2019 has been a banner year, capitalizing on the nostalgia of the kids of the early 2000s: The Jonas Brothers released a new single, there are rumors of a “Drake & Josh” reboot, and Miley Cyrus has once again donned the blonde wig. But Cole Sprouse saw the merit in taking advantage of Millenials’ yearning for the good old days, rebranding himself from the little boy running around The Tipton Hotel to the brooding high school “weirdo.”
Although Cole Sprouse and his twin, Dylan Sprouse, have been acting since they were eight months old, it wasn’t until their 2005 debut in “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” that they made a name for themselves. Not only did the three-season show get nominated for three Emmys, it also was the most successful show premiere on Disney Channel at the time. The show — about twins who run wild in The Tipton Hotel, where they live — was a staple of many children’s T.V. rituals in the mid-2000s. Dylan and Cole returned as Zack and Cody again and again in crossovers of other popular Disney shows like “That’s So Raven” and their spinoff show “The Suite Life on Deck.”
But after “The Suite Life Movie” in 2011, the Sprouse twins left Zack and Cody behind and began to differentiate between themselves. While they both attended New York University, Cole pursued archeology while Dylan studied video game design. From 2012 until 2016, neither brother appeared in much of anything as Cole worked on excavations while Dylan opened All Wise Meadery, only reminding the world of their presence with the occasional funny tweet. However, 2017 brought “Riverdale,” a huge turning point in Cole’s career.
Much like the “unpopular opinions” that get so many retweets on Twitter precisely due to the opinion’s popularity, Jughead Jones — and by extension, Cole Sprouse himself — is the weirdo everyone loves because he is so relatable. Jughead is a character full of contradictions: He’s a softy hipster boy who wants to write novels, whose father is the leader of the notorious gang, the Southside Serpents, and yet his best friend is Archie Andrews, star of the football team and Mr. Popular himself. Jughead keeps company in all the cliques — the artsy students, the tough kids, the misunderstood, and also the popular crowd. In other words, he’s hyper-relatable.
Most famous is his “I’m a Weirdo” speech, in which he says, "In case you haven’t noticed, I'm weird. I’m a weirdo. I don't fit in. And I don't want to fit in. Have you ever seen me without this stupid hat on? That's weird." This sparked a flurry of memes making fun of what Sprouse himself calls one of Jughead’s “cringeboy moments.” But more importantly, this moment marks Cole Sprouse’s successful rebranding from Cody, the mischievous little boy that made Millennial children laugh, to the moody and melodramatic teenager that his fans, now 10 years older, crave.
So, Sprouse’s latest role in “Five Feet Apart” — a YA sick-lit novel adapted into a movie — continues his new trajectory as the not-so-average teen heartthrob. In this film, Sprouse plays Will Newman, a teenaged cystic fibrosis patient who meets another CF patient Stella Grant in the hospital. In a movie reminiscent of the 2014 tearjerker “The Fault in Our Stars,” Sprouse’s touching performance is sure to pull at the audience’s heartstrings.
While Dylan stars in indie films and lives an obscurer life, Cole’s rebranding has put him back in the spotlight. Even before bringing back the 2000s was the hot new thing, Cole Sprouse has reemerged and taken roles that are relatable to any young adult who doesn’t see themself as average (which is, apparently, pretty much everyone). In perfect Jughead Jones fashion, Cole Sprouse capitalized on the 2000s nostalgia before it was cool.
—Staff writer Caroline E. Tew can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @caroline_tew.