Sprouse was born on August 4, 1992, in Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy, a quarter of an hour after his brother Dylan. The twins’ parents, Melanie Wright and Matthew Sprouse, were English teachers in Italy at the time.
Sprouse, Dylan and their parents moved from Italy to Southern California when the twins were four months old. Following the suggestion of their grandmother, an actress and drama teacher, the brothers soon embarked upon what turned out to be a very successful acting career (they even landed the first commercial they auditioned for). Sprouse has noted that his childhood entry into acting resulted from his family’s need for money, though he came to appreciate many of the opportunities the career presented him with.
After leaving Disney, Sprouse studied archaeology, geographic information systems and satellite imaging at New York University (Dylan went to the same school; Sprouse’s future Riverdale co-star Mendes was a fellow student as well). Sprouse and his brother graduated in May 2015; as a prank, they switched places to get their diplomas. Sprouse next took a job as an archaeological assistant in an artifact laboratory in Brooklyn, where he was working when he read the script for Riverdale.
Sprouse and Dylan shared the role of Patrick, the youngest son of Brett Butler’s character on the TV show Grace Under Fire (1993-98). In 1999, the brothers made their feature film debut playing Adam Sandler’s son in Big Daddy, then were seen as a set of alien twins in the movie The Astronaut’s Wife. In 2000, Sprouse alone was cast as Ben, the son of David Schwimmer’s character of Ross on Friends (working on set, Sprouse developed a crush on Jennifer Aniston).
Sprouse and Dylan reached a much higher level of fame with their Disney Channel sitcom The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (Sprouse played Cody, the more conscientious of the twins). The Suite Life was a top-rated series that ran from 2005 to 2008. The Sprouses also headlined a Suite Life TV movie and the spinoff The Suite Life on Deck (2008-11). In addition, the duo’s Suite Life characters showed up on contemporaneous Disney hits like That’s So Raven, Wizards of Waverly Place and Miley Cyrus’ Hannah Montana.
Sprouse credits social media with facilitating his stepping back into the spotlight, telling People magazine in 2017, “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.”
Sprouse started his adult acting career with the CW series Riverdale, a noirish spin on the world of Archie comics that premiered in January 2017. Though he’d initially been up for Archie, Sprouse was drawn to the character of Jughead Jones — an outsider who serves as the show’s narrator — and asked to audition for that part. Sprouse was cast as Jughead but had to dye his blonde hair black for the role (he’s noted this makes it easier for people to distinguish him from his twin). Other stars on the successful series include KJ Apa as Archie and Camila Mendes as Veronica.
In 2019, Sprouse co-starred with Haley Lu Richardson in Five Feet Apart, the two playing cystic fibrosis patients who develop feelings for one another. The romantic drama was a commercial success but drew mixed reviews, with some in the cystic fibrosis community criticizing the trivialization of a series illness.