'Oh, You're Famous Now': Hugo Fairbanks Weston on Playing Young Ed Sheeran in 'Castle on the Hill' Video
Hugo Fairbanks Weston and his mates thought they were going to be extras in a documentary when they were recruited at their high school for a film project. Instead, they ended up as stars of a four-day shoot around local parts of Suffolk, England, playing younger versions of U.K. superstar Ed Sheeran and his group of high school friends, in the music video for Sheeran's new top 10 hit "Castle on the Hill." In the clip, the teens drink, smoke, go to parties and crowd around bonfires -- basic teen stuff, all filmed through the gauze of the singer-songwriter's fond recollection.
It's undoubtedly the part that Fairbanks Weston was born to play -- partly because his physical resemblance to Sheeran is striking, but more so because he lives in Framlingham, the Suffolk town where Sheeran grew up, and even attends the same high school the pop star once did, Thomas Mills. "He's the only famous person to come out of here," Fairbanks Weston comments.
Billboard caught up with Ed Sheeran's young doppelganger to hear about his experiences bonding with his "future self," as well as the wardrobe malfunction he experienced while being dressed as Sheeran.
Had you ever seen Ed Sheeran around Framlingham before the video shoot?
I hadn’t seen him before. My mum worked at a restaurant that he had a lot of connections to, so I knew a lot of people that knew him. But otherwise, no, I’d never met him before outside of the filming.
Did you meet him during the filming?
We did meet on one day of the filming, where he flew back. The first thing we did was swap jumpers, and then I spoke to him for a bit. And then later that week, at the end of the filming on the Friday night, we were just in Fram, and he was across the road, and we saw each other and started talking for a bit. And then he came over and started talking to my friends. And then later on in the night, we saw him again, and we just sorta spoke for a bit, had a drink, and that was it really.
Did he talk about it being weird to hang out with a younger version of himself, basically?
Yeah, it was weird, I think! Because I met his parents and his brother at his party, and they all came out and made jokes like, “You all right, son?” Which was quite funny, but very weird as well. But they all loved it, and his girlfriend was really excited for the video, and it all seemed like a really nice atmosphere.
So you and Ed got along pretty well?
We did get on quite well. We had a laugh just talking about it, because I think in Fram, growing up, you do live the same sort of life that we filmed in the video, because we do a lot of those things too.
Was there anything you do in the video that would be kind of unnatural for you and your friends?
No, not really. House parties are normal, pubs… the only thing I probably wouldn’t do is run along Boyton Marshes again and rip my jeans!
How did that happen?
Well, I was given these jeans by the stylist, and they were fine around the waist and legs, but they were quite tight on my thighs, and so after about three shoots of sprinting, I just ripped them from the knee up to my waist.
Were you a fan of Ed’s music before the video?
I have listened to his music quite a bit. Not everyone in my sort of friend group has always listened to his music, but there aren’t any songs that we don’t like. We like them all, it’s just we don’t always listen to them. But my brother loves his music, and my mum, so I’ve heard it quite a bit.
What do you think of “Castle” specifically?
I did like both ["Castle" and "Shape of You"] a lot. I think “Castle on the Hill” works really well with the video, because the lyrics go well with what we do. And again, it is pretty relatable for all of our friends, so that’s quite cool to listen to and think about.
What was the most fun part of the shoot?
There was a car scene where we were sort of being driven around in Fram, given a speaker and just told to listen to the music and have fun in the car really. We just had a laugh in the car, we weren’t told to do much else.
I was wondering what music you were listening to in the scene, because it doesn’t seem like it’s Ed’s.
Yeah, it was a bit weird, because we were told not to sing, and [when you look at it] we’re singing along to a song that isn’t “Castle on the Hill.” My mate [in the video], he just always puts his music on, and loads different songs that you just dance to. And whenever we drove back into the [video set] base, we thought it’d be funny to just put on Ed Sheeran’s old songs and sing along to them.
Now that everyone in your school’s seen the video, are you and your friends legends now?
Yeah, people make jokes about “Oh, you’re famous now,” and it’s not quite that -- but it is weird that people come up like the kids at school in the younger years, they come up and ask for high fives and stuff. It’s weird that you’ve actually been seen by so many people. Especially in this area, everyone’s seen it.
Has anyone joked about you looking like Ed Sheeran before?
Yeah, I mean, before the video, I did get a lot of remarks about it, especially being from this area. Where I work [at the White Horse pub], it’s difficult to do a work shift without hearing the words “Ed Sheeran” [directed] towards me. So I had been called it quite a lot before the filming -- now it’s just a bit more prominent, obviously.
Are people at the pub excited for you being in the video?
Yeah, all the staff -- it’s actually quite a young group of people I work with -- they all love it, and so at the end of work shifts, when everyone’s gone and we’re just doing the last jobs, my boss just puts Ed Sheeran through all the speakers and laughs at me and stuff. It’s quite fun. Also, I got Ed to come into the pub, and so they all loved that as well.
Did he have any words of wisdom for you, as kind of the older version of yourself?
I think he just said, “Have fun, make the most of it, enjoy the music video stuff, especially.” Because -- I thought, anyway -- “It’s never gonna happen again, so make the most of it and just have fun.”
And also: “Keep your friends that you grow up with.” Because he obviously has, and it’s a pretty strong bond I think he has with his friends from Suffolk.