Cole Sprouse defends ‘heavily sexualized’ female Disney stars

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Nearly two decades after making his Disney Channel debut on “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” Cole Sprouse is opening up about how child stardom affected him and his identical twin brother, Dylan.

In a New York Times interview published this week, the actor reflected on his decision to briefly quit Hollywood and study archaeology before returning to the small screen in “Riverdale.” On the hit CW series based on the Archie comics, Sprouse plays sulky hipster Jughead Jones.

“I started acting when I was so young that I hadn’t actually attempted, as an adult, to think about if I really enjoyed performance,” Sprouse told the New York Times.

“When I returned, I reminded myself that I do very much love the art of acting. But I still have a very complicated relationship to celebrity culture.”

The Sprouse brothers were 12 when “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” premiered on Disney Channel in 2005. In the popular tween sitcom, they played the titular troublemaking twins with a penchant for wreaking havoc on their hotel home.

Over the course of three years and three seasons — plus another three years on spinoff series “The Suite Life on Deck” — the Sprouses swiftly became two of the most famous kids on the planet. But Cole Sprouse was quick to reject the notion that he and Dylan came out “OK” in comparison to some former teen idols who have struggled in the public eye since retiring from children’s television.

“My brother and I used to get quite a bit of, ‘Oh, you made it out! Oh, you’re unscathed!’ No,” Sprouse said.

“The young women on [Disney Channel] were so heavily sexualized from such an earlier age than my brother and I that there’s absolutely no way that we could compare our experiences. And every single person going through that trauma has a unique experience.”

Others who grew up on Disney Channel around the same time as the Sprouse twins include Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Raven-Symoné, Brenda Song, Ashley Tisdale and Demi Lovato (who has since come forward as nonbinary).

“When we talk about child stars going nuts, what we’re not actually talking about is how fame is a trauma,” Sprouse continued. “So I’m violently defensive against people who mock some of the young women who were on the channel when I was younger because I don’t feel like it adequately comprehends the humanity of that experience and what it takes to recover.

“And, to be quite honest, as I have now gone through a second big round of this fame game as an adult, I’ve noticed the same psychological effects that fame yields upon a group of young adults as I did when I was a child. I just think people have an easier time hiding it when they’re older.”

On the brink of turning 30, Sprouse stars in the new film “Moonshot,” an HBO Max rom-com also starring “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” alum Lana Condor.

He’s also filming the seventh and final season of “Riverdale,” after which he’ll be free to explore even more film and TV projects — just don’t ask him to participate in a “Suite Life” revival.

“I don’t think I’ll ever return to that,” he told the New York Times.

“Not that I have a problem with other people doing the reboots thing. I’m just a big believer that if something is beautiful in the past, you should let it stay beautiful,” he added. “To bring it into the future feels a bit like reheating a really good, fresh meal in the microwave. It would be hard to be in my 30s and go [in a deep growl], ‘Zack and Cody are back, man!’”

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