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,...
Stefán Karl Stefánsson has done what few Icelandic actors have had the opportunity or dared to do – to throw himself into the deep pool in Hollywood. The leap seems to be paying off and after three years of living there, he has created a name and relationships that actors would pay their rent to have. Júlía Margrét Alexandersdóttir talked to the actor about fame that doesn’t happen overnight but takes years.
This does not go smoothly at first. Stefán Karl is busy, on conference calls. I’m number one in line and he tells me at the very beginning of the conversation that he may have to leave the middle of the interview for another conference call.
It’s 10am in San Diego. He has already been awake for a full five hours, when the couple’s youngest daughter, his and Steinunnar Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir’s daughter, Júlía, is awake and ready at that time. Stefán Karl then starts marathon calls to Europe and then switches off the phone between two and three o’clock. Then the children come home from school and kindergarten, and homework, driving to ballet class and the daily family ritual begins. However, he says he will even try to play golf in the afternoon.
Dangerous dream environment
“It’s going very well now, but it didn’t go smoothly at the beginning. If someone thinks the bureaucracy and the system are heavy in Iceland, it’s like ten times more complicated out here. We were still lucky not to be late on the trip out. Today, it is almost impossible to get into the country and get a work permit. Although the bureaucracy and the system out there was a maze, the environment was very comfortable. We were shocked to see how cheap food could be.”
A dream environment for the family? “Yes absolutely. On the other hand, this area is far from safe and you don’t take your eyes off the children for a second. We follow them to school and there is a security guard at the entrance. The freedom we live with at home is a culpable act on the outside,” says Stefán, adding that often that freedom should be a culpable act in Iceland as well. “There are far too many children in Iceland who are alone and fending for themselves. I know that through my organization, Rainbow Children, and that is a crime in itself.”
Do you want a dark-haired man with an Icelandic accent?
It is usually the eldest daughter in the household who remembers the freedom in Iceland and complains. But now the family is said to have moved to San Diego, from Los Angeles, which is a much more family-friendly environment, and Stefán Karl compares San Diego to his old village, Hafnarfjörður – if we assume that Los Angeles was Reykjavík.
The world knows that it was LazyTown who kicked them out in the beginning, to follow the episodes on foreign soil, but did something more happen? “We were thirsty for something new and different, and following the premieres of the LazyTown series in the United States, I got an opportunity that no actor has had before. So we decided to try our luck. However, it is quite clear that it takes at least 3-5 years to get on the map here. You need those years to get to know people, make connections and get to real auditions. It doesn’t work out in a way that you can come out here for a month, meet agents, and then they call you the next time they need a tall, dark-haired and blue-eyed man with an Icelandic accent for a role.”
Don’t worry about the agent
Stefán Karl says that he and Steinunn Ólína really enjoyed going out. The couple was in a certain privileged group in the acting profession and it is never healthy or good in the long run for the actor to be in an environment where you can reject and accept whatever projects are offered to you. “Coming from such an environment, which we certainly were in at home, where we were both well established, and in an environment where people don’t really care about who you are, is a healthy and meaningful life experience. You just have to stand and sit like everyone else and prove yourself. Which was very shocking to a spoiled young actor like me. Here you’ve heard things you’ve never heard about yourself before.”
Three years later, Stefán says the couple understand much better how it all works. Therefore, it is only now possible to start talking about some expectations for things, when you understand where you can place yourself on the map. The latest phase is incredibly large. Collaboration with one of the great directors on Broadway: Jack O’Bryan.
“Our acquaintance begins with an agent I met on Broadway, an older woman who has done very good things for her actors and has, among other things, been the agent of Ben Stiller, Matt Damon and yes – Britney Spears, although that partnership soon fell apart. Our collaboration started about a year ago, and it has to be said that when I first came here, I met with this same agent, who immediately wanted me to collaborate, but of course I was so wet behind the ears and green that I declined.” The same agent put Stefán in contact with Jack O’Bryan, which is a sign of good things, and Stefán Karl has now made a contract with the agent for the future. “After all, the rust has gone down in you during the three years you’ve been working hard here.”
An American classic in the hands of an Icelander
The agent sent Stefán to auditions and the wheels started turning and the company The Running Subway Productions, which is one of the biggest production companies on Broadway, desperately wanted Stefán to play the role of the Grinch himself who stole Christmas. The producers thought that Stefán’s rhythms would suit the Grinch very well. Stefán went to a “workshop” where he practiced the Grinch with Jack O’bryan and the widow of dr. Seuss, the authors of the books, which, according to Stefán, was lively and well stretched!
“From this point on, we began to wonder where and if I would do this. Originally it was planned that I would do this in San Diego and then we moved here but there was no time to transfer the work permit and get me into the American Actors Guild in time. So it was decided that I would be available to do this next year, 2008, and I could choose a city to play it in. Of course I said New York – Broadway. The honor is huge when he chose me and I’m just humbled to be able to work with him. I don’t know what it’s going to bring, it’s like everything out here – very so undecided yet but he wants to work with me and I with him so it’s just great. I have a roll of the Grinch in my head and I keep it when and if the call comes. But then some completely different project might come up. For example, Jack O’Bryan is involved in Young Frankenstein, to name a few, I would be a good fit as the monster, as I am extremely unrepentant, according to my wife, Steinunn Ólína.
The run at the airport
The US theater industry is an industry. Only the big studios in Hollywood bring Iceland’s economy to the coffers, and Stefán says he is aware of the fact that at home there is often prejudice and lack of knowledge about Hollywood. “Here things happen slowly and quickly. An acquaintance of mine said that in the US you don’t have a job until you get the part, play it, get the check, buy her food and yes – return it to the bathroom. That’s why you hate talking about unsaid things, even if you see that there is more than an overwhelming probability that everything will be guaranteed.”
But does he thank the LazyTown show for the opportunities that are being offered to him now? “Yes of course. The shows have given me a lot of experience and connections with people. Hollywood is like an airport – the whole environment a bit like people running around with briefcases hurrying to do business. Steinunn and I are now finally starting to see the results of our hard work here in the city.
Jim Carrey and Pavarotti
And at home, of course, everyone is curious about what’s going on. News of a major motion picture from the couple’s production company, High Risk Production, made headlines a few years ago. Where does that project stand now? “It’s doing very well. We are working on several projects, with Swedish and American partners, and producing a film for the international market, which will probably go into production after the end of the year, and we have large distributors there. These days I am on the phone because we are working on the financing of that project, which is very exciting and opens up possibilities for us. The company is growing rapidly and it is very international as you say. The teleconference is waiting for me right where I will start by apologizing for being 20 minutes late.”
Before Stefán is released to the next tool, the rustic and vain question is asked if anyone out there thinks he is the next Jim Carrey? “Yeah, yeah. And Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas. But I take just as much notice of that as Garðar Cortes being the next Pavarotti, without thereby detracting from Garðar’s talent, who is doing good things out in the wider world. I just don’t think anyone is served with such metaphors.”