“If you want to be an actor or actress out of high school or college, just know what you’re getting in for. It’s a job. If you look at it like a job and you make it a career and a profession, then you’re bound to do well.” Coming into the world only minutes apart on August 4, 1992, Dylan Thomas Sprouse and Cole Mitchell Sprouse got their start in Hollywood long before they could walk or talk when, at eight months old, they were cast in their first diaper commercial thanks to their grandmother’s keen eye for talent as a drama teacher and an actress. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the identical twins were well-behaved on set, which is so rare among young actors that they easily snagged the part of Patrick Kelly on ABC’s sitcom, Grace Under Fire, from 1993 to 1998.
While Grace Under Fire marked their first official television debut, bigger things were in store for Dylan and Cole when they were cast as the adorable, ketchup-loving Julian McGrath in Adam Sandler’s 1999 comedy, Big Daddy. Sharing the role, Dylan and Cole gave a stellar performance and earned a handful of nominations including an MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Duo and a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film. Although they didn’t take home any awards, Big Daddy put the twins on the map as they made appearances in flicks like The Astronaut’s Wife, Diary of a Sex Addict, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause and The Master of Disguise before joining Sandler again in his 2002 animated comedy, Eight Crazy Nights.
Going on to make appearances in popular series like Friends, The Nightmare Room and That ‘70s Show, The Disney Channel had something else in mind for the twins in 2005 and offered Dylan and Cole their own series called The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. The series was a huge hit and made Dylan and Cole tween idols as critics praised the duo as the next generation’s Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. They made cameos in series like That’s So Raven and According to Jim before wrapping up their show in 2008 only to jump over to the spinoff, The Suite Life on Deck, which lasted until 2011. Coincidentally, their characters made appearances in the Disney Channel’s most popular series including Wizards of Waverly Place and Hannah Montana.
In 2011, Dylan and Cole starred in The Suite Life Movie but, after nearly two decades in the business, were ready to step away from the spotlight to live a more normal life as college students at New York University. “Originally, we were thinking of going to separate colleges,” Cole said. “We really wanted to get out of LA and we wanted to study in a city. We chose NYU because their arts program was great and they’re a prestigious institution, but really because you’re in a city. You’re involved in a completely different way of life. You didn’t feel trapped within a campus or in a bubble.”
Enrolling at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study where they joined fraternities and took odd jobs around the city, the twins steered as far away from acting as possible with Cole studying archaeology and Dylan studying video game design. “The one thing I knew for sure about myself is that I didn’t want to study acting,” Dylan said. “It was something we had done and something that we don’t really need to train all that much more for…” Opening their horizons to new adventures abroad, the twins even traveled to Japan in 2012 as International Ambassadors to the Koyamada Foundation.
With many fans worried that Dylan and Cole would never return to acting, the twins reassured their fans about taking some much-needed time for themselves. “In all of this, there’s this grim realization that there really is no truly escaping the industry,” Dylan admitted. “Like, once you’re in it, you’re in it for good whether you’re doing anything or not. By not doing anything, we were doing something…” Cole added, “A lot of people asked us, ‘Why did you guys leave?’ And I think that the way of phrasing it makes it sound like we were like, ‘No, never again.’ That’s not really the way we thought about it. We always had an anticipation to go back, but we desperately wanted an alternative perspective on it.”
Getting that perspective as college students, Dylan and Cole graduated from NYU in 2015 and hinted at a return to Hollywood but, this time, on their own terms. Fortunately, fans didn’t have to wait too long for that to happen with Cole returning to television in 2017 as Jughead Jones in Riverdale. “Yeah, it’s fulfilling, and I think that’s the only currency I am looking for right now,” he said of his role. “As long as it stays fulfilling, I will continue doing it, but the second it stops being fulfilling I’ll leave.” As for Dylan, Cole says his brother supports the show but doesn’t exactly tune in to watch his brother every week, which is fine by him. “I don’t really want him to watch anything I do and I don’t really watch anything he’ll do. We have a very easy time separating work and play and I wouldn’t really care less if he watched or if he enjoyed it. I don’t really have an easy time watching myself, so I guess I sort of imprint that upon my friends and family.”
While they may not necessarily tune in to watch one another as actors, that doesn’t mean the brothers aren’t still incredibly close as the 25-year-olds spend a lot of their free time playing Super Smash Brothers, which Dylan certainly enjoys as he pursues his own interests in video game design. Heck, he’s even raised eyebrows after commentating a few Super Smash Brothers tournaments, which left many to wonder if he’ll try his hand at announcing full-time anytime soon. Beyond that, Dylan and Cole are praised as the “Kings of Social Media” and have a huge following with the brothers often taking to Twitter to share their sarcasm and humor, a new side to the former Disney Channel stars. “I’m just out here trying to make sure Dylan and I never lose our joint Wikipedia page,” Cole tweeted in early 2017. With over 12 million followers and counting, a joint Wiki page is definitely the least of their worries!