Cole Sprouse has a zen approach to his re-emergence into the spotlight.
Chalk it up to his many years in the business and surviving child stardom, or that he took a step back from the entertainment industry to go to and graduate from college, or that he has a very successful second career as a photographer. Whatever it is, not much rattles Sprouse, 25 — even those rumblings about a romance with his Riverdale costar Lili Reinhart (we’ll get to that later). He’s taking it all in stride, including the fact that he is part of PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive issue, as one of our Men of the Year.
“This is unreal considering I started when I was so young,” Sprouse says of his Men of the Year honors. “But it’s flattering. Yeah, I think I better take advantage of like the three years I look good until it starts to go downhill from all the childhood coffee. I started drinking it way too young.”
Self-deprecating and a sense of humor? Those are two sexy qualities on display right at the start of our interview. And there’s a lot more where that came from. Here are 10 more sexy things Sprouse has to say about his life, loves and why he’s a “sucker for romance.”
He insists he went through several awkward stages.
“I must have been the strange brother on campus [at NYU],” he says. “I had long hair down to my nipples and a pubey mustache and like all tweed so just not really a good look. Definitely not Sexiest Man Alive look. It was bad, it was bad. Don’t look for photos.”
He’s honest about the pros and cons of child stardom.
“There’s an incredible amount of loneliness that comes with child stardom because you’re isolated from your society,” he says. “But I had my brother [Dylan Sprouse] who was going through the exact same set of circumstances that I was and in an identical way, so I was able to talk to him about the things that I was feeling and how it was going in my life … I never anticipated the rise of social media. I anticipated we would go to college and then we would fade out, that was kind of what we wanted at the time, but social media hung onto my brother and I, and thankfully fans hung onto my brother and I, and I think it’s one of the reasons that this reemergence can come back with a little more strength, and I’m very thankful for that.”
If he wasn’t acting he would be a photographer and/or an archaeologist.
“I was studying archaeology in school, I was applying to a few of my graduate schools just afterwards and would be doing that if the show hadn’t swept me up to Vancouver,” he says. “I take a lot of pride in my photography. I built a successful career after college, which I was pursuing full-time before I got this role, and that was already taking off on the strength of my own hard work I had had when I was younger. I take a lot of pride in and I put a lot of passion into that to make sure it is something that raises the bar, especially in an age where imagery is so constant.”
He looks to Riverdale costar KJ Apa for fitness inspiration.
“It’s good being on a show with people like KJ who are monsters,” he says. “He’s ripped, he’s been ripped since he was like 10, so it’s nice going to the gym with dudes like that because I just mimic what they are doing and by proxy I get an exercise I never thought I would be able to get, which is one of the perks of being on a teen drama!”
Also: never underestimate the motivational power of a shirtless scene.
“I focus on different parts of the body on different days,” Sprouse says of his exercise regimen. “It’s usually high intensity circuits and a lot of body weight stuff. I’m not looking to put on too much weight through weight training, so it kind of depends on the scene. If we have a prospect of a shirtless scene coming up, I usually go a little harder in the four weeks prior than otherwise, but yeah, it’s important to stay physically fit.”
The sexiest day of his life involved ‘extreme romance,’ ‘foreplay’ and a road trip.
“I try to create, especially in sexuality, moments of extreme romance and getaways and usually those are the sexiest,” Sprouse says when asked about his sexiest day ever. “I can’t go into too much detail. I think sexuality and foreplay are deeply intermingled with romance and setting and all of that and, thankfully, when you’re a photographer, you are consistently in the most beautiful settings with people that you really care about, so it’s a deeply sexy thing, it’s a sexy relationship to have with artistry and environment and romance in general. I think imagery is also deeply interwoven in sexuality and romance. I believe every photographer is influenced by their sexual preference in a greater or lesser way, and it certainly has effected me.”
He’s inspired by Greek poets and Shakespeare (of course).
“It’s almost always a landscape that becomes the kind of muse, which ushers you into a romantic experience,” he says. “It’s no new concept, the Greeks and Romans wrote all about it. If you’ve read your Ovid, you know how sexy it can be. I’m a huge Ovid fan and obviously Shakespeare pulled from Ovid tremendously for his works. That’s where I firmly base, no pun intended, firmly base my understanding of romance and my understanding of sexuality.”
He’s entertained by the many rumors circling about him and his Riverdale costars.
“The core four of the Riverdale [cast] are now engaged in dating scandals beyond our wildest anticipation,” Sprouse says. “Everyone has something to say about one of us dating our costars, I’m rumored to be dating KJ, Cami [Mendes], Lili, Madeline [Petsch], everyone on this show. And I am flattered! If I were to talk to my own self about this it would be like, ‘No way.’ Lili and I are constantly talked about in the public eye, and for me I think that it is being deeply informed by the love of the characters and wanting to see us together. I think that in many ways it’s offensive and an invasion of privacy, but it’s also a badge of honor because it means you’re creating a chemistry onscreen that is so understandable that people want to see it in real life, which is flattering from a professional perspective.”
He has a direct answer for those wondering about his relationship with Reinhart.
“No comment,” he says. “Because whether you dismiss those rumors or whether you encourage those rumors, it’s giving people who are in my opinion are a bit entitled to your personal life more power, and you have to have spaces for reverence in the industry. Going to college made me realize you have to have real spaces of privacy and you have to establish those early. [Ryan] Gosling is a perfect example. Gosling has been in a much more sexual or romantic side of the industry than many actors have to be, and his marriage is not publicized and talked about and beaten over people’s heads because people respect that he set those boundaries early. And that’s the same thing, the more you let people in on that, the more people feel entitled to it and the more it becomes problematic with whoever you end up being with in the future, so I take that very seriously. So I just never talk about it because it’s not anyone’s right to know. People can speculate all they want, people speculate about me with every member of the cast practically, but it’s really no one’s right to know. It’s also sexy, these parts of the relationships that are just yours.”
According to the philosophy of Sprouse, comedy and intelligence are truly the sexiest qualities alive.
“We place an extreme precedence on personal appearance, which is a fleeting thing and it loses itself pretty quickly,” he says. “Youthfulness is one of those things that we exaggerate the hell out of when it comes to sex appeal and romance. The things that truly stick around at the end of the day are personality and intelligence and comedy. Comedy is oftentimes the product of a social intelligence that becomes the currency of romance and something that heals. Laughter is actually proven to heal and is a tremendous force of optimism and I think for me, certainly during my more awkward and formative years, I placed a precedence on intelligence and on learnedness which then became the bread and butter of an older romantic career, and to work on that side of yourself is way more valuable than the superficial, fleeting nature of your beautiful youth. You end up becoming a romantic senior, a romantic geezer rather than just being a solo actor.”