For Edvin Ryding, playing royalty involved an extensive process of studying body language. Learning how to carry himself—head up, shoulders back—has been an adjustment under the weight of not only a crown, but the expectation of a global fan base in the lead-up to Young Royals’s much-anticipated second season (arriving November 1). “I don’t think [the fans] know what’s ahead of them,” he says, smirking and sipping coffee from a makeshift Zoom setup in Gran Canaria, Spain, during a day off from shooting a new feature film, The Abyss. “It’s pretty nice to just get away from Stockholm and the buzz about it,” he shares. At just 19 years old, the Swedish actor is labeled a rising star with every step he takes, whether posing by the crystal blue ocean at the Cannes Film Festival or featuring on Europe’s Forbes 30 under 30 list of 2022.
Ryding plays Prince Wilhelm of Sweden, the blue-blooded heart of Netflix’s drama that follows the teenage monarch negotiating a forbidden romance with fellow boarding school classmate Simon (Omar Rudberg) in the shadow of the crown’s omnipresent sovereignty. The debut season saw Wilhelm’s life fall apart after a sex tape scandal left his relationship with Simon in tatters. Young love is already messy, but as the prince attempts to rebuild his life, the sophomore season descends into a darkly dramatic rumination of betrayal, revenge, and class hierarchies.
Young Royals thrust Ryding into a global spotlight quite suddenly. It’s surreal to the actor that there are social media accounts dedicated to documenting his every public appearance and that the show is a discussion topic under each Netflix post while he’s largely remained off Twitter (although he confesses he’s been “lurking” online recently to see fan speculation ahead of the new season).
The dedicated fan base offers both motivation and a nerve-wracking precedent for the upcoming six-episode series. Though the noise surrounding the show can be loud for Ryding, the articulate actor has a deeply grounded approach to angsty Wilhelm, a young man whose control over his life is borrowed. Ryding admits he had a difficult time understanding his character’s motivation this time, recalling midnight readings during which he revisited scenes “over and over, being like, ‘What the f–k? What is he doing?’” The breakthrough for Ryding came with abandoning a defense of Wilhelm, and instead finding empathy with the Crown Prince, recognizing the desperation that drives the revenge he seeks.
On paper, Young Royals should evade relatability—after all, what similarities can be found with a Swedish Prince? However, creator Lisa Ambjörn has rooted the show in blisteringly authentic emotion that bridges the cultural divide. I tell Ryding Young Royals had me reminiscing on the 2015 Norwegian YA drama Skam. “Skam is the s–t!” Ryding exclaims. “I had a very serious period of being a Skam fan when I was younger.” Both shows conjure timely resonance in narratives exploring sexual orientation framed through a prism of self-discovery. Still, the actor professes he has avoided defining Wilhelm with a label. “Sexuality is not the focal point or the problem here, which I think is a very important message to tell,” he explains. “His issue is not that he’s in love with a boy, it’s that he’s the Crown Prince.”
The apple of Wilhelm’s eye is Simon, played by 23-year-old Venezuelan-Swedish singer and acting newcomer Rudberg. “He was amazing in season 1, but he stepped it up this season, which makes me so proud,” Ryding says of his costar. Having grown so close, Ryding notes that their characters' butting heads made for a new challenge: “There’s something method about it, because I feel like I know exactly why Wilhelm is doing what he’s doing and Omar knows exactly where Simon is coming from. So us clashing with different perspectives of the scene is just natural.”
Ryding embodies this headstrong Prince with a tactile physicality, executing anxious mannerisms with minute attention to detail. That, in part, is due to his education. Having started acting at 5 years old, Ryding temporarily entertained drama school but was put off by the perspectives of fellow applicants: “I felt like they had a different focus on the art of it… I didn’t like that.” Instead, he studied behavioral science—a combination of philosophy, psychology, and communication that proved “super helpful” in formulating a corporal grasp on characters. But shooting Young Royals while studying resulted in an 80 percent absence mark for his final year. Despite that, with a proud grin, he shares that he graduated a month after wrapping season 2.
Studying human nature is clearly fascinating for Ryding, who animatedly recites his “very thorough” monarchy training and the ritualistic formalities of royal youth: “They’re being told you need to look [at people] in the eye, shake their hands, say your name, and then they’re allowed to speak after you.” He describes his dedication to being the anxious prince as “a great challenge to work with your body [in] that way,” adding the inside of his lip saw the brunt of method acting after being gnawed at, take after take.
The comprehensive intricacies of aristocratic control in Young Royals include haircuts. Fans had a field day when set photos revealed Wilhelm’s floppy bangs had been replaced by a shortened, auburn, regal-appropriate cut that styles hair off his face, making every hard stare and frustrated eye roll visible. “I will say this: At first, there was an idea of him shaving it all off. We had that discussion for a long time, and I was pretty prepared for it,” Ryding reveals, scraping back his now grown-out hair. “It’s also a process for Wilhelm that I can totally relate to, being in a state of mind and wanting to change everything. So, you can do one of two things: Rearrange your room, or cut your hair.”
The Young Royals fanfare will have Ryding busy for the next few weeks with promotional duties. He’s not complaining, though. He recalls that when teasers for season 1 were released, the comments section was flooded with “When is the next season of Stranger Things coming?”
“Now when Netflix posts about other shows, the comments are about us,” he says, beaming. “Oh, how the tables have turned.”