Cole’s comments come shortly after Millie Bobby Brown’s 18th birthday sparked a major conversation about the treatment of girl stars.
Cole Sprouse was just 8 months old when his acting career began, with him and his twin brother, Dylan Sprouse, sharing roles in TV shows, movies and commercials throughout their childhood.
One of their most notable performances was opposite Adam Sandler in the 1999 film Grandpaand in 2001, Cole landed his first role without his brother as Ross Geller’s son, Ben, in Friends.
But it was the Disney Channel original series The Suite Life of Zack and Cody who really put their names on the map, with Cole and Dylan, then 13, kicking off the hit series in 2005.
It lasted until 2008, and the twins reprized their roles the same year in spin-off series. The suite life on deckwhich ended three years later.
At this point, the twins were in their late teens and moved away from acting. Cole focused on his studies and even earned a degree in archeology from New York University.
Despite his success as a child star, Cole revealed he told his manager he wanted to quit acting for good once he grew up, but ended up promising to do another set of auditions before throwing in the towel.
That’s when he booked the role of Jughead in the CW drama Riverdalein which he has been playing since 2017.
In a new interview, Cole has now admitted he still has “a very complicated relationship with celebrity culture”, but revealed that Riverdale reminded him of his love for “the art of acting”.
In his conversation with The New York Times, Cole also spoke openly about the “trauma” of being a child star before addressing the stark difference in how young women and young men are treated within the industry. .
In fact, Cole has gone so far as to say that he and Dylan can’t even compare their experiences as male child actors to the experiences of their female counterparts, which is why he’s now “violently defensive” of former stars of Disney who are mocked in the media.
“My brother and I used to be like, ‘Oh, you got away with it! Oh, you’re unscathed! No. The young women on the channel we were on [Disney Channel] were so sexualized from such an early age as my brother and I that there is absolutely no way to compare our experiences,” Cole said.
He went on to address the story of former child stars who went off the rails as teenagers and how the root of the problem is never acknowledged.
“Everyone who goes through this trauma has a unique experience,” Cole said. “When we talk about child stars going crazy, what we’re not really talking about is how traumatic fame is.”
“So I’m fiercely defensive of people making fun of some of the young women who were on the channel when I was younger because I don’t feel like she understands enough of the humanity of this experience and what it takes to recover,” he added. .
Having experienced celebrity status as a child and an adult, Cole said he believes the “psychological effects” celebrity has on children are the same on older people, but claimed “people have easier to hide it when they are older”. .”
Cole’s poignant comments about his childhood fame come less than two weeks after a conversation about how Disney stars are treated was sparked by Olivia Rodrigo openly joking about underage drinking.
During an appearance on The Late Late Show with James CordenOlivia, 19, opened up about her recent trip to London and how excited she was about going to a bar and buying booze without having to use a fake ID.
Having first found fame on the Disney Channel show Bizaardvark in 2016, Olivia also starred as Nina Salazar-Roberts in Disney+’s highly anticipated revival of the musical high school movies, called High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
So the fact that she was able to discuss fake IDs and underage drinking seemed like a big step forward for Disney, which had previously spoken out against their female stars who didn’t have managed to maintain an impeccable reputation.
The likes of Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Vanessa Hudgens are among the names to be chastised and shamed for their behavior throughout the 2000s and 2010s after first finding fame as child stars on chain.
In fact, Miley was just 15 when her Vanity Fair cover drew scrutiny because she posed shirtless while holding a sheet to her chest and looking over her shoulder.
Disney quickly denounced the images in a statement, where they claimed the magazine had taken advantage of Miley to sell copies. Miley apologized for the shoot at the time and said she was “embarrassed” by the photos, but years later the star retracted his excuses.
Disney also chastised Miley for dancing next to a pole during a performance of her song “Party in the USA” at the Teen Choice Awards, and her outfits often sparked a divide, with some saying they were “too” risky” for his Disney reputation.
Miley later admitted that her time in the industry as a child was largely dominated by “men in suits” who controlled her image. “I always felt like I didn’t always have the power and I always had the control, especially as a female in the industry versus the male in the industry,” a- she said in an interview with KISS FM.
“I think men have an idea that they know what a female pop star should look like or look like,” she added. “When I was working on Disney, there were a lot of men in the room deciding what hair would go with what.”
Vanessa Hudgens is another former Disney child star to be unfairly reprimanded by the channel, with the then 18-year-old actor forced to apologize after being the victim of a nude photo hack.
In a statement on the leaked private images, Disney said: “Vanessa has apologized for what was clearly an error in judgement. We hope she learned a valuable lesson.
But the unfair treatment of child stars is a conversation that goes far beyond the Disney Channel, with the reaction to Millie Bobby Brown’s 18th birthday in February reminding people of the dark side of stardom when the Reddit ‘NSFW’ forums counted. the days until she was a legal adult were exposed.
It wasn’t long before the long list of other former child stars who received the same treatment surfaced online, including Britney Spears, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Hilary Duff.
Matilda Actress Mara Wilson also spoke at length about her unsettling experience of becoming a movie star at age 5. In an essay for Elle that was published in 2017, she recalled being “featured on foot fetish websites, photographed in child pornography and [receiving] all kinds of letters and online messages from adult men.
And during the Women’s March in 2018, Natalie Portman, who was 12 when she starred in Leon: the professional, spoke about the countdown to his own 18th birthday. She also revealed that her body was discussed at length in film reviews when she was still a child.
“Movie critics talked about my budding boobs in reviews. I realized very quickly, even at 13, that if I expressed myself sexually, I wouldn’t feel safe and men would feel safe. right to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort”, explained Natalie then.
Emma Watson has also opened up about the predatory treatment she suffered when she shot to fame at the age of 10 after landing the role of Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise.
“I remember on my 18th birthday, I walked out of my birthday party and photographers lay down on the pavement and took photos up my skirt, which were then published on the front of the English tabloid. [newspapers] the next morning,” she said at a HeForShe press conference in 2016.
“If they had released the photos 24 hours earlier they would have been illegal, but because I had just turned 18 they were legal,” Emma added.
Similarly to Cole, Emma’s former costar Daniel Radcliffe has spoken out about the different treatment he and Emma have received as male and female actors in the past.
Speaking to AP in 2014, Daniel said he was repeatedly called an “unconventional romantic role” when his film what if came out of.
“And so eventually I got bored of hearing that and kind of picked somebody up on that, so I was like, ‘What’s unconventional about me, exactly? Like, tell me,” Daniel recalled.
“And she said, ‘Well, I think it’s probably the fact that you know, we’ve cast you as Harry the boy wizard,’ he continued. “My immediate response to that was, ‘Well, the male population had no problem sexualizing Emma Watson immediately.'”