Before High School Musical came along, the Disney Channel program that was generating the most buzz was the kid-com The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. Thru February it is Disney’s highest-rated series of the year among kids 6-11 and tweens 9-14.
In response to the huge success of Suite Life, Disney Channel next week will for the first time ever debut one new episode of the series on each of five consecutive nights, Monday-Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET.
As any kid or tween will tell you, Suite Life is the story of identical 11-year-old twin boys who reside in a swanky Boston hotel with their mom, the headline singer in the hotel’s ballroom. Zack is the mischief-maker, Cody his often-reluctant accomplice. In grand Disney fashion, the twins continually create all kinds of harmless chaos in and around the hotel. Young viewers can’t get enough of their youthful antics.
Twins Dylan and Cole Sprouse, the 13-year-old actors who portray Zack and Cody, respectively, are among the breakout stars of the season on Disney Channel, as is their co-star Ashley Tisdale, who plays Maddie the candy counter girl. (Tisdale is also one of the stars of High School Musical.) The twins also starred in the 1993-98 ABC series Grace Under Fire and the 1999 Adam Sandler comedy Big Daddy, both times portraying one character. Cole appeared solo on NBC’s Friends as Ross’ son, Ben. But their starring roles on Suite Life have made them household names, at least with the under-thirteen crowd.
Dylan (named after poet Dylan Thomas) and Cole (named after jazz singer Nat King Cole) were among the many Disney Channel stars who recently appeared at the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers in New York City. Eleven-year-old television critic and MediaVillage correspondent Maya Motavalli–who describes Dylan and Cole as “adorable”–met the wise-beyond-their-years twins at the Disney event and talked with them about the success of their show and their future plans. Among her findings: They’re working with television’s other twin titans, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, on a multi-faceted line of consumer goods targeted to teen boys.
Maya Motavalli: How much do you love working on The Suite Life?
Cole Sprouse: It’s great!
Dylan Sprouse: Not only do we love it, but we adore it. We think it’s sweet!
CS: Yeah, we get to meet a lot of cool people. Everybody who works on it is basically our family. Work that is fun is not work! Remember that.
DS: Do you think your work is fun?
MM: Yeah, I love it.
DS: Then it’s not work at all!
MM: What is it like having your brother on the set?
CS: Sometimes we fight and sometimes we don’t, but it’s cool because if we do something wrong we can always comment on it, like “You didn’t do that too well, try it this way.”
DS: Usually we don’t agree with what we say but we [help each other] a little bit.
MM: Why do you think the show took off as quickly as it did and became an overnight sensation? [Suite Life premiered in March 2005.]
CS: I think it got to where it was because it appeals to all ages, as in 6-year-olds, preteens, tweens, teens and a whole bunch of other people.
DS: And it’s a family show.
CS: And there are a lot of characters that people learn to love in it. You basically [watch] these characters grow and see what happens to them as time goes on.
MM: Do you hear from a lot of adults as well as kids about the show?
DS: Oh, yeah.
MM: What do they tell you?
CS: It is a family show so kids will sit down with their family and watch it and then adults learn to love it, too.
MM: There aren’t a lot of family shows on television.
CS: There really aren’t, except for Lost. I love that show.
MM: Is that your favorite show?
DS: Oh yeah!
MM: Do you stay up late to watch it?
DS: Yeah. The last episode we didn’t see, so hopefully we can download it on iTunes.
MM: Are you like your characters in any way?
CS: Actually, Zack and Cody are based on Dylan and Cole. They’re us with basically a little tweak to them.
DS: Cody is more of a nerd in the show…
CS: …than I am in real life. They tweaked that a little bit.
MM: Can you now go out in public without being attacked by girls?
CS: I bet every time we go out we get noticed by at least five people.
MM: What’s next for you guys?
CS: Well, we’ve been working on a deal with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. We’re going to make a clothing line and videos and follow in their footsteps. That’s cool and big!
DS: They were extremely successful and we’re hoping to do the same.
MM: What else?
CS: We’re going to finish the season and maybe do a movie.
MM: For the Disney Channel or [movie theaters]?
DS: Disney. I don’t know about theaters. It might hit theaters.
MM: If you do it for the Disney Channel it might be as big as High School Musical.
DS: High School Musical did very, very well.
MM: My dad was also born on August 4th and he’s also a twin. [The Sprouse twins’ birthday is August 4, 1992.]
DS: That’s so weird!
CS: Maybe, if we think hard enough we can communicate with him! [Cole touches his hands to his forehead, closes his eyes and begins chanting.] Think! Think! Think!
CS: He says “Hi!”