Young Royals Stars Edvin Ryding, Omar Rudberg & More Say Goodbye to “Revolutionary” Series

Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Warning: spoilers ahead for Young Royals season 3.

“I don’t know who I would have been, if I didn’t meet you,” Edvin Ryding’s Wilhelm tells Omar Rudberg’s Simon in an outtake from the Young Royals series finale. The ill-fated line, one of many recorded where the forest meets the lake but was left to meander in the editing suite, speaks to the show’s overwhelming impact on its cast, crew, and fans. All forever changed.

Young Royals, which dropped its third and final season on Netflix this March, tells the story of Wilhelm, the Crown Prince of Sweden’s royal family, and Simon, a working class boy with a golden voice. The Swedish YA series follows the unlikely pairing as they fall in love while attending Hillerska Boarding School alongside their classmates August (portrayed by Malte Gårdinger), Felice (Nikita Uggla), and Simon's sister Sara (Frida Argento).

Everything comes to a head this season, as the couple — affectionately referred to as “Wilmon” by fans — negotiate their roles in each other’s lives in the shadow of the Crown. The show’s denouement sees Wilmon reuniting, with Wilhelm abdicating his claim to the throne, a choice he made for himself. Hillerska faces closure when old, homophobic initiations are reported by ex-students; Felice stands resolute in her truth, Sara gains her independence, and August gets what he’s always wanted. (Or does he?) In the final scene, Simon and Wilhelm drive off with a reconciled Sara and Felice, onto the next adventure.

<cite class="credit">Johan Paulin/Netflix</cite>
Johan Paulin/Netflix

To bid a proper farewell to Young Royals, Teen Vogue connected with Edvin Ryding and Omar Rudberg over Zoom, and later, the creator and head writer Lisa Ambjörn. “It’s such a privilege to know this is the last season because we’re able to let go of everything, let go of our expectations,” Ryding says, explaining how season 3 was made with a desire to play. The actors played with every movement, every scene, driven by ambition to make this the best season of the show that heralded their very own coming-of-age.

“It’s biblical,” Ryding says of his growth since season 1. “It’s huge actually, looking back at it… The amount of stuff that I’ve learned, the amount of knowledge that I have now that I didn’t have then is huge." Ryding says learning to use "intuition and impulses” in his acting is what brought us the unscripted moment of his character Wilhelm trashing his gifts in episode 5.

Young Royals was Rudberg’s first ever acting gig. He says he's learned so much “good” from the people he's worked with on the show, and lights up while mentioning how much “goodness” they've poured into him over the years. Rudberg's character Simon was put through the wringer in season 3.

“He was very in love with Wille. But was he willing to lose himself while being with Wille? That was the issue for him, because he wasn't allowed to upload anything, wasn't allowed to comment on anything, he wasn't allowed to be in public doing stuff," Rudberg says, noting that Simon's sense of self was buckling under the pressure of the royal family. “He didn’t really know if he was going to delete himself to be with Wilhelm.”

<cite class="credit">Johan Paulin/Netflix</cite>
Johan Paulin/Netflix

While Ryding was stoking his own creative fires back in season 1, he realized that in contrast to his Hillerska peers, Wilhelm wasn’t afforded much of an imagination for sense of self. “He had small dreams… but he always knew he [would be] contained. He’s not going to be able to live out these dreams [and] that’s created a sense of anger and frustration in him, but he’s never had the arena or the space to actually act on it.”

Wilhelm’s anger towards August, in Ryding’s mind, has always been the easiest way for the character to express his frustration at the system. “Even when he’s pissed at Simon and they're fighting, it's always about the system,” Ryding says. “It's always about the traditions and the expectations on him. I think when he finds out about his brother [Erik's involvement in the Hillerska initiations] and that history, that pushes him into a new direction of like, wait, where am I coming from? What's the world I'm raised in? What are these expectations really? Is that really what I want? And then from that point forward, he slowly moves towards actually growing up and making sure that he's fine taking care of himself, and that's beautiful.”

Young Royals may be over, but its legacy of disruption is set in stone. There’s a ballsy nod in the season opener to a hate group torching pride flags in Bjärstad, and despite series creator Ambjörn’s private information being obtained by a teen from a church in Stockholm, the show never lets up on making good trouble. When the ways in which we love and live are seen as threatening to the institution, we become political beings. Our existence is revolution — and there’s opportunity for disruption everywhere, even in the background.

Astrid Bäckström, an emerging actor in Stockholm, first stepped onto the set of Young Royals as an extra in season 1, and has played a student from August’s year throughout all three seasons. On the day they filmed the seniors’ graduation, the 21-year-old approached Ambjörn with tears in her eyes, explaining that she had never graduated from high school.

“What should have been my best years, with high school and graduation, turned out to be my worst years, suffering from severe anorexia nervosa,” Bäckström tells Teen Vogue over email. But on set and across seasons, Bäckström was able to live out the high school experience she never had, culminating in her graduation with the students of Hillerska — running out from the castle, utspring; boarding a townbound party float, and finding her own childhood photo on a placard in the crowd of parents. She was also able to stand firm in her queerness.

<cite class="credit">Johan Paulin/Netflix</cite>
Johan Paulin/Netflix

“I actually got the courage to come out as gay myself, and during these years I have found myself, met the love of my life, moved in with her, and we’re actually engaged now,” says Bäckström, adding that the series has encouraged young people to “finally be brave enough to express themselves.”

Bäckström believes it’s become somewhat “more natural and less shameful to come out as queer” following the global reception of the series. “The fact that LGBT+ is [featured] in a Swedish series has meant a lot for Sweden,” she says. “Even though Sweden, apart from other countries, has come a long [way] on the road to full acceptance, it also shows that it is still not always easy. It shows a lot of setbacks and challenges but also how beautiful and innocent love is.”

“I wanna hug my little self and say, Astrid, please be true to yourself. There's nothing wrong with you for being who you are,” Bäckström says. “Young Royals will always remain in the hearts of many, including mine. World over. Not just in Sweden. I believe Young Royals is the start of our revolution.”

Karin Boye’s poem “You Are My Purest Comfort” is one of Ambjörn’s favorites by the Swedish novelist, as it reads like a benediction. “You are my purest comfort, my most steadfast shelter, you are the best I have, for nothing hurts as much as you,” Boye writes, translated into English. That feeling, the dichotomy of comfort and pain, is at the heart of the show.

“It’s Wilhelm and Simon, and it’s all love,” Ambjörn says. “It’s not saying it should be toxic. Love is also a pain, and inevitably you end up losing each other to death anyway. No matter how great you’ve had it, there is pain. And if we try to avoid that, then we’re not experiencing love.”

<h1 class="title">Generated image</h1><cite class="credit">Robert Eldrim/Netflix</cite>

Generated image

Robert Eldrim/Netflix

Wilmon’s intimate scene shot at Lake Mälaren sits fresh in Ambjörn’s memory. The evening was calm, bees hovered around. The wood opened to the water; Ryding and Rudberg walked into the lake, framed by towering trees like a chapel. Something spiritual, almost divine occurred. “It’s the rebirth,” Ambjörn says, “They are being reborn in this moment, this is like the queer trinity. Of love and acceptance, of pain, of hurt, of everything they’ve been through, of accepting, of seeing each other.”

The wide shot of Simon and Wilhelm, stepping into the lake naked, is queer art worth protecting. “It’s one of the most beautiful shots in the whole—” Ryding pauses, and before he can say “series,” Rudberg chimes in with “world.” They laugh.

“It was the end of shooting Young Royals, but the scene that we were shooting was also the end of Wille and Simon’s relationship,” Rudberg says of the scene, also captured in Young Royals Forever, the accompanying tribute documentary on Netflix. “When we were off-camera, it was hard to switch and just be normal again, because it was the last day.”

At one point, Ambjörn told the documentary crew to turn off their camera. Rudberg was shaking — likely from the water temperature so cold that the crew poured buckets of warm water down the actors’ wetsuits to help them thaw, but also from being overwhelmed by the emotional weight of the scene.

<h1 class="title">Young Royals season 3</h1><cite class="credit">Johan Paulin/Netflix</cite>

Young Royals season 3

Johan Paulin/Netflix

“I just stood and hugged Omar,” Ambjörn says. He told her, “I can’t do this, this is too painful,” so she stood with him and took a breath, before they went back to finish the scene. “They were just magical the whole way through, and it was the perfect goodbye.”

For Wilmon, the lake becomes the site of transformation. “It’s just them being honest with each other, talking, feeling these emotions and them being free in a beautiful space,” Ryding says. “I remember sitting there, looking at the sun and the lake was so calm… I was like, what are we doing? This is insane. We’re in this beautiful place, wrapping this up.”

Karin Boye ends her poem in assertion. “No, nothing hurts as you / You ache like ice and fire, you cut like steel my soul — you are the best I have.” Wilhelm sits by the lake, watching Simon swim away from him. When Ambjörn saw that shot in the monitor, feeling the ache like ice and fire, she knew one thing to be true: “This is when Wilhelm grows up.”

“Days behind us, years gone by / They say all wounds will heal with time,” sings the Hillerska choir at the graduation, immortalizing Simon’s retooled version of the school song from season 2. “I got hurt, I lost myself / I was lost before I found my way.” During press for season 2, Ambjörn prophesied that the song would one day represent the collective memory of all who brought the series to life.

“Imagine doing everything that we’ve been doing together alone. It’s just fun to share something this special with someone. It’s been beautiful,” Rudberg says of the rollercoaster ride that was Young Royals. Ryding adds, “Going through this thing that basically nobody, at least in Sweden, has gone through, it’s just so nice to have someone to share it with.”

<cite class="credit">Robert Eldrim/Netflix</cite>
Robert Eldrim/Netflix

Having the choir sing Simon’s version of the song means that despite everything that transpired, he still made an impact. Simon did something that was entirely his own, not in the shadow of Wilhelm or his proximity to the Crown, not even under the light of his protest for queer rights. It was untethered to anything other than his own passion and creativity.

Simon’s song continues: “What we had and who we were / I can't forget all the good we shared / If you ask me about what stayed / The memories will never fade.” During our conversation, Rudberg turns to Ryding and tells him, “What you and me have been going through, no one will ever know. Because it’s you and me, right?” He vows that their antics won’t end just yet. Something is coming, and what has been will never be forgotten.

“I'm getting teary eyed for real. It's beautiful,” Ryding says, reflecting on the show’s end. Of the several takes not used for the last fourth wall break — some in which Simon joined Wilhelm to look into camera, while the script envisioned Wilhelm shifting his gaze away from the camera, relinquishing his connection with us — the final edit felt the most right. Ryding adds, “I just think that final look that Wilhelm gives in the last episode is talking to the audience saying, ‘You can trust me. I'll handle this, I'll be safe, I'll be fine.’”

Ryding has words for the characters: “Take care. Keep going. You’re on the right path. Set boundaries and be exactly who you are, because you deserve to be.” Rudberg adds, “Thank you for everything.” And then, it’s time to let Wilhelm and Simon go. “It’s up to the audience, they’re the screenwriters now,” Ryding says. “We’re literally handing over the responsibility of these characters’ futures to them. And I have 100% trust that they will come up with something brilliant.”

<h1 class="title">Young Royals season 3</h1><cite class="credit">Johan Paulin/Netflix</cite>

Young Royals season 3

Johan Paulin/Netflix

Ambjörn, the mastermind behind Young Royals, has spent perhaps the longest time with these characters out of anyone. “They have taught me to be brave, curious, kind and to treasure life. Even when life is painful, even when things hurt, it is the only life that we'll get, so live. Go out and live,” Ambjörn says. “If I don't end up having children myself, these are my children, these are my babies. And they are doing great, and as they should — without me.”

As we wrap things up, Ryding makes Rudberg laugh. There’s nothing profound or newsworthy in it, but there’s a comfort, an ease that the pair create, that makes you realize how lucky we are to have Omar Rudberg and Edvin Ryding in this lifetime. And even more blessed to have had Simon and Wilhelm. We don’t know who we would be, if we hadn’t met them.

Young Royals season 3 is now streaming everywhere on Netflix.

Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue

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