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Cole Sprouse describes childhood fame as ‘a trauma’

"When we talk about child stars going nuts, what we’re not actually talking about is how fame is a trauma," said the "Riverdale" star.
Cole Sprouse said he gets "violently defensive" when he hears people making fun of the hardships of former Disney Channel stars.
Cole Sprouse said he gets "violently defensive" when he hears people making fun of the hardships of former Disney Channel stars.Getty Images

Cole Sprouse is opening up about the pitfalls of being a child star.

The "Riverdale" actor, 29, played Ross Gellar's young son, Ben, on "Friends" before rising to fame as an adolescent alongside his twin brother, Dylan, on the Disney Channel series "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," from 2005 until 2008, and its spinoff, “The Suite Life on Deck,” from 2008 until 2011.

During an interview with the New York Times, Sprouse described fame as a kind of "trauma," and said he was particularly distraught by the hardships that the young female stars of the Disney Channel endured.

"My brother and I used to get quite a bit of, 'Oh, you made it out! Oh, you’re unscathed!' No. The young women on the channel we were on 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," he said.

Sprouse alluded to the difficulties experienced later in life by former Disney Channel stars —  including Britney Spears, Demi Lovato and Lindsay Lohan —  that have made them the target of nasty headlines.

"When we talk about child stars going nuts, what we’re not actually talking about is how fame is a trauma," he said. "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."

Disney Channel's "The Suite Life Movie"
The Sprouse twins and co-star Matthew Glave in a scene from the Disney Channel's 2011 "The Suite Life Movie," part of the channel's long-running "Suite Life" franchise.Getty Images

Sprouse added that being famous isn’t all that much easier for adults.

“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,” he said, adding, “I just think people have an easier time hiding it when they’re older.”

The actor, who plays a college student in the new HBO Max rom-com “Moonshot,” told the Times that he was looking forward to his 30th birthday in August.

"I feel like my ducks are in a row better than they’ve ever been," he explained.

With "Riverdale" possibly coming to an end after six seasons, Sprouse said he's excited about new career "possibilities."

Just don't expect to see him play Cody Martin again. When Sprouse was asked if he'd ever participate in a "Suite Life" revival, he demurred.

"I don’t think I’ll ever return to that," he said, adding, "I’m just a big believer that if something is beautiful in the past, you should let it stay beautiful."

Besides, added, Sprouse, "It would be hard to be in my 30s and go (in a deep growl), 'Zack and Cody are back, man!'"