Stefan Karl is an award winning actor with international acclaim. Originally from Iceland, he made his way into living rooms across the world by playing Robbie Rotten in Lazy Town. He has performed the Grinch in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! the Musical about 450 times. Don’t miss this production. It is currently playing at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. Get your tickets here.
ED: How did you get started in Lazy Town?
SK: I was involved in it from the very beginning. My friend, Magnús Scheving, approached me in 1998. We started to work on this live musical for kids at the Nation Theater of Iceland. That played for over a 100 shows which is rare for a children’s play in such a small country. Then we started talking about making a TV show and as crazy as he is, he made it happen. We all worked on it and developed it from the musical to the TV show. Nickelodeon eventually became interested in it, bought the show, and the rest is history. It is running in 150 countries now.
ED: What attracted to you play the Grinch?
SK: It was the story. It is beautiful and simple. The story has been a part of Christmas holidays and celebrations in the US since 1954. It is really the one of the only true American Christmas stories that has a place in everyone’s heart. You see generations of people coming to the theater to watch the production. Very often you see older couples without kids or grandkids just to see it again. I am pretty sure by now that I hold the World Record for playing the Grinch. I have played it about 450 times for hundreds of thousands of people if not a million.
ED: What is your favorite part of the show?
SK: My favorite part is the change. I like the big change of the Grinch when he starts to feel the change to his heart. The audience really reacts to that part and you feel them change as well. The entire first half of the show builds up to that moment.
ED: Could you tell me about the anti-bullying organization that you started in Iceland?
SK: Yes, it is the Rainbow Children Organization that I started in 2002. Back then, no one was talking about bullying being a problem. It was kind of a taboo at the time. I went to schools to talk with teachers, students, parents and the community about being friends. People really needed to understand each other. I really wanted to start the organization to overcome the fear of talking about bullying. It isn’t until we look each other in the eye that we realize we are all brothers and sisters. We are all related. We are all human. The reason that we don’t talk about stuff like this is because we are afraid. We are always telling the world the useless stuff in our lives and not approaching the hard subjects. I just thought it was really important to start the organization to get the conversations going. By the end of the first year we had already signed up over 120 people that needed help. I believe it saved their lives to have a place where they could go talk and be listened to.
ED: What prompted you to start the organization?
SK: Well, I was bullied as a child myself both by teachers and the kids. Then I turned into a bully myself. That was really the only weapon that I thought I had. If you can’t beat them, join them. It is sort of like gun control in this country. What do you do when people show up with guns; you bring in more and bigger guns. We don’t need guns. We need more love. We need to listen and care for each other. I have been on both sides of the table. One morning, I was sitting at my brother’s table and a friend was talking about her daughter being bullied in school. The school wasn’t doing anything about it. I had to ask why the school wasn’t doing anything. Well, because they don’t know what to do. I went to that school that afternoon and spoke to the principal. She didn’t know what to do and asked if I had any suggestions. I told her to let me see what I can do. I took 7 days talking to everyone in every class at that school. At the end of that week I spoke with parents. It spoke with over 400 people. That was a real eye opener for me. I felt that it helped me as well. I saw that there were people like me that needed help and could maybe help me as well.
ED: Do you have a message for LGBTQ youth?
SK: This bullying in the US is a lot like Iceland 10 or 15 years ago. There is a lot of misunderstanding going on. We try to put everyone in these categories. We categorize everyone as: Gay; Black; Muslim; Asian; whatever. We need to get away from that. To me the world is just one big country where we all have to live. It isn’t until we stop categorizing each other that we really can sit down and have a chat on the same level. Don’t try to change other people, think of yourself. Work on your matters, your heart and your mind. Look at how you approach other people. You can’t sit there being bitter and apart or you will see all of life’s opportunities pass you by. You can be judged by others and you will be judged by others. That is just how life is and how we deal with it. We should not attack each other. We should ask others for help rather than tell each other what to do. Iceland is now one of the top countries in the world where Gays and Lesbians are respected. It has not always been like that but we worked hard to make it that way. We tend to accept people for what and who they are. We are now passing a law where they can finally donate blood. That was always ridiculous anyway. We are very big on Human Rights. Gay Pride in Iceland is huge. We have about 100,000 people celebrating, mainly families. I mean our country’s population is only about 300,000. We are not just celebrating the rights of Gay people. We are celebrating freedom of being a human being. We celebrate that we are able to be who we are and who we want to be. It is not yours to tell or say how I should be. This is me, take it and respect it and I will do the same for you. It is so important that we do that. We just need to stop hurting each other, please.