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The Riverdale star opens up about making peace with his celebrity

By Kara Warner
March 14, 2019 12:00 PM
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Cole Sprouse has been grappling with the idea of celebrity and fame longer than most in the public eye as someone who started working when he was 8 months old.

The actor, 26, who became a household name when he was 10 starring opposite his twin brother Dylan in the Disney Channel’s The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, and its spinoff The Suite Life On Deck, admits that he’s been able to make some peace with his celebrity status as he’s gotten older.

“I think [I am] more Zen,” he tells PEOPLE in the latest issue. “The nature of celebrities changed a lot since the rise of social media. When my brother and I were doing The Suite Life, there was really no social media presence until I think the second to last year we were there, which was really the rise of Twitter. And then, I didn’t have a Twitter account until sometime deep into college, and so I kept kind of distant from a lot of that stuff. And even now, my social media is either a showcase for my photography, or just sort of a joke toilet.”

'Five Feet Apart' Film Premiere, Arrivals, Regency Bruin Theatre, Los Angeles, USA - 07 Mar 2019
Credit: MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock

Sprouse admits that as an actor whose job is to play different types of characters, like strong-willed teen Jughead Jones on Riverdale, he feels there is a danger in sharing too much of yourself with the public.

“Social media can be a dangerous thing for actors in that the more you show yourself as a person, the harder it can be for your audience to suspend their disbelief and see you as a character,” he explains. “This is something that previous generations of actors really didn’t have too much of a problem with. I mean, sometimes the paparazzi would follow someone around and try and get as real a semblance of their personality as possible. But we have the ability to curate a very personal connection to an audience now, and some people really like that. I’m not that kind of person.”

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Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson in Five Feet Apart
| Credit: CBS FILMS

Sprouse’s latest role is playing a teen with cystic fibrosis who falls in love with a fellow patient (Haley Lu Richardson) in the romantic drama Five Feet Apart. The actor admits that despite the challenges and research associated with playing someone suffering from a serious illness, tapping into his romantic side wasn’t difficult at all.

For much more on Sprouse and his new movie, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday

“I’m a huge fan of the romance genre. I’m always swept away within that sort of thing,” he says. “I grew up reading Japanese romance manga for young girls — at the time, it was for young girls but I made it my own. So, I’ve always kind of had this fondness for that genre in general. Also, we wanted this movie to feel sort of like a beacon of hope, and not feel debilitating. We’re certainly pulling on the heart strings, but we had curated the script and the performances in a way to make it feel hopeful, which we found quite important for the CF [cystic fibrosis] community and not just for the audience.”

So how is Sprouse feeling about being recognized these days and do fans refer to him by his real name or his character’s names?

RELATED VIDEO: Riverdale’s Cole Sprouse and KJ Apa Are on Vacation Together — and Shirtless

“Oh, it’s been Jughead and Cody and Cole and Dylan and Ben and Julian. I don’t really think about that too much,” he says. “Because I think everybody’s experience with you [is related to] how they were raised or to what they resonate most, and I’ve been lucky enough to have roles and been part of projects that have become successful and people see you on the street and go, ‘Hey man, you made my childhood.’ Or, ‘I really love you in this.’ And that’s kind of the nature of a long acting career, is that you’re sort of used to being called a lot of different things.”

Five Feet Apart opens March 15.