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At UMD, Dylan Sprouse Shares His ‘Sweet’ Life Post-Disney

Former Child Star Tells Hundreds About New Role—as a ‘Zack’ of All Trades

By Maggie Haslam

Dylan Sprouse talks on stage

Former “Suite Life with Zack and Cody” star Dylan Sprouse scintillated the Stamp last night in a Q and A for a roomful of UMD fans (below).

Photos by Riley N. Sims Ph.D. ‘23

Why was Dylan Sprouse at the University of Maryland on Tuesday night?

Was it to titillate the student body, who grew up with—and crushed on—him and his twin brother Cole on Disney Channel’s juggernaut “The Suite Life With Zack and Cody”? Was he promoting his film “Beautiful Wedding,” which debuted on Netflix in January? Did he dish on his protein-packed yogurt brand, Thor’s Skyr, his foray into comic books, or his brief stint as a Brooklyn-based mead master (arguably the most hipster moniker ever conceived)?

As it turns out, he may have just wanted to experience the College Park bar scene.

“I’m sorry if I seem tired, I had one too many Guinesses at Looney’s last night,” he joked as he greeted a packed, mostly female audience in the Adele H. Stamp’s Grand Ballroom.

The Q&A, hosted by the University of Maryland’s Student Entertainment Events (SEE), was Sprouse’s first visit to College Park—and first event ever on a college campus. For the hundreds of students in attendance who grew up with the Sprouses on “Suite Life” (and its sequel, “The Suite Life on Deck”), it was a chance to see what’s he’s been up to since.

women sit in a theater watching something in front of them

“I found out he was coming at dinner and I texted my friends immediately,” said aerospace engineering major Nathan Todd ’27, who scrambled to get tickets with three female friends. “We watched every episode of those shows.”

Funny and thoughtful, Sprouse candidly shared his experiences in life after the shows that ultimately launched his career, from pursuing a college degree (the twins graduated from New York University) and finding his path, to coping with his mother’s mental health struggles and recently producing and starring in “Duel,” a film just acquired by Lionsgate. Among the highlights:

He revealed who won the Danimals sweepstakes: The Sprouse twins starred in commercials for the Dannon drinkable yogurt, and in 2009 were part of a sweepstakes with a grand prize of $10,000 and a meet-and-greet with the “Suite Life” stars. An Arkansas woman, he said, bought her two sons the drink, with the older brother discovering the winning bottle. “The kid was 17 and drove a pickup truck,” says Sprouse. “When I got there, I said, ‘You didn’t want to give this to your younger brother?’”

There is no rubric for landing on the “right path”: Curiosity, work and fate sent Sprouse in many directions—from a breakout role in the Adam Sandler movie “Big Daddy” (1999) and nearly 20 years on television to a mead brewing company in Brooklyn, a craft he learned in his NYU dorm room. Now, he said, he finds satisfaction in pursuing projects he loves with people he loves to work with, advice he gave to the hundreds of students. “At the end of the day, the best career path is the one you feel gratified by doing,” he said.

Animal Crossing was the impetus to his move to L.A. A video game design major in college, Sprouse gravitates to single-player games in an immersive world where he can control the story. But during COVID, when he and his wife found themselves in their Brooklyn apartment drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and binging Animal Crossing, they decided to seek out the sunshine of L.A. “It was getting dark, we needed to get out of there,” he laughed. “And I’m afraid I haven’t checked on my [Animal Crossing] village since.”

Sprouse’s mother was inspiration for the tragic hero in his comic. Sprouse revealed that while he and his brother made it through Hollywood as child actors unscathed, the glitz and glamour took a toll on their mother, who was diagnosed with drug-induced schizophrenia. His mythical Viking comic book series, Sun Eater, honors his family’s Danish heritage—and the saga’s hero, his mother. “It’s very much based on her,” he said. “It’s part of the healing process.”

He put to rest the “will they or won’t they” question of a “Suite Life” reboot: A dearth of good options for twins means that joining forces again is more likely with a project he and Cole create together—but it won’t be a reboot of “Suite Life.” “Things deserve to have a lifespan in the time that they were created,” he said. “We love these shows because they were part of people’s childhoods. You go back and watch it, and it makes you feel something, I think it’s a snapshot. And it’s a reason why I don’t want to touch it.”



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