
Sorrentino said that far from being shocked by the sex, corruption and constant back-stabbing that the series portrays, Vatican insiders seemed to enjoy it.
He insisted that there was nothing in it that would shock priests "who are listening to sins all day long in the confessional boxes."
When he visited the Vatican, "clerics were smiling and winking at me, as if to say they liked it," the Italian added.
The series comes at a time of unprecedented interest by Hollywood in the inner workings of the Catholic church, with Jonathan Pryce nominated for an Oscar on Monday for his performance as the real Pope Francis in Netflix's "The Two Popes". — AFP
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