Warning: spoilers ahead.
Of the many shows that fly under the radar of Netflix’s homepage, Young Royals—a coming-of-age drama following the rebellious prince of Sweden—has proved to be an exception. Grounded and sympathetic to the identity crises of teenagers no matter their level of privilege, the Swedish series became a surprise sensation, resonating with viewers far beyond Scandinavia. In turn, it irrevocably changed the lives of its young cast, including Malte Gardinger, who plays August, the prince’s entitled cousin clamoring for a position in the palace.
In its new season, August has yet to change his Machiavellian ways. Though he harbors some regret for filming and leaking a sex tape between Prince Wilhelm and on-and-off boyfriend Simon, any chances of making amends are crushed when August is offered a shot for the crown. He grows more desperate and cunning with each episode, but the finale leaves him publicly humiliated by Wilhelm, a gun pointed at his head.
Gardinger, on the other hand, could not be more different than his wily on-screen counterpart. With his mop of dark curls, he’s bright and affable as he revels in the excitement of another successful season. Despite being in one of Gen Z’s most beloved shows, the 22-year-old actor is quite agnostic when it comes to social media, only using it very sparingly to share the odd photo of the beautiful Nordic countryside, or a peek behind the curtain on his projects to his half a million followers. Calling from his father’s apartment in Stockholm with a rosy pink sky behind him (he loves posting pictures of skies, he later shares), Gårdinger breaks down August’s destructive journey, navigating the daunting new world of celebrity, and his inability to figure out the Internet.
The new season of Young Royals throws this interesting curveball, with August being made the “back-up” crown prince. Do you think he’s always had aspirations for the throne?
I think he has always been a bit jealous of Wilhelm. That’s why he wanted to be like a big brother to him, which didn’t fly because he was an asshole. That was his first option, and then he realized Wilhelm doesn’t really want this. Something might have [clicked], like, “Why does he have to do this when I want to do it, but I can’t?” It’s been in the back of his mind.
There’s also August’s relationship with Sara, which perhaps came as a surprise; you wouldn’t expect these people to be together. Why do you think they were drawn to each other?
I think August fell in love with Sara’s [transparency]. August is used to everything being a scheme and subtext. But with Sara, she’s super clear, so he doesn’t know how to act around her.
It’s interesting you say that he’s attracted to her honesty when he so desperately wants to enter the inner circle of the monarchy, which is a system that discourages openness and transparency in order to preserve itself. Do you think he has any inner conflicts with being part of the monarchy?
He has this romanticized future [he’s imagined] for himself that he hasn’t thought through. He’s gone through some shit, so he just focuses on that. Then Sara came, and he was derailed from this path. He’s like, “Is there more to [life] than just being in this monarchy?” That has been his goal for a long time, but I don’t know if he would enjoy it if he ends up there. He’s told himself too many times that this is his fate.
You called August an asshole earlier. Do you see him as a villain?
I know he’s an asshole, but of course, you have to get his motivation to do these things. Otherwise, it’s hard to [understand him] in the moment. In production, I get him more because he’s motivated by a fear of losing the things he has left—and he’s lost a lot in the past. I can feel sympathy for that. But he impulsively does things and then regrets it.
Do you have any hopes for August’s arc in a potential third season?
I have every faith in Lisa [Ambjörn] and all the other screenwriters, but I think personally, I would like to explore August’s relationship with his dad. It would be interesting to know a bit more about why he is the way he is.
Do you have your own idea of what his relationship with his father is like?
I think he idolizes his dad a lot, and when he died, that was the turning point when he decides he’s not going to stop until [he gets what he wants.]
When the first season of Young Royals came out, it was such a pleasant surprise to see it explode as much as it did. I was looking through your Instagram for the Social Qs interview, and you made a post just over a year ago celebrating 100k followers—now, that count has gone up five-fold. Are you ever conscious about the size of your platform?
Not really. I’m pretty bad at all of that! I’m trying to get the hang of it, but I find it hard to use.
Has your relationship with social media changed since Young Royals?
Yeah, I’m probably more in-and-out. I have a lot of friends who only message me on Instagram for some reason.
Are you scrolling through a lot of fan DMs, then?
I’ve stopped [messaging fans], I only message my friends on there. I remember in the beginning I appreciated all the love I got, but it just became a bit much for me. But I also feel really bad when I don’t answer!
Fans of actors who play villains sometimes can’t differentiate between real life and fiction. Have you ever had that problem?
Netflix gave me a heads up that I might get some hate because my character is an asshole, but everyone’s been really good at separating [me from August].
Have you had a particularly memorable fan encounter?
Yeah, there’s a group, we’re called the Curly Gang. They sent me a hoodie, which I still wear to this day. They’re three girls and I talked with them in Stockholm when they were here.
I know you only use Instagram, and even then, you share posts sparingly. Do you ever lurk on other platforms?
No, I haven’t. I used Twitter for maybe a week, but I don’t understand it. I’m like an old man! Maybe I’ll have a comeback soon on Twitter.
Do you have any social media pet peeves?
I don’t really like TikTok. Like, when you’re just scrolling and half of it is people you don’t follow. I don’t want to see this. That grinds my gears.
How do you unplug?
Is there an album or artist you have on repeat at the moment?
I’m listening to Kendrick Lamar, and I’ve gone back to DAMN. again. Also Bright Eyes, because they just dropped a new album.
Do you ever listen to music to get into character?
Unfortunately, I haven’t really done that. But sometimes, if I know I have a super emotional day with really heavy scenes, I listen to something moodier.
Was there a particular scene where you felt you needed to get into that headspace?
Almost the whole production, really. August is not too happy throughout it all! So a lot of Nirvana.