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,...
Magnus Scheving was just five when he got his first job. As the fastest runner in town, the future two-time European champion gymnast became the telephone exchange messenger boy for Icelandic town Borgarnes. “Not everyone had phones, so it was my job to let them know when they’d received a call at the exchange. “A single man called Herbert used to get a lot of calls from women at the weekend, which I used to dread as it meant a 6km round trip – that’s a long way for a five-year-old,” says the muscular 44-year-old, who was a messenger for four years.
Growing up in a small town with a population of 1,500, it was not long before the son of a headmaster and a kindergarten teacher – who regularly sped out of class to fulfill his messenger duties – became a local celebrity. “The town pharmacist used to call me in to entertain the old ladies by walking on my hands,” he says. The manager of the telephone exchange, also a drama teacher, later suggested that the charismatic boy try acting and cast him in a number of roles, which included reciting Molière monologues.
His early years laid the foundations for his later creation of one of the world’s most successful – and probably most influential – children’s television programmes.
Mr Scheving is the creator of LazyTown, which is the most expensive children’s television series ever made, at $1m (£659,000) an episode. But he best known to children around the globe as the well-built, lycra-clad, moustached superhero Sportacus, who encourages children to eat fruit – or “sports candy” – and play outside. Even Lulla, the manager of the telephone exchange who died a year ago aged 92, features in LazyTown as Bessie Busybody, “the neighbourhood gossip, but never with malicious intent”.
Children’s television is not often credited with changing the world, but a LazyTown campaign with the Icelandic government saw sales of fruit and vegetables rise by 22pc in a month. “I realised there were no good role models for kids. Popeye eats spinach, but also smokes and hits people,” says the father of three, who admits a weakness for the occasional hamburger. “I just wasn’t sure if a kids’ show which educates about a healthy lifestyle was doable.”
After launching in Iceland in 1995, Mr Scheving waited almost 10 years before taking the show global, as he “wanted to try it on two generations”. The series, which started life as a book called Go, Go LazyTown, now airs in 120 countries. While those without children are probably unaware of its existence, this could soon change with the planned release of an action movie called Sportacus after talks with Sony Pictures and Warner Bros, and hopes to launch a chain of LazyTown restaurants in cities such as London, New York and Tokyo.
While it costs $8m to $10m a year to run LazyTown and $1m an episode, its creator says the business, in which he owns a 44pc stake, has reached break even and is now seeking new investors as it expands into restaurants and film. LazyTown’s expansion comes as most other Icelandic companies have suffered their most disastrous year on record and the country’s banking system was seized by the government and the currency suspended. “The world was getting out of balance,” says Mr Scheving, who blames the economic downturn on greed.
Ironically, LazyTown’s first backer was Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson, a major investor in the first Icelandic bank to collapse and the founder and chairman of retail giant Baugur. Mr Scheving refers to Mr Jóhannesson, who still owns a small stake in LazyTown, as an “entrepreneur”, but adds that, while Mr Jóhannesson expanded quickly through acquisition, he prefers to grow businesses organically.
He is not interested in acquiring companies and says he cares very little about personal wealth, insisting he has no appetite for fast cars and lavish holidays. In his early 20s, he built his own home in Iceland – a five-bedroom, 250 sq m house – where the family still live. At the time, he was working at a building company from 7am to 6pm, lecturing on health and the dangers of drugs until 8pm and building his house from 10pm to 2am. “It was my yoga. There is nothing I cannot build. That is my passion,” he says.
He recently built Lazytown’s new studio set “in just 42 days” with a team of 15 builders who worked on the set design of the Tomb Raider and James Bond films. As well as the main studio, he has built a spa room to relax his muscles at the end of the day. He often has to do 3,000 jumps a day when filming the show, demonstrating one move in a cramped room in Soho House, a London media haunt. There is no doubt over the effort he puts into the show: “Every prop in LazyTown is handmade and there are more curves, as these are more difficult to carve.” The technical brilliance of the show – filmed in HD, with 400 sound effects and against a background of real live action, puppets and CGI animation – has even caught the eye of Hollywood directors, with an intrigued Quentin Tarantino visiting Iceland to watch it being made.
Mr Scheving believes anything is achievable through hard work, saying the greatest gift his parents gave him was self-esteem. “I’ve made a profit from everything I have done in life,” he says. His success in aerobic gymnastics, which saw him become the European champion twice in 1994 and 1995, began with a bet with his Icelandic friend Fjolnir Thorgeirsson. “We gave each other three years to become the Icelandic champion in a sport,” he says, adding he challenged his friend to become a champion snooker player. Both men achieved their goals. Mr Thorgeirsson later dated Spice Girl Mel B, who he reportedly met at a nightclub in Blackpool when he was playing in a snooker tournament.
When not being a superhero, Mr Scheving spends much of his time traveling the world promoting LazyTown, meeting potential investors and lecturing on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. He has even found time to play the villain in the next Jackie Chan film. With so little time, he has to fit exercise into everyday life. “I try to do 200 press-ups before I go on a plane. I don’t want to come across as mad in this interview but I do this sort of thing,” he says as does sit-ups.
“I love good sushi”
Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge: “Every detail was thought of and executed beautifully. I loved this movie although I am generally not that interested in musicals.”
Favourite TV show
The Office. “Ricky Gervais always makes me laugh.”
Who is the business person that you admire most and why?
“Richard Branson. He is always willing to take on new and exciting challenges.”
“I am doing exactly what I want to be doing – spreading a message I truly believe in. It is a pleasure.”