Icelandic actor Stefan Karl Stefansson, who rose to popularity as Robbie Rotten on Nick Jr.’s LazyTown, died Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 43. Stefansson is survived by his wife, three daughters, and one son.
His wife, Steinunn Olina Porsteinsdottir, shared the heartbreaking news in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon.
Stefansson got his start as a puppeteer on an Icelandic TV show. He appeared in a number of films and television shows in Iceland before being recruited to join a musical called LazyTown. Creator Magnus Scheving, a former gymnast, started the program to help children be more physically active through song and dance. The musical was a smash hit and in 2004, Nickelodeon took interest, making a deal to air 40 episodes of the show. LazyTown was dubbed in 30 different languages, and aired in more than 180 countries worldwide.
In September 2016, Icelandic media reported that Stefansson was “seriously ill” with a potentially malignant tumor. Mark Valenti, head writer of LazyTown, created a GoFundMe account to support Stefansson after he became too sick to continue working. The fundraiser went viral, with friends and fans quickly contributing over $75,000. In May 2017, his wife returned to Facebook to share that his cancer returned and had spread to his liver.
Throughout his illness, Stefansson kept his social media fans updated on his progress. In March, he received news that his cancer had returned and was not treatable.
He reflected on his prognosis in a Twitter post, which has since been deleted.
“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,”
In April 2018, he announced that he chose to discontinue chemotherapy and shut down his personal social media accounts.
Stefansson and his character, Robbie Rotten, had a profound impact on young people around the world. Many have taken to social media to share condolences and fond memories using the hashtag #WeAreNumberOne, a reference to a popular LazyTown song.