Cole Sprouse Grows Up, Gets Wise, Goes Bold
Younger readers may fondly remember him as the latter half of Disney Channel hit The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, but Cole Sprouse has a new role that’s expanding his profile to a broader audience: that of perpetually beanie-wearing, lovable weirdo Jughead Jones on the CW’s slow-burning Archie comics remake, Riverdale.
It’s the first role he’s played in about six years. But don’t worry about Sprouse: he’s just been taking a much-needed break from acting. Until 2011, Sprouse and his brother had literally been working non-stop since infancy. Their acting careers – particularly Suite Life – propelled Cole and his twin brother Dylan into Tiger Beat cover stardom. But while Sprouse repeatedly expressed how grateful he was for his success, spending the first 19 years of your life in front of the camera inevitably takes its toll.
“The stereotype of the damaged child actor exists because there is a profound amount of loneliness and isolation in celebrity culture,” Sprouse told me, “especially when you’re a child and you don’t understand it.”
Sprouse loves to talk about using psychology – in particular the insights it offers into why people behave the way they do – as a tool for achieving emotional authenticity in a role. But the problem with having worked in Hollywood all your life is there’s precious little time to venture off set and interact with the rest of the world in a way that facilitates an empathy that isn’t confined within the Hollywood bubble.
So, during his hiatus, Sprouse stepped outside of himself and far away from the industry: he attended NYU, he pursued photography and high-tech cartography and archaeology, he traveled the world and met all kinds of people in a quest to “understand otherness,” maybe for the first time.
Sprouse possesses an easy charm that somehow allows him to refer to acting as “an old lover” without coming off as pretentious. Now, the 24-year-old and his old flame are back together, with a relationship that is not only healthy, but flourishing: Riverdale is taking off, and Sprouse is overjoyed to be a part of it.
Despite its place in the pantheon of heartthrob-filled CW teen soaps, the show has garnered comparisons to David Lynch’s acclaimed Twin Peaks. Its high school murder mystery plot is the most obvious, but in very Twin Peaks fashion, Riverdale reveals the darkness simmering underneath an otherwise idyllic slice of Americana. It also strikes that serious-silly campiness: in the way that the Log Lady absurdly mediates premonitions from a hunk of wood, or when Archie and the gang have “life and death” arguments about maple syrup.
But Sprouse reveals that season two is going to be a lot weirder and darker. Sprouse warns me that Jughead – the narrator who gives us a peek behind Riverdale’s white picket fences – may get pulled into the darkness of the town. The “lovable weirdo” may just become the weirdo.
But the actor is excited to see how twisted the show’s team is willing to get. And Sprouse doesn’t mind if the “Zack and Cody name-calling” evolves into the Jughead Jones name-calling.
“I think at end of my life if I’m known as Jughead and Cody and Julian – if I’m known by as many names as possible, I’m basically like Gandalf and that means I’ve had a life well-lived and a carer well-run,” says Sprouse. “And that to me would be fucking amazing.”
Written by Kylie Obermeier
Photographed by Justin Campbell for Tack Artist Group
Styled by Monty Jackson for the Wall Group
Groomer: Derek Yuen for Starworks Artists
Styling Assistants: Chloe Siegel and Liza Hunter