Chloe Lang is the name of the ten-year-old American actress who plays Stephanie in the next season of the TV series about LazyTown, which is currently being filmed. Chloe is a great athlete who loves to sing and dance. She is excited to see herself on screen. What is your full name and how old are you?My name is Chloe Lang and I am 10 years old. Where are you from? I live in Connecticut,...
Who is the cheerful girl with the pink wig who plays Stephanie in LazyTown and was recently nominated for an Emmy Award? Sigríður Víðis Jónsdóttir visited Julianna Rose Mauriello from the USA, who lived in Iceland for almost a year when the first episodes of LazyTown were being filmed. She has now arrived in Iceland for the next season.
Most of the time, she is referred to as Stephanie, but her real name is Julianna Rose Mauriello and she does not have pink hair, but dark brown. She shakes my hand firmly and invites me in with a smile. She is not 8 years old like the character in LazyTown, but 14 years old and from New York.
Her mother Kahlua O’Callahan comes rushing out of the kitchen. They live in a beautiful apartment on the Klapparstígur where the Danish embassy and the National Theater can be seen through the large living room windows. Julianna sits down at the table and her mom brings her cheese and crackers. It has been a long day for the actress.
When filming of LazyTown began, Julianna was 12 years old, but next May 25, 2006 she will be 15 years old. “It’s not that difficult to play someone so much younger than yourself. Well, of course it’s sometimes difficult, because maybe I wouldn’t do something that the character Stephanie does. But of course I was eight years old once and I know what it’s like! It would be more difficult to play someone older than myself, because then I wouldn’t know what it’s like to be that age,” she says.
Julianna is short and acts much younger than she is. When she tells, however, she becomes an adult. When Latibaer became Lazytown and changed from a play in Iceland to a TV show for the American market, Solla got the name Stephanie. The expansion of LazyTown has been adventurous and the shows are sold to more and more countries around the world. Julianna’s career has similarly been more like a fairy tale.
Born at home in the living room
It was in the spring of 1991 that mother Kahlua gave birth to Julianna at their home near New York. “She had to be born at home, maybe not quite in the living room, but still at home!” Kahlua says with a laugh from inside the kitchen.
Julianna says she always wanted to be an actress. “I knew deep down that I liked acting, singing and dancing and that’s what I wanted to do,” she says.
Julianna is very flexible and has practiced dance, ballet, Irish dance and other things for many years. At the age of 11, she took acting lessons and at the end of it, her mother’s agents suggested that she contact them. This is a girl with talent. Julianna went on to audition on Broadway in New York for the musical Oklahoma.
She came, she saw, she conquered – and she got what she wanted. “No one does this! You don’t go to your first audition in New York and get the part!” says Kahlua proudly, entering the living room.
Julianna went on to play in the Broadway musicals Gipsy and Oklahoma, and then, at the age of 12, auditioned for the television station Nickelodeon. She went to two auditions and was finally chosen to play Stephanie.
“I heard that they were reducing the group and were down to just a few girls and thought: Wow, my God, if I get this, I’ll move to Iceland!” It was very strange and it all happened very quickly. LazyTown is my first TV show and when I started acting in the show I came to Iceland for the first time. It was therefore a great adventure for me – a new role, a new place, a whole new world,” Julianna says maturely.
But do you think you realized what you were getting into when you took on the role of Stephanie at the age of 12? She shakes her head. “No, no! I didn’t realize that LazyTown would become so popular and such an important part of my life. This has been a really great experience. And of course I didn’t know I’d be coming back to do another season.”
Elmo the puppet
In February, it was announced that Julianna was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by a Child in a Television Series. The Emmy Awards are the main television awards in the USA, a sort of Oscar of the television world.
Asked how she felt when she heard about the nomination, Julianna smiles and excitedly says: “I was excited and I was surprised and I felt very honored. I had no idea that this would happen so early in my life – that I would be nominated for an Emmy at the age of 14!”
One of the nominees in the same category as Julianna is the famous Elmo from the shows Sesame Street, or rather Kevin Clash, who is behind the puppet. “It’s kind of funny competing against Elmo and some puppets. The people who play them are all adults, so in my class, everyone is an adult, except me, and that’s kind of cool.”
In New York, Julianna attends an elementary school that focuses on acting. She went to that school when she was 11 and the family moved into central New York. “We decided to move into the city if we were going to take a serious part in this business,” says mother Kahlua.
When asked if she ever doubted that Julianna was too young or that it would be too much or difficult for her, Kahlua says reflectively that she saw something in her when she was a 10-year-old in acting class.
“Most kids who play sports just think it’s a lot of fun, but there are one or two kids on the team who really have what it takes. You can see that these kids rise above the team. That’s how it was with Julianna. The agents pointed out that she was perfect for this and then it all just sort of happened. This was clearly something that was meant to happen.”
Difference between being 12 and 14 years old
When Julianna got the role of Stephanie, her mother came with her to this country. “Julianna is young and can’t go by herself. So this is really our adventure together and it’s been great,” she says with a smile. “I’m with her all the time when she’s on the set. However, there is a big difference between being 12 years old and 14 years old. When filming of the first season started, Julianna was 12 years old, and now she’s 14. “
“She’s very professional and can handle herself on set now” she says, and adds that because of that, she soon plans to start working directly for LazyTown Entertainment. That is, doing work in the production of the show. They saw it as an opportunity, rather than a disadvantage, to have to move to Iceland because of the series.
They enjoy their stay in Iceland, although sometimes they miss New York and their family there. Julianna has three other siblings. Anthony is 18, Alexandra is 21 and Nicole is 23. Julianna’s father, Mark Mauriello, is of Italian and German descent, while Kahlua is of Irish and German descent.
Funny to say, the dubbing voice actress of “Solla stirða” (Stephanie) has become very well known here in Iceland but what about Julianna herself, will she notice that people recognize her? “This year, yes, here in Iceland. Now people know about the shows, because it’s on TV, and some people have recognized me in the street. I think when they see a little girl who speaks English and is American, they put two and two together. However, this does not happen in New York. No one would recognize me there without the wig!”
This is a bit interesting, you’re a child star and known in countless countries, and you can still walk around like nothing happened because people won’t recognize you without the costume… “Yes exactly! It would actually be fun to try and experience what it would be like if people recognized me. But now it’s just good that it’s not like that and I can walk around without being asked endless questions.”
The dog Audrey Hepburn
Julianna’s working days are long. She is filming in LazyTown from nine to seven, four days a week. On Mondays she has a day off from the studio, and then she meets her teacher. “I follow a curriculum at school and do my homework here in Iceland. Sometimes it’s difficult, but usually it goes well. I’m not working all the time when I’m in the studio of course and I use the breaks to study.”
When asked if she’s not tired on weekends, Julianna laughs. “Yeah, yeah, but I have a lot of energy!”
It turns out that Julianna has a dog that she got on her 13th birthday from her colleagues from LazyTown Entertainment. One of the things she does on weekends is play with the dog. “She is a small, awesome dog named Audrey Hepburn. Named after one of my favorite actresses.”
I scan the apartment. Where is the dog anyway? “That’s a funny story,” Julianna says, cracking up. “He is at Magnús Scheving’s house. His children really want a dog and asked if they could borrow her to show their parents that they can really take care of a dog!”
Wants to be a famous actress
Julianna says that because she doesn’t go to school in Iceland, she doesn’t know many kids in this country. However, she has met some fun kids who are the children of some who works on the shows or their friends. “I think this year I’ll try to be more with other kids, because of course it’s a bit difficult not to be with anyone my age. Only adults are filming.”
Maybe that’s why you’re so … ehm… “…grown-up?.. I know.” Julianna smiles. “I felt a huge difference in myself from the moment I came to Iceland in 2004 and when I went home almost a year later. Yet I was still a child then. I felt like a teenager when I turned 14! I think I’m one of those late bloomers,” she laughs.
When asked, Julianna says that she doesn’t know what will happen next regarding her role as Stephanie, as she will inevitably be too old for the role. However, she nods when asked if she wants to become a famous actress in the future. “I want to keep playing and see how it goes. I want to act in movies and more TV shows and I want to go to college, but I don’t know yet if I want to study acting or something else. However, I have a few years to think about it,” she says.
On the last Ash Wednesday, you could see Icelandic girls walking around with pink wigs. All kind of “Stephanies” sang all over town, sometimes two years old, sometimes twelve. Before the interview with Julianna, we reached out to these children to find out out what they wanted to know about her. The actress’ possible vegetable and candy diet came up repeatedly. Does she eat vegetables and fruits like Stephanie and does she like it? What about candy?
Julianna starts laughing and says she eats Sports Candy. She actually likes vegetables better than fruit and eats more of them. “I don’t eat a lot of sweets, but I have to admit that I eat them sometimes. I’m healthy and exercise a lot, but maybe not as healthy as Stephanie…”
The questions continued. Do you take fish oil? What do you like to do in Iceland? How old were you when you could go split? Are you Icelandic now?!
Julianna laughs. “Tell the kids that I’m still American but I speak a little Icelandic and I’m learning the language,” she says in English, then adds in Icelandic: “Ég tala íslensku. Pínulítið!” – (translates as: I speak Icelandic. A tiny bit!).
She then begins to unravel what she knows about the language and, to be honest, it sounds very promising. She points out that she tries to learn how people actually talk. For example, no one says „hvað ert þú að gera?“ (what are you doing?) but everyone says „hvartaðgera?“ (whatyoudo?). She laughs and asks again: „hvartaðgera?!”
Julianna says she has tried fish oil and also some other Icelandic food like shark. She says that one of her favorite things to do in Iceland is to go swimming, and points out that the slide in the Árbæjar pool is awesome. Her mother tries to recall how old Julianna was when she was first able to do the split, and thinks that she was five or six years old. “Then I did the split, put my head down and let my nose touch the floor,” says Julianna with a laugh.
Her dress is too short!
One of the children wanted to know what Julianna thought of her outfit. “I loved it to begin with, but sometimes it’s a bit annoying. Sometimes it gets really hot and you start to itch under your wig and stuff like that,” she answers. “Most of the time, I still think the outfit is nice and I enjoy wearing it. Fortunately, they adjusted it this year, because it was very short.”
When asked, Julianna says that it was not herself who asked for it to be adjusted. Nickelodeon, the television station that airs the shows, has decided to do so. Julianna jokingly says in a concerned high-pitched voice: “Her dress is way too short! Girls in the US can’t wear such a short dress!” Julianna’s mother points out that Nickelodeon is producing the TV series and wonders how they are going to present this character. “Does it present a character trying to look healthy or like a pop star?”
The doorbell suddenly rings. Audrey is home. They jump to their feet and run towards the dog. Julianna hugs and kisses the dog and shows what she can do.
An advantage of being able to play someone younger Julianna says that at first she was shy and always looked to her mother for an answer to every question, but that has changed. I nod my head. In front of me sits a young girl, modest and cheerful but determined and full of confidence. I ask Kahlua if she expected her daughter to become a child star.
She thinks about it for a moment. “Julianna has been very lucky and a lot of this is about luck. But it also has all the essentials. She has the right looks and the right temperament. When you’re 10 or 11 and audition, you’re put in a room with adults you’ve never seen before. You have to introduce yourself, read from a script, sing and concentrate. You are asked questions, you need to speak well and be well balanced. Julianna has it all and is also small for her age. It’s a Broadway audition classic.”
Julianna agrees and points out the advantages of being in a play and being able to play someone younger than yourself. “When you’re a director, you want someone who’s smart and mature, and looks like the character in the play. When I played in Oklahoma, I was 11 years old, but I played a character who was five to six years old. The age difference didn’t really show up on the show, and I was short, and clearly smarter than someone who was actually that age.”
One of the sexiest women
In the last election of Rásar 2 for the sexiest woman in Iceland, strangely enough, Stephanie came in eighth place. It came as a surprise to many, as the character Stephanie is a child and Julianna herself is only a teenager. What does Julianna think about this?
“I think it’s a bit strange. It’s funny that this happens here, I don’t get noticed that much in New York. I actually just laughed at this because it’s really very strange and I wonder which people actually voted for me. I really hope it was kids, or someone my age rather than adults.” Julianna says she thinks the character Stephanie has been ranked, rather than herself as a person. “It’s kind of weird.. but also kind of cool, I guess. No, I don’t know, ugh! It’s not like I was on set trying to be sexy!”
“I get joked about, in a good way of course, saying things like, ‘Hey, you sexy woman..’ , which is a bit weird because I’m not even a woman!” Julianna says with a giggle. Then she adds thoughtfully: “I have to say I’m a bit surprised to have ranked this high, I wouldn’t have expected it. I don’t know, I thought there were sexier women in Iceland than Stephanie!”
It’s very late. It’s time for them to meet their American friends from LazyTown Entertainment. They are going to watch a recording of the Oscars together. “Isn’t Audrey coming, Mom?” Julianna asks. Kahlua nods and the two go on their way with the dog. Of course Audrey Hepburn is watching the Oscars.