LazyTown actor, Julianna Rose Mauriello, paid a heartbreaking tribute to her former co-star, Stefán Karl Stefánsson, who lost his battle to bile duct cancer, aged 43.
The Icelandic actor – whose death was announced yesterday (August 21) – brought joy to many young people through his charismatic performances alongside his co-star Mauriello, who played Stephanie.
It was announced in September 2016 Stefansson had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but announced it had been removed with surgery.
You can watch Stefán Karl as Robbie Rotten in LazyTown, below:
His family revealed he’d died as a result of his illness, which had advanced to stage four cancer.
Stefánsson had seemed to be recovering from his first bout of cancer, but he revealed in March this year, his cancer had returned and was inoperable.
Mauriello took to Twitter today (August 22) to pay tribute to her co-star, and in her post, she included a touching behind-the-scenes photo of the two of them:
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. I always will be dancing right beside you. But I know you are not alone, you have my mom and grandma. Please watch over me. I will try to stay strong. pic.twitter.com/FEh24zwfkn
— Julianna Rose Mauriello (@tres_juli) August 22, 2018
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. I always will be dancing right beside you.
But I know you are not alone, you have my mom and grandma. Please watch over me. I will try to stay strong.
Before his death, Stefansson tweeted a poignant message:
It’s not until they tell you you’re going to die soon that you realize how short life is. Time is the most valuable thing in life because it never comes back.
And whether you spend it in the arms of a loved one or alone in a prison-cell, life is what you make of it. Dream big.
Following his diagnosis, he received thousands of supportive messages from fans online, who’ve immortalised him in meme history, as well as in their hearts.
Roughly 10, 700,000 ‘We Are Number One’ memes have been published on YouTube in the last year, Stefánsson said, thanking fans for the ‘crazy’ response, adding, ‘you make me laugh so hard’.
Stefán became a stalwart of Icelandic children programmes, most notably for his role in LazyTown, a colourful musical comedy designed to encourage young people in leading healthy and fulfilling lifestyles.
Robbie Rotten was expertly portrayed by Stefánsson as the antithesis of LazyTown‘s superhero, Sportacus, who was on a one-man mission to help the townsfolk get fit and active.
The musical comedy, which is based on a 1991 children’s book, Áfram Latibær!, was created by Magnús Scheving, who also starred in the show as Sportacus, alongside Stefánsson.
Julianna Rose Mauriello, and later Chloe Lang, played the pink-haired sidekick, Stefanie. Commissioned by Nickelodeon, and dubbed into over 30 languages, LazyTown has aired in 180 countries, spreading its important message far and wide through the medium of song.
Stefán and his alter ego, Robbie, earned his place in mainstream popular culture when he was immortalised in a hugely popular meme, ‘We Are Number One’.
Such was Stefán’s popularity online, he and his ditty won the accolade of Meme Of The Year. The good people of Reddit even dedicated an entire SubReddit to Robbie.
Stefán also appeared in a number of other children’s programmes and did voiceover work for Hollywood blockbusters such as Night at the Museum and Thor.
After news broke of his diagnosis, which was described as having ‘no apparent cure’, a JustGiving page was set up to support Stefánsson and his family through a year of expensive medical treatment, which forced the actor to stop working.
Fans and fellow actors alike rallied to raise $150,000 to pay for his year of treatment after friend, Mark Valeti, organised the fundraising efforts on the charitable online platform.
Despite the best efforts of his excellent Icelandic medical team, and Stefan’s personal heroism, there is no apparent cure.
There are always experimental processes, and they will be woven into the fabric of Stefan’s care if at all possible.
Almost 10,000 contributors have donated close to the full target, at the time of writing, and the money will go to ease the financial burden on Stefán’s family, supporting them through their tragic loss.
Stefánsson himself thanked donors on his Facebook page before he died, writing:
Love and humility are unusual and so helpful through it all. I’m moved and very grateful.
Stefán leaves behind a wife, Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir, and their four children.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Stefán at this difficult time.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm).