‘Young Royals’ Stars on Series Finale’s ‘Biblical’ Decision, That ‘Tom Cruise’ Moment and What Part of the Ending They Initially Thought Was ‘Cringe’

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers from the series finale of “Young Royals,” now streaming on Netflix.

Long live the (former) Crown Prince!

In the series finale of Netflix’s queer romance “Young Royals,” Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding) officially abdicates the throne as the future king of Sweden, effectively handing the crown to his cousin/sometimes rival August (Malte Gårdinger). While Wilhelm’s decision has seismic implications for the royal family and the country, it played out in a quieter mother-son moment between Wilhelm and Queen Kristina (Pernilla August), as they drove away from his now-shuttered boarding school Hillerska.

Understandably, the queen assumes the decision is Wilhelm’s reactive –– and fleeting –– ploy to reunite with Simon (Omar Rudberg), who ended their relationship in the penultimate episode after expressing his fears that the pressures of the crown were changing Wilhelm and himself. But for the first time, Wilhelm confidently and effectively convinced his mother that this choice was his own and, ultimately, inevitable. He never wanted to be king, and it was a duty that fell to him only after his brother’s untimely death.

“I think that moment is monumental,” Ryding tells Variety. “What he is doing, it is almost Biblical. Because when he has this calm and collected conversation with his mother, he is trying to say what he has insinuated many times before — that he is not the next king of Sweden. When he finally does that, it helps him so much more than just in his relationship with Simon.”

While it may not have been his true motivation, the personal declaration does serve as a grand romantic gesture when an unburdened Wilhelm chases after Simon’s car –– on foot! –– to share the good news. As if pulled right out of a rom-com, the two smile, shed a few tears and share a kiss before literally riding off into the sunset with each other, Simon’s sister Sarah (Frida Argento) and her best friend Felice (Nikita Uggla).

Despite that happy ending, Rudberg says Simon was initially hesitant to stop the car for Wilhelm. “But I think Simon, somewhere in his little heart, he feels hope. He is still in love with Wilhelm, and I like to think that he says, ‘Hit me one more time.’”

Omar Rudberg as Simon, Edvin Ryding as Wilhelm in “Young Royals.” Courtesy of Johan Paulin/Netflix

As fans swoon over the series’ hopeful closing chapter — bringing the three seasons of “Young Royals” to its conclusion — Ryding and Rudberg talk to Variety about where they leave their characters, the one thing they initially protested doing in the final season and why touch was Wilhelm and Simon’s love language right to the very end.

Let’s start with the most important question: Edvin, how much did you have to run to get the perfect take for that final scene?

Edvin Ryding: Too much! It was so much running. And we had to reshoot it, because I was running in these fancy shoes, so it was not easy to do, and my calves were hurting for like a week after it. But it was nice, because I got to have a full Tom Cruise moment, running at full speed. It was a lot of fun.

Omar Rudberg: And he didn’t even warm up! I think he just went from 0 to 100. It was crazy.

Ryding: I’m lucky I didn’t sprain something, actually.

We have seen so many romantic movies with that big profession of love, where the man runs after the woman or the woman goes after the man. Here, you both get to part of your own big rom-com moment that is not only between two men, but two young men. What was it like filming this?

Rudberg: I mean, it is a blessing. It has been one of my big dreams since I was a kid. I wanted to become an actor, but I didn’t really know how or if I even could act. And we always saw these loving and romantic movies, and it was so amazing. But then you realize those moments are kind of fake in a way! But my inner child would be very happy to see me doing this. It’s just a blessing to be a part of anything that means a lot to people.

Ryding: That specific scene — I know it’s corny, but I love it. It is amazing. If you put an x-ray over it, you see the substance that is in and underneath it. The dialogue they are having about how, “I told my mother this, and I needed this to be said,” and Simon is asking if he did it for him and Wilhelm saying “No, I did it for me.” It is everything Simon needs to hear in order for them to work, finally. So regardless of whether it is corny or not, the 360-degree shot and the music and the kissing and all of that is fun to shoot. But at the end, what you are watching is beautiful, and it has so much substance.

Rudberg: I also feel like there are things that are cornier than “Young Royals.” It has been so traumatic up to this point, so I feel like we can be a little corny at the end.

Courtesy of Netflix

Edvin, you say in the “Young Royals Forever” documentary (also now streaming on Netflix) that you make playlists for your characters. You try to know them inside and out from day one. So what will giving up being king mean for Wilhelm?

Ryding: I think that moment is monumental. What he is doing, it is almost Biblical. Because when he has this calm and collected conversation with his mother, he is trying to say what he has insinuated many times before, that he is not the next king of Sweden. When he finally does that, it helps him so much more than just in his relationship with Simon. He grows so much as a human being in that moment and he embarks on this new chapter of adulthood, even though he is only 17.

It changes his life forever, because it does something to his integrity and sets a healthy boundary with his mother about who he is and what he wants, and the validity of that moment is so big for him. Onwards, I hope he continues on that path, setting boundaries and doing what he wants to do. He is a very caring person, and he’s going to go so far with that personality. He just needs to take control of it and take care of himself too.

Do you have an idea of what you would like to see him do with this newfound future?

Ryding: When I wrote down who I think he was during Season 1, it was very vivid and detailed about, like, what his dreams would have been and what his interests are. I always envisioned him as this person who wasn’t allowed to have dreams or interests fully. But now, I see him as a very creative person who just needs the space for it. I’ve always seen him as a person interested in fashion, so if I have to say something that would be my prediction for him.

But on the other hand, I feel very happy about the fact that the fans are the future script writers of the show. We are leaving these characters on a note of hope, and I hope the audience trusts that these characters go on to have a healthy life. Our fans have wild imaginations, so I trust that they will come up with brilliant stories for these characters in the future.

Omar, this big romantic climax comes as Simon is potentially leaving behind this life he’s built in Bjärstad. So what does it mean for him to be pulled back into it all?

Rudberg: In this last season, I felt like Simon was fighting with himself, because he is very in love with Wilhelm and he wants to be with him. But he sees the hurting that Wilhelm is going through and that Wilhelm’s family is going through, and that hurts him. Not only that, Simon is fighting with himself because, is he willing to literally lose himself just to be with Wilhelm?

But then he sees Wilhelm running after the car, and I feel like his first thoughts were: “Not again. We’ve already been through this. We’ve already broken up and we are on our way to living a normal life. Why are you running after me right now?” But I think Simon, somewhere in his little heart, he feels hope. He is still in love with Wilhelm, and I like to think that he says, “Hit me one more time.” He decides to walk out and see what Wilhelm has to say, and maybe it will be the last time we ever speak. But then Wilhelm said the right words.

Simon already said his goodbyes in the form of a song that he wrote and recorded for Wilhelm’s birthday. Omar, what was it like to record another song for the show, after the fan-favorite “Simon’s Song” from Season 2, which got a surprising reprise in the finale as well?

Ryding: Well, actually, we hated it from the beginning.

Rudberg: OK, so the thing is, we were so in love with “Simon’s Song” when it first came to us. That whole song was such a huge moment for all of us. We were just so in love. But when we started Season 3 and there was a lot going on and everyone was stressed out, this new song just came out of the blue. Literally, the night before I had to shoot the first scene where Simon is writing it. So I was already very stressed out and hadn’t had enough sleep, and then I get this demo the night before I had to wake up very early to shoot all those scenes at Simon’s house. When I listened to the demo, I was tired and I was just like, “What is this? Am I going to sing this?”

My first thoughts were that this was really cringe. Like, would Simon really write something like this? Would he really use these words? So it took some time for me to like it, because we didn’t even have the time to rewrite it since we were shooting it the next day.

Ryding: I was on you to tell them to change it. I told you, “You have to tell them! You have to refuse! Refuse!”

Rudberg: Yeah, I had played it for you, and you thought the same thing, right? It was just cringe.

Ryding: I was like, “Why would anyone be moved by this?” I also think that the way we are in that process, we are always critical about what is happening to Wilhelm and Simon. But we just gave into this feeling of trust that this was right, and it is going to pan out.

Rudberg: We had to trust [co-creator] Lisa [Ambjörn] and everyone who was involved.

Ryding: That’s the beauty of this collaboration on the show, because we are able to talk about those kinds of things. And hearing it now, it’s beautiful coming from this 16-year-old boy.

Rudberg: Yeah, this is, like, Simon’s second or third song that he has ever written. But for me, the one who was going to sing it, it was very personal. Singing is very personal for me, and if I don’t vibe with something, I’m probably going to hate it so much. But I had to understand that this is Simon singing, not Omar singing. This is Simon’s writing, not mine. So we just did it.

That day, I didn’t know the lyrics, the melody, or the chords. I couldn’t play the keyboard, so I had to do it acapella, and I had this inner earpiece that is literally hidden in the scene where I can hear the demo. It was a whole hot mess. But now that I’ve seen the whole context of the season, it makes sense. You get that it is Simon writing in his room and from his heart. It is beautiful.

Touch has been Wilhelm and Simon’s form of intimacy since the beginning. How did you settle on that being their love language, and how has that evolved over the series by that final kiss?

Ryding: From the beginning as we were talking about their intimacy, the leading word was curiousness. They were discovering each other, and each other’s bodies and needs. We worked very closely with our director and Sara Arrhusius, our intimacy coordinator, on that. And when we were on set and experimenting with the choreography of those scenes, we realized it just looks beautiful. Them slowly trying to move each other, and even in the scenes that aren’t so intimate, that touch always finds its way through. It just felt very natural for them. We wanted to keep that through Season 1 and 2, and by Season 3, it needed to still be that playfulness and that need to discover and be curious. But also, the comfort because they have chosen each other. I think it is a very beautiful evolution of intimacy throughout the season.

Rudberg: Yes, it really was.

After three seasons of building that visual form of connection, was it instinctive how you played Wilhelm and Simon in that final scene?

Ryding: Yeah, pretty much. We are always rehearsing or talking about these scenes beforehand, if there is a kiss or a proper sex scene. But at this point we know these characters so well, and we know the way they interact with each other intimately. So I remember shooting that final 360-degree kiss felt very intuitive.

Rudberg: It was not really hard to do the kissing. It was always the energy and the emotion during that final scene and that kiss. This is finally when they get to be together for real, and Wilhelm chooses being free. It’s also the last scene of the series, so I was nervous about how I was going to do it. What do I feel? It was a lot of feelings in that scene.

Ryding: But it was nice for both of us to finally just let go and let it happen.

Rudberg: I was in the car, and I told our director I didn’t know how I was going to do this. I don’t really know what emotion to feel because it was also our last day of shooting. So then, right after one of our last takes, she comes to me in the car and whispers in my ear, “Just remember this is the last time you will ever shoot for ‘Young Royals,’” and then she was just like, “Bye!” I was like, “That’s not helpful!” But I just sat with that, and it worked.

Ryding: It did the trick!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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