Transitioning into adulthood is no mean feat, especially when one has spent most of their life in the spotlight. For Dylan Sprouse, it would seem to be even more of a task seeing how his career was packaged as a set with twin brother Cole.
"The truth is, I think that on one hand, as we grew older, we developed very different tastes. And on the other hand, the things that we were comfortable doing in the industry obviously changed," Sprouse tells us when asked if there was a conscious effort to chart his own identity. "Cole is very much comfortable doing television and network stuff, and I was not. I definitely did not want to do that for a long time and I still don't really want to."
You're not wrong to think then that Sprouse has been relatively quieter compared to his Riverdale-star brother. Since taking a break from the entertainment industry to pursue a college degree (he earned one in video game design from New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study), Sprouse has been actively working on another passion that blossomed after graduation: mead.
Sprouse's introduction to mead came at the age of 16 when his father gifted him with a home brewing kit. "Growing up, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I was a very excited child and I was very temporal, meaning that I would focus on things right there and then, then get distracted and turn away. So I was looking for a hobby and a passion that would give me a little long-term commitment," Sprouse explains.
"I was also 16; I wanted to try drinking and had no means of buying it. So I decided to brew it. I ended up giving it a try and realised that I loved it. I didn't really love the drinking of it because what I was making back then was very bad. But I did like the pace that it gave me. It made me think long-term—I was thinking three months, six months, a year and a half into the future when it would be ready—and trying to make something in the now that would be stable and tasty by the time it was done."
It was this new-found therapeutic revelation that got him diving deep into brewing mead and drinking in general. In 2017, Sprouse set up All-Wise Meadery in Brooklyn, New York with his college buddy, Matt Kwan. Sprouse is now the youngest master brewer in America and All-Wise Meadery has been receiving nothing but great reviews all around, with distribution to about 47 states in the US.
His passion for mead was also, in a way, a safety net for a career that's as unstable as acting can get. It has enabled Sprouse to dabble in the sort of independent projects that he loves being part of. "I wanted to do more interesting roles that were diverse. This is a crass thing to say, but usually the first-time directors who are really trying and struggling to make something don't have money. And I knew I wanted to be a part of that because that's usually where the artist lives inside any industry," Sprouse reasons. "I didn't want time breathing down my back saying, 'Hey, look, you have to do a film right now' or 'You need to do a television show to support your lifestyle and your family'. So I invested in opening a meadery."
There's a sense of familiarity to Sprouse's story: a celebrity finds a new calling and decides to diversify their brand into something completely different from what they're known for. But in Sprouse's case—unlike most celebrity- led businesses—it's no mere slap of an instantly recognisable name onto an endeavour. Mead is something that he's worked hard on and has excelled at, perhaps in spite of his famous name.
It's something he feels that every actor who made their start at a very young age experiences—imposter syndrome. While acting does require skill and talent, there's also that unavoidable unknown of being at the right place and at the right time.
"There's so much hard work that goes into acting. But this idea of 'I got a lucky break' is permeating through the entire industry. And so a lot of what I have done prove my own insecurity and say, you know, could I have done this without luck? Is there something that I have done that I'm skilled at?" he opines. "For me, seeing people—an audience that was already interested in that subject matter—come into the meadery, talk, try the mead and decide to go along on the ride with me, that has made me very, very happy."
That sense of personal accomplishment is by no means a sign for Sprouse to stop pushing himself. One of his biggest upcoming film projects is Turandot, an adaptation of the opera of the same name by Giacomo Puccini. The fantasy romance flick is a Chinese production directed by filmmaker Xiaolong Zheng and is entirely in Mandarin. And that only means that we'll be watching Sprouse acting in a language he's only learnt for the film. "It's a very difficult language. I mean, there's no way that I would be able to get all the lines perfect, right? So they're going to dub me," he cautions.
What we can safely expect to watch are scenes of Sprouse swordfighting and getting into battles on horseback. Being part of an action film has been a long-term goal of his and even better that Sprouse is able to do so in a market where he's not as recognisable.
But perhaps, what's even bound to be bigger is the return of the Sprouse twins in the same project. While Sprouse says that finding projects that are not "stupid or stereotypical" for twins are always a challenge, they've found one that's unique. He couldn't reveal details, but assures that "it's the only kind of project that my brother and I would do together in the future".
In any case, there is power in nostalgia. And whenever Sprouse chooses to deftly use that to his advantage to brew a historic moment in pop culture history, it would only prove that he still has it; mainstream or not.
Photography: Lenne Chai/ADB Agency
Styling: Savannah White/The Wall Group
Grooming: Melissa DeZarate/The Wall Group
Prop stylist: Lauren Walkup
Assistants: Joel Wolter, An Rong Xu & Louisiana Mei Gelpi
Styling assistant: Jye Leong
Location: 701West @ The Times Square Edition Hotel
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