Cole Sprouse Is Watching You
Cole Sprouse isn’t easily spooked, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t seen things—as a child actor, sure, but also as Jughead on Riverdale, in his house at night, and on the streets of The Valley. The 29-year-old actor and photographer is also a diehard horror movie fan, and appeared last year on Qcode’s horror podcast series Borrasca, which was recently renewed for an equally eerie second season. To mark the occasion, Sprouse told us what scares him—from turning 30 to being buried alive on the set of Riverdale—and what he does when nobody’s watching.
INTERVIEW: When was the last time you screamed?
COLE SPROUSE: Out of fear?
INTERVIEW: That’s up to you.
SPROUSE: My brother jumped out at me as I was leaving the bathroom two nights ago. A jump scare. I screamed a rather emasculating scream, and contorted my body into a hunched position. I tried to pass it off like it was tough, but it wasn’t tough.
INTERVIEW: Was it a public scream?
SPROUSE: I was at my house with a bunch of people, and he really made a whole spectacle about it.
INTERVIEW: Have you ever seen a ghost?
SPROUSE: I have seen a ghost. I’m not a big believer in ghosts.
INTERVIEW: That makes it more believable, doesn’t it.
SPROUSE: I’ve seen a creature, I will say. For some reason this will never leave my mind. I was nine years old, and my brother and I lived in this part of the Valley that had very old houses and no streetlights. We were going to sleep over at our buddy’s house on the other side of the neighborhood. We left around dusk, and before we knew it, it was pitch black. We were kind of spooked because we were young, and we reached this fork, this actually still gives me chills, and as we got to the middle of the fork, we looked up. There was this—I don’t even know how to describe it—humanoid shape that was moving in this kind of undulating way, and it froze me in my tracks. I was petrified, and I thought it was just a trick in my brain, but then I turned and saw that my brother and my friend were also frozen. The thing moved toward us, and without saying a word, all three of us started sprinting towards our friend’s house. When we got there, we tried to tell his mom what the fuck just happened, but it made us sound insane. We were like kids in a tacky ‘90s horror movie. We couldn’t sleep that night, obviously. For some reason that one will always be stuck in my mind. I can still see that form so clearly.
INTERVIEW: Stay out of the Valley, kids.
SPROUSE: I mean, that’s why we all leave the second we turn 18, because of the undulating demons coming down from the hills. [Laughs]
INTERVIEW: What’s the scariest part about being a child star?
SPROUSE: The money! No, I’m just joking. I think I’ve exhausted this conversation.
INTERVIEW: Who scares you?
SPROUSE: People who share all of their personal life on social media. Those people genuinely scare me. I’m firmly convinced that any form of social media is a performance. People who are willing to perform every aspect of their life there are truly a terrifying breed.
INTERVIEW: Who is scared of you?
SPROUSE: I’ve never even thought about that. I would say, probably my therapist. I’m not the most grizzled young man, and my hairless face renders me pretty approachable to most people.
INTERVIEW: Who are you watching?
SPROUSE: That’s great, I love that. My brother, because he’s currently staying with me.
INTERVIEW: So you’re on your toes.
SPROUSE: Oh, constantly.
INTERVIEW: Is he trying on all your clothes?
SPROUSE: He steals all of my clothes, but I’m used to that.
INTERVIEW: What do you do when no one is watching?
SPROUSE: Masturbate. Or pick my nose. One of the two.
INTERVIEW: Sometimes both!
SPROUSE: At the same time. But I play video games quite a bit. That’s the only little space where I finally have no responsibilities. I have already logged an unholy amount of hours on Elden Ring, which has been truly ludacris. That’s how I check out.
INTERVIEW: Do you watch scary movies?
SPROUSE: I love to, actually. But sometimes I cover my eyes, I will admit. I’ll angle myself so that my eyes are blocked and I look like “The Thinker” to whoever I’m sitting next to. But the scary movies I love most are psychological thrillers—I love that deep, tense fear.
INTERVIEW: What’re some of your all time favorites?
SPROUSE: I love Hereditary and The Thing, where there’s this claustrophobia and you’re trapped in the movie. I love me some existential dread.
INTERVIEW: Is there a role that would genuinely scare you?
SPROUSE: I don’t know if I have that kind of relationship to my work. It’s not like if I was playing a villain I would commit acts of villainy. There are some people who reach that island by diving into a method that requires them to actually stoop to that level, which I think is the scariest idea. But the scariest villains, in my opinion, are the ones that have justifiable reasons for their villainy. I’d love to be a part of a piece where the villain’s argument is so compelling that you can’t help but be like, “Oh man. I actually sort of agree with this guy.”
INTERVIEW: Who watches you?
SPROUSE: I hope my audience, but I think my friends and family. I’m entering my thirties, so I feel like everyone’s wondering if I’m well rounded enough to step into this phase of my life. I would say they’re watching more in an accountability way than a stalking way. I do have a stalker though, who I assume is watching my every move.
INTERVIEW: Tell me about Camera Duels. Who usually wins?
SPROUSE: Despite the narrative I’ve pushed on that Instagram account—which is that I always win—I’ve realized that we both kind of lose. They have a picture of me, and I have a picture of them, and that’s how it works. As long as my camera is in the shot, I consider the interaction a personal victory. But I would say we both ultimately lose, just emotionally.
INTERVIEW: Do you like being watched?
SPROUSE: I don’t, no. I consider privacy, especially in our social media age, to be the ultimate form of privilege. I don’t think it’s surprising that a lot of single people are like, “I want a partner that’s got two followers!” What we desire, truly, is to return to a form of privacy that may no longer exist.
SPROUSE: I like when a performance of mine is seen, and there’s a cultivation of respect through work. That sort of watching I really enjoy, but I don’t like when my humanity is watched. Most of us are gross little hairless apes that run around all stupid and silly, but also glorious and beautiful. When your humanity is under a magnifying glass, I’m not too keen on that kind of watching. But the performance thing, I love that! Otherwise what the fuck am I doing?
INTERVIEW: Are you a voyeur?
SPROUSE: Sure. I’m a big people watcher. I think people who grew up sheltered end up turning to voyeurism, as a means of empathizing, in order to see what humanity looks like. But I was an anthropology student in school, and I love listening to other people’s stories, cultivating that relationship with them to find different parts of myself. I’m starting to sound a kind of like a Tinder profile, so let’s just go with a “Yes, I am.”
INTERVIEW: Who do you stalk?
SPROUSE: You know, last year I unfollowed everyone on Instagram, which has helped my stalking quite a bit. I stalk photographers a lot.
INTERVIEW: What’s the last thing you got in trouble for?
SPROUSE: Oh, it was last night. I was supposed to meet some of my buddies, they were playing video games in some Beverly Hills house, and they sent me the wrong address by mistake. I walked up around 11 at night, and knocked on the door of the absolute wrong house. The guy who answered was completely petrified. He started shutting off all the lights before he came to the door. It really made me feel like I was breaking and entering.
INTERVIEW: Did you have all your gamer gear?
SPROUSE: I had the GameCube controller in my hand, I don’t think I appeared as much of a threat, but he perceived me as a threat. I didn’t get into any trouble, but I felt like a real pest.
INTERVIEW: Have you ever scared yourself?
SPROUSE: In my darker moments for sure. Everyone has the potential to scare themselves. I think usually a good night of sleep and a chat about how you feel can solve a lot of that stuff.
INTERVIEW: And a shower.
SPROUSE: Playing out scenarios in the shower where you’re a lot cooler than you actually are. That can solve a lot of those ailments.
INTERVIEW: What was your biggest childhood fear?
SPROUSE: Clowns. But I really did not like being alone, that was probably the result of my identical twin-hood. I remember when I was quite young, looking at my brother and thinking, “Wow, you’re a completely different person who looks just like me.” It was my first existential crisis. It’s frightening to look at someone so similar to you, and to be having practically identical life experiences. I was petrified of the idea of being alone as a kid, and it made me cry. That sounds really pretentious for an eight year old to say.
INTERVIEW: When you grow out of the footie pajamas things get out of hand.
SPROUSE: Well, that didn’t happen until last year for me.
INTERVIEW: Are you scared to do another season of Riverdale?
SPROUSE: No. You put your name on paper, so you have a general concept from the beginning of how long these things will last.
INTERVIEW: It’s in your control.
SPROUSE: Well, I wouldn’t say that, but it’s certainly something you know is coming.
INTERVIEW: Fair enough. What is the scariest scene you ever shot for Riverdale?
SPROUSE: There was a scene in season four where I was buried alive. The apparatus they built was the size of a human coffin. It was cramped, and I had to be in it for quite a while. I’m not a claustrophobic person, but it started to creep in. I had to scoot my way out of the coffin for a little bit to get some fresh air and relax. But luckily we had a safety officer on set, because I’m sure crazy things have happened before.
INTERVIEW: When was the last time you felt truly scared?
SPROUSE: Oh, man. I think anxiety is a form of fear. I get scared when I’m future-thinking too much, and I was scared during the pandemic, genuinely scared. But then, I did that first year film student thing where I got myself a Criterion Collection account and said, “I am going to watch all of the things I’ve been meaning to watch for ages!” But in the end I watched reality TV for four months straight.
INTERVIEW: What was your addiction?
SPROUSE: A lot of home and garden stuff. “The 10 Best British Homes!” That sort of thing.
INTERVIEW: That’s scary.
SPROUSE: That was the most terrified I’d ever been, seeing dangerous amounts of kitsch.
INTERVIEW: When was the last time you lied?
SPROUSE: I’ve actively been trying to not tell white lies anymore. I used to do that a lot—I’d go, “Yeah I’m okay! I don’t care!” Which was not true. I’m a big people pleaser. In the last two months, I’ve been trying to admit to myself and the people who offend me like, “Yeah that hurts. That sucks.” So I haven’t lied in two months. I’ve lost a lot of friends, a lot of followers, from my brutal honesty, which apparently people don’t dig on the internet, but fuck it.
INTERVIEW: What’re you doing with the rest of your day?
SPROUSE: I’m getting a haircut. Scary.