Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle. AFP/Tolga Akmen
LOS ANGELES - When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle headed to California in search of a sunny and glamorous new life, they probably didn't expect so much of their first year would be spent stuck at home.
The couple arrived in Los Angeles just before last March's pandemic travel restrictions and quickly set about plans to forge a uniquely royal Hollywood power brand, courted by multiple major studios before inking a lucrative deal with Netflix.
But any hopes of establishing a swift presence on Tinseltown's red carpets have been placed on indefinite hold by a brutal winter COVID spike, which has kept tight restrictions in place across the Golden State some 12 months into their new life.
"It's been lockdown -- this is the first chance I've had to see LA," Harry admitted to late-night talk show host James Corden, a fellow Brit, in an interview aired last week, as he gazed out at palm tree-lined streets from the roof of an open-top bus.
The metropolis was briefly their home, although their short stay at a Beverly Hills compound owned by entertainment tycoon Tyler Perry was not a happy one -- the pair swiftly became embroiled in a legal battle with paparazzi over photos taken of their son Archie.
They relocated again in July to Montecito, a small and affluent seaside city 100 miles (160 kilometers) up the coast, where a spokesperson said they had "settled into the quiet privacy of their community."
The area is home to a handful of showbiz stars including Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Rob Lowe.
But even to Hollywood A-listers, the couple's day-to-day life remains shrouded in secrecy.
"He lives about a mile from me. He has been very reclusive," Lowe said on Corden's show in January.
"Seeing him in the neighbourhood is like seeing the Loch Ness Monster."
Although a source confirmed the Duchess of Sussex has no plans to return to acting, a key to the couple's new career will be their deal to produce "impactful" films and series for Netflix.
No financial terms were disclosed, but the multi-year, exclusive agreement with the streaming giant is certain to be highly remunerated.
Prince Harry and Meghan are set to open up in a much-hyped interview with their neighbour Winfrey airing on Sunday.