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March 26, 2024 28 mins

This week, Tommy is joined by the brilliant screenwriter and showrunner, Lisa Ambjörn, best known for co-creating the smash hit Netflix series, Young Royals. The series became an international phenomenon the moment Season 1 dropped, and is one of the most important shows on television for the LGBTQ+ community. Young Royals is a drama about freedom, love and structural inequality embodied in a 16-year-old Swedish prince who falls in love with a working class boy. With the full final season officially out now, Lisa joins the show to dive into a series that means so much to so many (and yes, there will be plenty of spoilers in this conversation so make sure you are all caught up on the final episode). Today, she opens up about if she always knew how she wanted Young Royals to end, what working on that final scene was like, why Omar and Edvin were the right choices to play the leading men, if she would have done anything differently throughout the series, what impressed her the most with Omar and Edvin’s performances, the thing she is most proud of with the show, how it is so important to let people love who they love, and why there will always be an element of queerness in her future projects.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Hey, guys, welcome to I've never said this before with
me Tommy di Dario. Today's guest is the incredible screenwriter
and showrunner Lisa and Biorn, who is best known for
creating the smash hit series on Netflix, Young Royals. Now
the entire final season has officially dropped, and as the
world more install loss of a show that well, many

aren't quite ready to say goodbye to. I thought that
hearing from the brilliant mind of the person who brought
this series to life would be the dose of medicine
that we all need. So I purposefully held this episode
until you had a chance to hopefully watch the final
episode of the series. So, yes, there will be spoilers
in this conversation, and you will hear juicy and delicious

never before talked about insights from Lisa. It's almost like
a bonus episode of Young Royals because there are so
many insights she shares that are just gonna make you smile.
We are reliving the series today, it is so much fun.
We talk about that final scene of the series, that beautiful,
moving final scene. And if Lisa always knew how she
wanted Young Royals to end, could there have been a

different ending. What was that last day on set really like?
Would she have done anything differently throughout the series?

Speaker 2 (01:15):

Speaker 1 (01:15):
How did she know that Omar and Edvon were made
to play their characters? And what was it like working
with them every single day? What is she most proud
of with the show? Yeah, it's safe to say we
covered a lot. So why don't we get to the episode.
But before we do that, if you're craving more Young
Royals content after this episode, you can head over to
my main page and check out my interview with Omar,

which was so much fun too. We laughed, we danced,
we sang, we cried. Go check it out, all right,
So let's see if today we can get Lisa to
say something that she has never said before. Lisa, how
are you my friend? It is so good to see you.

Speaker 2 (01:57):
It's so good to see you. I'm very well, thank you.

Speaker 1 (02:00):
I am wonderful, I am so good, and I'm so
happy to have you here because we are celebrating all
things Young Royals on my show for the next couple
of weeks. And Ah, what you have created is something magical.
It is spectacular. So, first of all, how are you
feeling with the show coming to an end. Is it

a really weirdly emotional time for you.

Speaker 2 (02:24):
Yeah, it's actually very bizarre. It's so much happiness and
joy and we are so proud, but it's also a
huge like sadness as well, of course for everyone. And
it's very melancholic in a way because saying goodbye to
the things that have had this huge impact on all
of us really and have changed our lives forever. And

to say goodbye, especially to these characters that have been
living in my head now for almost five years, it's strange,
to say the least.

Speaker 1 (02:54):
Did you ever expect this show to become a worldwide phenomenon?

Speaker 3 (03:00):
Absolutely not.

Speaker 2 (03:01):
I didn't know like we were going to have some
kind of a queer audience, of course with the theme
and everything, but I had no idea what they were
going to think about it, if everyone was going to
hate it or love it. It's so hard to judge yourself.
And it was just a shock when it happened, really
but like so beautiful, and I don't think, you know,

this is once in a lifetime thing that has happened,
and it's yeah, I really mind blowing, like I still,
you know, to this day, for three years, so I've
just been getting dms about how it has shaped and
changed people's lives, and I mean, that's what more can
you ask for as a creative person.

Speaker 1 (03:42):
You know, that is so beautiful. So why do you
think you get all of those dms and messages? What
do you think it is about this show that has
resonated in such a big way and has made it
blown up in such a big way, and has made
it sit at number one on the charts every single
time and new season drops, Like, what is it about
Young Royals?

Speaker 2 (03:59):
I've been asked this question before, and I have been
really bad at answering it because in one way, I
don't know. I think it is and I hope it
is because we kind of there is realism in the
sense of how we treat these youngsters feelings, like taking
them really seriously and letting them be cringe and honest

and weird, and you know, all the things that teenagers.

Speaker 3 (04:24):
Are in this world, which is like.

Speaker 2 (04:26):
Also enchanting in a way, and obviously the big love story,
you know, teenagers who maybe haven't experienced their big first
love or who are you know who have but who
haven't been able to like really fully live it out
and experience it all. I also think with like what
was a bit of a shock was the adult audience

or the older audience, even like, you know, having fifty
year olds telling me like, oh, I didn't get to
be with the person I loved when I was that age,
and now I can kind of get to relive it
a little bit and get a little piece of that back.
And I think it is the world that we have
all created together that is very inviting in a way,
even if it's super dramatic, it's also honest.

Speaker 3 (05:10):
I would say, can.

Speaker 1 (05:12):
You imagine being in your fifties or older and having
that lived experience of not being able to ever be
with the one you love? I mean, it gives me,
oh god, it gives me childses thinking about it because
I as a thirty eight year old gay married man,
like I always say, I'm so grateful for the people
before me who have paved the way to live with
that is such a difficult thing. So when you hear

stories like that, I imagine that so deeply touches you.

Speaker 2 (05:38):
Yeah, And I think, like everything that interests me in
this world, like social injustice wise, it's also that you know,
we only have this brief little moment on earth, and
everyone before us who have lived have also just had
this little.

Speaker 3 (05:52):
Tiny piece.

Speaker 2 (05:53):
And to spend your life stopping people from living the
way they want, loving whoever they want, or you know,
in any aspect without hurting anyone is such a punishment.
It is such like the grading thing that we still
do to each other, and it is really painful to
think about it and to see it happening still all

around the world in different aspects, not even when it
just comes to homophobia, but you know, like classicism and
you know, racism and sexy like it's so.

Speaker 3 (06:26):
Yeah, it is really.

Speaker 2 (06:27):
Something that I think about a lot, and yeah, how
horrible it is.

Speaker 1 (06:32):
That's why projects like this are so important, and that's
why everyone is so sad to see it go, because
it does have such an impact on their lives. And
the cast you assembled, I mean, they brought this story
to life in such a beautiful way. Edvin and Omar
of course, are you're leading men? Why were they the
right fits to play these characters?

Speaker 2 (06:52):
Well, I mean this is both due to the costing department,
of course, and the directors of the first season. And
I also have to say for me personally, when I
write I very seldom they kind of set up an
idea of how someone is gonna look. I often talk
about how they are and you know, the experience and what,
but like what kind of tension we want from a

character or what they have to be able to do
and perform and give us. But it was very lovely
to have a casting process where we saw a lot
of different people and a lot of different versions of
who these characters could be. And you know, it just
became very clear when we saw these actors. I think
Sarah that was the last one to get cast, but

I'm so happy it ended up being her because I
saw her first costent tape and I was like, yeah,
that's her. But it took some time before we convinced everyone,
and Edwin and Omari was just how playful they instantly
were with each other. I mean they had never met,
they met, you know, walking into the costing room, and
everyone who saw their tape was like, yeah, this is it.

And I didn't even want, Like I wanted the character
of Cinemon to be a new face that we hadn't
seen before, and Omar obviously has his history as a
pop star, and it was a bit like, oh God,
that he is so good, we're gonna have to We're
gonna have to give it to him, you know, We're
gonna have to see what he does with it. And yeah,
rewrote it a lot for them as well, and who

they were and all the magically they brought to life.

Speaker 1 (08:24):
You know, was there one thing that you can pinpoint
for each van in Omar where you said, yes, they're
these characters.

Speaker 2 (08:33):
I think as a writer sometimes you have to write
really bad lines. I would say, like lines that has
to carry information in a certain way. And Edwin just
came in and you could give him anything and he
made it just sound natural and honest. And he has
a very beautiful presence in every take. And I mean

he can just look at someone and you feel everything
you know inside of yourself. And Omar just has such
a playfulness and such a beautiful like approach to everything
I would throw his way, like throughout this entire process,
Like Omar is when I go to if I like
have this like idea, like oh, this is going to

be super dramatic, I tell it to Omar because.

Speaker 3 (09:18):
He gets so excited and he's like, yeah, I'm going
to get to do this. I'm going to get to cry.
I'm going to get to like.

Speaker 2 (09:24):
It's such an energy that just like fills up the room.
And they are very different, like both in the personalities
and in front of the camera, but they just see
each other. And I think also that playfulness between them
and the energy they give each other, they really feed
off each other's energy in the most brilliant way.

Speaker 1 (09:45):
And what's so cool is you seem like a very
collaborative creator and you want people to give ideas and
bounce things off of each other. I mean, this is
just what I'm observing. I might be wrong, but it
seems like you enjoy the process of bringing a project
life and having people also contribute with their ideas.

Speaker 2 (10:04):
Of course, I mean, if you don't like a collaborative process,
you shouldn't be making series and not film. You should
be writing books where you probably can decide a little
bit more and you don't have a budget to follow,
like I have a budget. I need to you know,
not overstep in no, And I love this is the
beautiful thing with it. It's just everyone it's such a

tight schedule that no matter how fast I would be
on my own, you do not have the time for
every single detail so you need people to constantly be
feeding you with their ideas and have all of these
like super professionals. All the people in our team has
given me so much just you know, going to set
the sign, realizing like, oh, actually we can tell this

in the environment. We don't have to actually put this
in the edit. Doesn't have to be a line about
you know what the schedule or whatever like they already
made that, or art department or like costume can sometimes
you know, come with ideas that I'm like, oh my god, yes,
now actually we are adding layers and you're understanding, you know,

the vision and what I'm trying to say here, and
we're all just like it's like a megaphone, just like broadcasting,
it wider and wider.

Speaker 3 (11:17):
So I love that.

Speaker 2 (11:17):
And this last season I've never been so happy on
set as I was the season I was, just because
the first season was much harder to make, and the
second season I knew like that the audience were going
to have opinions about a lot of the decisions I made.
So this third season, coming in with all of that experience,

being able to shape the team around that, no like
knowing now like what we do and how we can
do it in the best possible way. I actually, instead
of having like more ownership over things, it's almost like
everyone just like tunes in and then it becomes even
more amazing than you can ever imagine. And you know,

so I've been I've been obsessed with my team this season.

Speaker 3 (12:04):
They've like taught me so much. I've been so amazing
to work with.

Speaker 1 (12:16):
You mentioned the last season, So let's get into it.
For everybody listening, this is going to be spoiler time,
so by now hopefully you've watched, but let's dive in
and talk about it. So when did you know how
you wanted this series to end? Did you always know
the ending you wanted? Like walk me through that process?

Speaker 3 (12:35):
Yeah? I did.

Speaker 2 (12:37):
Sometimes I don't really know the ending when I write.
I have a few previous projects where I have been
like kind of figuring it out as I go along,
but you always need some kind of like things to
aim towards. But with Young Royals, I think I had
to know the ending to be able to know.

Speaker 3 (12:53):
Where to start the story. And I had this.

Speaker 2 (12:57):
Vision in my mind of like, I've never seen a
story about the young person a prince saying to his
queen mom I'm not going to do this. I'm going
to go and be with the love of my life
kind of. So I had that as my aim the
entire time, but then I also knew, oh, we have
to be with him for this journey, and we have
to meet Simon before it all starts happening, and we

have to you know, like start the show here.

Speaker 3 (13:22):
But I mean, in the beginning, the first pitch.

Speaker 2 (13:24):
I wrote, I Am I tried to squeeze everything into
the first season because I was so worried that I
wasn't going to get another one. So you know, the
first start of the process was just being like, Okay, no,
this is impossible to fit. We just need to like
we can end it where season one ends, but that's
as far as we can take it on the season.
So I was nerve racked, Like I was a big

nerve right the first season because I was like, if
we don't get a second, like, I'm not going to
get to finish it where I want to finish it.

Speaker 3 (13:52):
So it was a bit of a gamble.

Speaker 2 (13:53):
But yeah, it's this idea of getting to you know,
really follow this love story from the very simple start
of it when they meet and fall in love and
then figuring it out if they actually could be without
each other and if they actually should choose different parts
in the second season, and then realizing no, Okay, we're

gonna we have to give this a shot, we have
to try, we want each other, and then them getting
to do that, this is the season I've been the
most excited about the whole time. Then to finally get
to do it, it was just amazing. And the coming to
the end, I was just like, yeah, I mean, I
hope everyone is ready for what we're gonna give them

about them, yeah, you know, no, No.

Speaker 1 (14:38):
Why did you want that to be the ending?

Speaker 2 (14:40):
Well? I knew I wanted to like have this feeling
of like when we let them go, that we know
that like now they are going to go out and
live and they are going to figure stuff out. Everything
doesn't have to be perfect and there you know, are
still things that they are gonna have to deal with,
but like go and live experience like feel the freedom

in your hair, you know. I mean it is a
bit of a double sided ending in the sense that,
like I know that a lot of fans have been
hoping that, you know, I'm saying Edwin and Romara but
we'll will decide, you know, take the throne and be
this like role model and this symbol for others. And

I think that I couldn't really tell that story because
even if I think symbols are important and it's important
to have role models, it's also a huge pressure to
be put on that pedestal and have to carry an
entire social justice issue on your shoulder. And kids shouldn't
have to do that. A seventeen year old shouldn't have

to do that. So I like want them to yeah,
get each other, but then also have this little like Okay,
so wait is this like August, this August goin to
take the throne?

Speaker 3 (15:53):
What does this mean?

Speaker 2 (15:54):
Like? But it's also you know, maybe a bit of
a comment from my side on on how these things work.
If you're born into role if you're born into an ethnicity,
a social class, a sexuality, and things are you know,
for some things are going to go well no matter
what they do, no matter what mistakes they commit or

what they do to others, they are still going to
succeed in life. And that's also heartbreaking.

Speaker 1 (16:22):
Yeah, there's a lot of powerful messages behind what you created,
and that's what I love about this as well. So
it seems like they were always endgame in your mind,
or was there a moment you thought maybe not.

Speaker 2 (16:33):
I think actually a lot of people throughout the show
has pushed for them to not be that in the
sense that, okay, so we're Swedish. Like people in Sweden
like tragedy. It is considered to be the highest form
of art. Sadness is important and it's what makes you know,
Berygman and all are to do, like if like what

could be considered as like a feel good ending. I
think for a lot of people it's like, why would
we do that when you could, you know, leave super
dramatic and painful kind of like the first season to
be honest though how it ends. But for me it
was it was just like feeling these characters very early on,
like that's where they are heading. And then of course,

I mean I have thought of every single scenario that
could possibly happen to these like boys and the girls
at the school. You know, once people go like, oh,
you should have done this, so you should have thought
about that, I'm like, I can't.

Speaker 3 (17:28):
We did. Like I've had.

Speaker 2 (17:30):
These people in my head for five years and I've
always come back to wanting and feeling like hope is
the bravest thing you can do. To have hope, to
wish that things are going to be better, and to
dare to give up on the things that are hurtful

and that are bad and that are you know, the
institutions and the traditions that we have as a society
that might not of us any longer. That is powerful.
And it doesn't mean to throw away at like our
history or anything that we have learned. It's just like
it is brave to take a step forward, and you know,

like so for me, it's just like hope, like Simon
and withiham or hope. And I want anyone who watches
this to feel hopeful, because that's brave.

Speaker 1 (18:23):
That is so beautifully said. I think hope is so
necessary and needed in our world more than ever right now.
And that's why I love how you chose to end
the story. And it's not as much as an ending
as it is also a new beginning, which makes it
feel really beautiful and back to your word, very hopeful.
I imagine there weren't many dry eyes on that last

day on set. Am I right?

Speaker 2 (18:47):
Oh my god, I've I never cried as much in
my life as during this season, both because of the
beauty of it, because like every single take, every single
shot in this season has been brilliant to create and
to sit behind the monitor and watch. But the last
scene and when especially I think when Omar's like starts crying.

He starts crying in one take and we have a
shot of that, and I could just feel like I
was standing out we were in a field in the
middle of nowhere, Like we were just out in the
field with a little like camera and a monitor, and
I could I was like maybe like fifty meters away,
but I could like feel their presence like vibrating from
behind like this alley where they are standing, and I

was just watching the screen being like, yeah, like this
is it. This is everything for five years that I've
been firing for, Like this is the moment. And I
mean that last scene was beautiful. And also the last
scene we shot was the when they were down by
the lake and they skin a dip in the night
and they have this talk, and that was also such

a beautiful wait for us all to kind of end
this show because it was you know, like it felt
almost religious that night in the forest. It was you know,
the tall tree tops and you could hear the bees
buzzing in this summer night, and they walk down dressed
in white and they undress and they walk down, you know, naked,

into the water, and I was like sitting there, going,
oh my god, they are being rebirthed. And it almost
feels like, did I write this, did we all? Did
we all do this together? Like if there's God, this
is it, you know what I mean? And it was.
It was just amazing, And I'm so proud of our
actors and everyone in the team. Everyone has stepped up

this season in a way that I didn't think it
was possible because they've already done so well, all of them.
So yeah, it's just been absolute blessing.

Speaker 1 (20:40):
It sounds like, and I know it's probably so hard
to choose and pick, but it sounds like this maybe
is one of the most special seasons for you because
of really everything that you've just talked about.

Speaker 2 (20:52):
I do think so, also because like I mean, I
love the first season and the second season. I love
them for very different treas since, but I think now
it was when everything came together. The first season was
like also a struggle kind of we had never done
a Netflix series before I was not on set because
it was COVID, so I was really distant. I felt

really distant from the process in a way. I was
just getting calls at night being like, instead of shooting
four and a half or five minutes to day, we
were shooting one minute the first few weeks, which is devastating,
Like you have to take away so much of the story,
and it was really stressful for me and everyone and
you know, health wise for a lot of our colleagues.

Speaker 3 (21:33):
It was terrible.

Speaker 2 (21:35):
And when we then did the second season, I sat
down with the producers and I was like, we have
to rethink everything to not let this happen again, Like
we're going to be so on point this season. And
we had such a good like talk. We were talking, talking, talking,
went through everything that we wanted to change. We did
that for the second season, but it was also, you know,
a shot in winter, it's horrible in Sweden. I knew

that there was a storyline that some of the fans
were not gonna like it. So I knew that, like, oh,
this response is going to be more mixed. And then
when I came out seat some two and then into
season three, like and I had three new directors. I
never worked with them. We were into ing them, you know,
like I was just like hoping that they would be brilliant,
and then they were, you know, they were so amazing

and creative and like visionary, and I felt so free
creatively and so like, we are gonna make this like
the best effing season. And I'm sure the fans will
have different opinions about what is the best parts and everything,
but for me personally, this was everything and it has
set me up for future projects, being like, oh, this

is how I like to work and this is how
I want to do it. And I can just hope
that everyone in my industry gets to experience this kind
of collaboration at one point, because it's amazing.

Speaker 1 (22:59):
A reason why I love having brilliant, amazing creators like
yourself on the show is because the fandom loves these
characters so much and they've become such a big part
of their lives and almost like role models or friends,
and they feel like they know them. And I always
trace that back to the use of the world and
the people who actually allow that creation to blossom and flourish.

And it takes a very special person to do that
and to hear your insights and to hear the things
that make you proud and really kind of imagining how
your vision came to life from paper to screen is
so cool and I think that's something that you must
be really proud of.

Speaker 3 (23:41):
Well, yeah, thank you.

Speaker 2 (23:41):
I mean, I can't take the credit, mord It's so
many people who have made us what it is. But
it's very nice to get to speak about it because
I think we are all so proud of it. And yeah,
it is very special, like we were saying before, with
like having this little limited time on earth to get
to tell stories and to work in fiction and to

create worlds within worlds within worlds and getting everyone to
create a world with you, it is what's magical. Like
for me, when I was a kid, I was always
wishing that, you know, I was going to get the
you know, letter to Hogwarts, or that I was going
to step through a Nonia wardrobe, and nothing ever happened.
And then I was like, oh, film and TV series

like that's where you get to do that, or you know,
any other creative expression. And I just feel like, you know,
getting to do this is the biggest privilege and getting
to have an audience that is so invested it's beyond
everything I could ever imagine.

Speaker 1 (24:43):
You know, do you think since this is a story
so close to your heart and so close to so
many people's hearts, that down the line there might be
an opportunity to revisit it in some way, shape or form.
Is that something that would even interest you in the future.

Speaker 2 (24:58):
Well, I mean, for me, it's very important to know
where to put an end to a story if it
has one, if it's not going to be like a
procedural that keeps on going forever. But I'm never going
to say never about anything. You never know. Like, if
there's one thing I've learned, it's to trust the process
and it will take you where you have to go.
And if I wake up in a few years or

someone calls me going, actually I thought about this and
my brain starts working, you never know what could happen.
And apart from that, I mean, I just get a hope.
I get to continue working with both the talent and
the team, and you know, in future projects and create
more stories like this for the world.

Speaker 1 (25:39):
That's what I was going to ask you, is this
genre is telling stories you know, centered around the queer community.
Or a marginalized community. Is that where you see yourself
continuing to create your art in or is there something
totally different you want to do next.

Speaker 2 (25:56):
I am going to do some completely different things, but
I think there's a read throughout my projects which I
will let other people decide for me or tell me,
like this is what you're actually telling us. But I
love this genre and next thing I'm gonna write is
actually like a comedy. But the thing is that it

is so inspiring for me also to jump between genres.
So I do have a story which is like in
the same like that I'm going to do further on
which is also about like seventeen year olds, but I
did feel like I needed a little break from it.
And speaking on the queer community, I mean, this is
the thing like I'm like, what is still my group
of like best friends when I was a teenager and

they met to this queer hangout like teen hang out
in Stockholm, and they have shaped like how I perceive
the world, and they, you know how opened me up
and inspired me and have changed like anything that I
could like think was possible. You know, they twist and
turn everything and so for me, there is not a

single story I could tell if I'm ever going to be,
you know, talking about any experience that I have myself,
and you always put something of yourself in the script.
So I will probably never do a story without queerness
in it, because for me, that's just everyday life and
that's what's you know, inspiring and even fun and like

magic in the world, Like queerness is magic, Like that's
why I love it. It's you know, so that's always
going to be present, and it has been present in
all projects I've done.

Speaker 1 (27:32):
Really, Oh, that's so beautifully said, and I can't think
of a better way to wrap up this conversation. Lisa.
I so love your creativity. I love your brain, I
love your passion, I love everything that you stand for.
And I'm so proud of someone that I just met
for what you created. So thank you for sharing your
artistry and your gifts with the world. And I really

look forward to seeing what you do next.

Speaker 2 (27:57):
And thank you and likewise, big fan, so happy to
have gone to speak to you, and I hope we
speak in the future about the next project.

Speaker 1 (28:06):
Thank you so much. Be well, and again, yes I've
never said this before. Is hosted by me Tommy Diderio.
This podcast is executive produced by Andrew Publisi at iHeartRadio
and by me Tommy, with editing by Joshua Colaudney. I've
Never Said This Before is part of the Elvis Duran

podcast Network on iHeart Podcasts for more rate, review and
subscribe to our show and if you liked this episode,
tell your friends. Until next time, I'm Tommy Dedario.
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