Update – August 13, 2017: Stefan Karl Stefansson told RUV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, that he is free from liver cancer for now after undergoing two surgeries (as translated by batteries-included on Reddit).
The damn disease is gone. Until it comes back, whenever that will be, which will hopefully be never. Life is now. It’s almost a miracle that I’m still here.
Having cancer made Stefansson rethink his life, with him vowing to not take part in discussions on politics and negative topics. He also tries to bike 20 kilometers every day and is currently writing a stand-up comedy routine about cancer.
Update – August 14: Stefan Karl Stefansson took to his GoFundMe page to clarify that right now he is free of cancer metastases, or cancer that spreads to different parts of the body from where it started according to Cancer.net, after a successful liver surgery in June 2017 performed by Kristin Huld Haraldsdottir and Sigurdur Blöndal at the Icelandic University Hospital. However, while he is free of metastases, he wrote that he is not completely free of cancer yet. He refused any further adjuvant therapy including chemotherapy because there is a less than three percent chance of it making any difference and may just make him more sick. If a metastasis comes back, they will try surgery or nothing at all. He promised to keep everyone posted and told his fans to cross their fingers and keep thinking of him.
Stefansson is planning to go back on stage at the National Theatre of Iceland for their production of Stones in His Pocket this month, but only for 10 shows. He also teased a secret project that he will be revealing soon.
Stefan Karl Stefansson the actor behind the popular character of Robbie Rotten on LazyTown, has a rare form of cancer which has reached stage four. His wife, Actress and Writer Steinunn Olina Þorsteinsdóttir, said that his life expectancy has been significantly reduced.
Stefansson, 42, is well-known for portraying Robbie Rotten on the popular children’s TV show LazyTown, but his career expands well beyond that. In addition to being a successful actor for theatre, TV, and film, he also founded an anti-bullying nonprofit organization and is the CEO of a company that grows micro greens for restaurants.
Stefansson has been a big influence for many people. There is currently a petition on change.org to place a statue of the actor in his hometown of Hafnarfjörður, Iceland. At the time of writing, the petition has over 83,500 supporters.
Here’s everything you need to know:
1. Stefansson Is Best Known as the Actor Who Played Robbie Rotten in LazyTown
Stefansson was born on July 10, 1975 in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, according to The Sun. He graduated from the Icelandic Academy of Arts in Reykjavik and worked as an actor with the National Theatre of Iceland.
He is best known for portraying the character of Robbie Rotten in LazyTown, which ran on Nickelodeon and other networks from 2004 to 2014. He was in the project since 1999 when it was a theatre production. Robbie Rotten was the show’s eccentric antagonist who tried to revert LazyTown to its old, lazy ways as hero Sportacus tries to shape up the town. The show has won and been nominated for many prestigious awards, including winning the BAFTA Children’s Award for Best International Show in 2006.
On a Reddit AMA, he said that it took him two and a half hours every day for the makeup of his character. He also said that his favorite song to perform on the show was “You Are a Pirate” and that a lot of the jokes that made it in the show were created during improvisation between takes. He also gave some acting advice:
There is no difference in preparing for Robbie Rotten or any classical serious role…. ;) Every part you prepare for you have to be honest and truthful and wholly believe that the character exists – otherwise no one will accept your acting. Kids are a demanding audience and they KNOW when something is untruthful.
He and Þorsteinsdóttir married on December 29, 2002 and have four children together. They live in San Francisco, California. Þorsteinsdóttir is a US Citizen and Stefansson has a green card.
2. Stefansson Was Diagnosed Last Year and Now Has a Rare Form of Cancer
Stefansson was hospitalized and diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2016.
In May 2017, the cancer relapsed and Stefansson had two masses removed from his liver.
Then on June 21, 2017, he was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, bile-duct cancer, and it has reached stage four. Þorsteinsdóttir said in a Facebook post that cholangiocarcinoma has little research done on it, but they weren’t giving up.
Although the chances and statistics are not in our favor, and Stefán’s candle burns quickly, we will not be scared of fear.
People have taken to Facebook and Twitter to express their condolences:
Stefansson has expressed his gratitude to all of the condolences:
He also wrote a tribute to Þorsteinsdóttir, as translated by Inquisitr:
I love you more than anything in this universe, and I look forward to spending the next few years with you with laughter and joy as the past 14 years have been with us. I hope we are getting caught up today so I can tell you all this in person, but I just told the outside world how much I love you, my love. You’re my adventurous princess, and it will always be while our adventure continues to write itself.
A GoFundMe page was set up in October 2016 to help raise funds for Stefansson after he became too ill to work. The page currently has over $162,300 donated by over 11,000 people.
Stefansson received many well wishes for his birthday on July 10, including a tribute video filled with well wishes from LazyTown Writer Ken Pontac, Chloe Lourenco Lang who played the character of Stephanie on the show, and many others.
Stefansson thanked everyone for the birthday wishes, saying that “this day is without a doubt one of the best days of all the 42 years I have now lived and may there be as many more. You are a very special group of people to me and thank you for always being there for me and my family trough good and rough times.”
For his birthday, Stefansson got to fly over Þingvellir, a historical site and national park in Iceland, in a helicopter flight with his family through Reykjavik Helicopters.
3. He Has Embraced the “We Are Number One” Meme
On October 3, 2014, LazyTown’s 107th episode called “Robbie’s Dream Team” aired in which Robbie Rotten orders three clones of himself to take down Sportacus together. However, the clones need to be taught how to become villains, so Robbie does so by singing the episode’s song We Are Number One.
After YouTuber SilvaGunner posted a video remixing the song as well as a follow up in September 2016, a wave of remixes of the music video flooded YouTube in what became known as the “We Are Number One” meme. While the meme was created before Stefansson’s cancer diagnosis, the videos have since been used to promote his GoFundMe page.
Here are some examples below:
Robbie Rotten was awarded the Meme of the Year 2016 by popular subreddit r/dankmemes.
Stefansson acknowledged the meme in his Reddit AMA and subsequently created an event for a live Facebook video of him performing the song with the original cast in December 2016. He also thanked the community for the creative videos they made with the song and said he loved every single one of them. He also thanked those who donated to his GoFundMe page. He also introduced the audience to Mani Svavarsson, the composer of the song, who explained how he created it. He also answered questions about the show from the audience.
The original livestream had over 50,000 people watching. The upload on YouTube has over 4,900,000 views at the time of writing.
4. He Didn’t Just Perform as Robbie Rotten
According to IMDB, Stefansson has performed in multiple different movies, TV, and theatre. At the National Theatre, he performed as Cosmo Brown in Singin’ in the Rain, Lloyd Douglas in Noises Off, and Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream. He also portrayed the Dentist in Little Shop of Horrors with The Reykjavik City Theatre. He portrayed the Grinch in Running Subway Productions’ production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas the Musical, which first premiered at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, California on November 14, 2009, and has gone on to tour in nine cities throughout the country.
He played the singing sheep farmer in the popular Icelandic feature comedy Stella Runs for Office as well as contributed voice work for Night at the Museum and Thor.
He won the Thorbjorn Egner Honorary Award for his work at the National Theatre of Iceland in 2000.
Þorsteinsdóttir is also an accomplished actress with her winning the Fipa d’or for Best Actress in a TV series at Biarritz’ FIPA International Festival of Audiovisual Works for portraying Gabriela in the 2015 Icelandic TV show Case. She’s also the Editor-in-Chief at women’s magazine Kvennablaðið.
5. He Founded an Anti-Bullying Nonprofit Organization
Stefansson is the founder and president of Regnbogaborn (Rainbow-Children), which, according to his LinkedIn page, “has become the leading Icelandic anti-bullying organization for children, teens, educators and parents. Rainbow-Children focuses on prevention, education and personal outreach to stem the growing tide of bullying against children.”
On Stefansson’s LinkedIn page, Svavarsson wrote that he “is one of the most talented person I’ve ever met.”
If you’re reading this, you probably know that he’s a brilliant actor – but it is unlikely you know how much fun he is to be around and what an asset he is to any team. Whether it’s singing, acting or even dancing – he is always willing to give that little extra that makes things shine.
Remo Balcells, CG Supervisor at ICON Creative Studio, said that Stefansson and him worked together for LazyTown.
As the Visual Effects Director for the show, I had to often supervise shootings on stage for later digital production. During those times I had the opportunity to work with Stephan and see him perform his character with extraordinary wit. I admire his ability to perform with such energy throughout the day even after hours of wearing cumbersome costumes and hot spotlights. He is fresh, energetic and fun to work with. An extremely talented professional.