Dylan and Cole Sprouse’s battle with family addiction, bankruptcy and their Disney journey

The untold story of Dylan and Cole Sprouse's turbulent childhood, their rise to Disney stardom, and how they overcame family adversity.

Dylan and Cole Sprouse, Disney’s most famous twins, gained notoriety when they were babies. It was thought that thanks to the millions of dollars they would have earned since childhood, they had no worries about their money. Still, they revealed that their life was affected because their mom became addicted to drugs, which brought devastating consequences to their finances and daily lives.

Their birth and rise to fame

The Sprouse twins were born on August 4, 1992, and since they were eight months old, their parents (Matthew Sprouse and Melanie Wright) decided to initiate them into the world of entertainment. Both participated in Grace Under Fire and shared the role of Patrick Kelly for five years.

Since their parents saw the potential they both had to succeed in acting, they decided to audition in several castings, and in most of them, they stayed; one of the most famous roles they had was in Friends. Later, they starred in A Cool Dad with Adam Sandler, which led to them being nominated to star on the Disney Channel.

"Un papá genial" es considerada la película que los lanzó a la fama gracias a que tuvieron un papel casi protagónico (Captura de pantalla/YouTube-Sony)
“A Cool Dad” is considered the movie that launched them to fame because they had a quasi-starring role (Screenshot/YouTube-Sony).

Disney beginnings: going from Dylan and Cole to Zack and Cody.

When they were 12, the twins finally signed a contract with Disney and got their first starring roles with the series The Suit Life of Zack and Cody(Hotel Dulce Hotel: The Adventures of Zack and Cody).

From then on, their fame only managed to rise until they were among the select group of Disney’s most influential actors, which allowed them to generate millions of dollars each year, as confirmed by Cole in the podcast Call her dady.

While Dylan and Cole enjoyed being young TV stars and having longer careers than most performers their age, their private lives were a torment.

Los gemelos Sprouse lograron obtener su propia serie después de que su papá tuvo su custodia forzada y que lograron estabilidad en su vida (Disney Channel)
The Sprouse twins managed to get their series after their dad had forced custody of them, and they achieved stability in their lives (Disney Channel).

The Sprouses’ private vs. public life

The truth of what the twins went through was revealed when Cole shared on the Call her dady podcast that they started acting because their parents needed money. When they finally got out of the financial crisis they were suffering, they divorced, and the torment began for the then children, who were barely 1 year old.

We really started in this show business to put bread on the table.

When the parents of the protagonists of The Adventures of Zack and Cody separated, the children continued in the entertainment world because their mother, their primary caregiver, made them work to get the money she needed to satisfy her addictions to alcohol and drugs, which she fell into due to mental health issues that she did not address in time.

Cole shared that everything they earned during their first major projects was completely wiped out, and because of this, her mother insisted that they keep working so she could have what she wanted.

“My mother was wonderful and very artistic, but she was the most irresponsible person you can imagine with money.”

The Riverdale star revealed that over time he came to understand what he experienced as a child and it has been a difficult process to come to terms with it to speak publicly about what happened.

Tuvieron gran relevancia en su papel como el hijo de Ross en la exitosa serie "Friends"
They had great relevance in his role as Ross’ son in the hit series “Friends.”

They move from forced custody and resume their lives as child stars.

When they were 10, U.S. social services intervened due to Melanie Wright’s health. This led to a legal fight between the parents for custody to be given to Matthew Sprouse.

The twins’ father was not in favor of them continuing to be actors because he knew that they debuted in the entertainment world out of obligation and not for pleasure.

However, while he had forced custody, Chrissy came into their lives, a woman who took on the role of mother to the Sprouses by becoming Matthew’s girlfriend. She helped the boys understand what they wanted to do with their careers and how to handle their private lives, which led them to rethink whether they truly wanted to leave fame behind.

 "Zack y Cody" se convirtieron en un referente de Disney al mismo tiempo que intentaban rehacer su vida, alejándose por completo de su madre
“Zack and Cody” became a Disney touchstone while trying to rebuild their lives, completely distancing themselves from their mother.

Having a more stable family, Cole and Dylan decided they wanted to continue their acting careers and insisted their father return to the entertainment world.

Although Matthew Sprouse wanted his children to “desperately want to be normal kids,” he agreed to let the twins return to television, which coincided with their early days on the Disney Channel.

Cole shared that to this day, he believes the Disney contract for The Adventures of Zack and Cody was like a lifeline because it forced them to have some stability in their lives, something neither of them had had up to that point.

Los gemelos firmaron contrato con Disney a los 12 años (Grosbygroup)
The twins signed a contract with Disney at age 12 (Grosbygroup).

“We were fine. It gave us stability, consistency and a routine, something my brother and I really needed at the time.”

However, her relationship with her mother did not improve, and the suffering continued.

The mental health of Melanie Wright, mother of the Sprouse twins.

On The Diary of a CEO podcast, Cole delved into how he perceives his mother’s behavior more than 20 years into forced labor.

The actor said that since Melanie became a mother, she thought she could fulfill her goals through her children and make money from this, which was harmful to Dylan and him as at no point did she think about the mental health of the then children.

“My mom is still the kind of tortured artist who suffers with different things in her place in the world. I think she found an incredible amount of ‘identity’ being a mother and trying to turn it into a profitable business.”

Melanie is a painter and always sought to be recognized as such, but she did not achieve the success she hoped to achieve; however, when she realized that through her children she could have it, she went from being a mother to being Cole and Dylan’s manager.

Cole Sprouse ha sido el único que ha hablado sobre su infancia, su hermano prefiere mantener su silencio al respecto (Reuters)
Cole Sprouse has been the only one who has spoken about his childhood. His brother prefers to keep silent about it (Reuters).

The “youngest” Sprouse has said that the industry was what “broke” her, leading her to bring out her worst qualities, mainly narcissism, and selfishness.

“It made a lot of sense for her to make us actors, I think it was satisfying for the narcissism she had to be able to have artistic recognition. She’s an incredible painter, so she always wanted a kind of legitimacy and validation. I think the entertainment world just broke her.”

While neither Disney star has spoken explicitly about their mother’s mental illnesses, they have said they were initiated by “twisted” narcissism and narcotic use.

Zack and Cody’s” adult life outside of Disney

Today, Dylan and Cole continue to be actors and continue to be successful in the projects they are involved in, their private lives improved, but their relationship with their mother could not be salvaged.

For years, as teenagers and as adults, the twins tried to help Melanie but failed, so they completely distanced themselves from her.

Despite the trauma they experienced as children with their mother, Cole has never considered himself a victim of circumstance and didn’t want his career to be based on the public seeing them as martyrs, so he didn’t talk about his childhood until 2022.

Cole revealed in March 2023 that he misses his mother, but there came a time when he chose self-love. For his part, Dylan has preferred not to give statements on the matter.

Actualmente, ambos gemelos han mostrado que mantienen una buena relación con su papá, Cole estudió arqueología mientras de Dylan diseño de videojuegos (Grosbygroup)
Both twins have shown that they maintain a good relationship with their dad. Cole studied archeology while Dylan video game design (Grosbygroup).

After saying goodbye to their characters in Zack and Cody, they both momentarily retired from acting to pursue their studies at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

“It’s not new to say that when people come out of child stardom, they often rebel in very serious ways. I didn’t want to make that public spectacle. So I went to college, show everyone that I had gone through something quite challenging, but I did it with grace and poise and got an education,” she said in a 2017 interview with Women’s Wear Daily .

Cole graduated with a degree in archaeology and is occasionally involved as a photographer for prestigious fashion magazines. At the same time, Dylan did so in video game design. Both brothers graduated with honors in 2015, and however, currently, they are still active in acting with occasional roles. Dylan recently starred in the movies Duel and Wonderful Disaster, the latter alongside actress Virginia Gardner while Cole chose a darker shade of hair to participate in the series Riverdale.