Ashley Tisdale Says Her Disney Experience Wasn’t the Same as Cole Sprouse’s

As a breakthrough Disney star, Ashley Tisdale understands the struggles of childhood fame.

At age 18, Tisdale’s career began when she played the hard-working Maddie Fitzpatrick in “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” for children who are still trying to find themselves.

In her third studio album, “Symptoms,” the actor talked about her mental health issues and sang about what it’s like to be a perfectionist.

“I talk openly about my mental health and anxiety and things that I’ve been through,” Tisdale, 36, told TODAY at New York City’s Best Baby Care Launch. “There are definitely times when I felt anxious and pressured to be a perfectionist and try it all.”

Tisdale’s “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” co-star Cole Sprouse knows exactly what she’s talking about. The 29-year-old actor has always been very open about his mental health issues. In the summer of 2020, he took a “much needed” break from social media after it became “too taxing” on his mental health.

Then, in April of this year, he told The New York Times how hard it was for him and some of his colleagues to be on the Disney Channel at a young age.

Cole Sprouse (R), Ashley Tisdale (C) and Dylan Sprouse (L) at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times 13th Annual Halloween Carnival in Universal City, California.  (Amy Graves/WireImage)

Cole Sprouse (R), Ashley Tisdale (C) and Dylan Sprouse (L) at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times 13th Annual Halloween Carnival in Universal City, California. (Amy Graves/WireImage)

Sprouse noted that some of the young women he worked with were “so heavily sexualized” that he found it difficult to compare his experiences with theirs. But whatever everyone was going through, he said the “trauma” of childhood fame can sometimes explain why people go “crazy” later in life.

“Cole is very deep, so it makes sense to come from him,” Tisdale said. “And he’s very young.”

In 2005, Sprouse and his brother, Dylan Sprouse, made a big hit when they played 11-year-old identical twins Zack and Cody Martin in “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody”. The show was so popular that it was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards before getting its own spin-off series, “The Suite Life on Deck,” which ran on Disney Channel from 2008 to 2011.

“They found success at a very young age,” Tisdale said of the brothers.

However, her career also took off very quickly. A year after playing a Tipton co-worker in “The Suite Life,” the “Phineas and Ferb” star made her mark in Hollywood when she played the mean girl Sharpay Evans in “High School Musical.”

Her role as East High’s infamous narcissistic villain earned her an MTV Movie + TV Award in 2009 for Best Breakthrough Female Performance.

“I was 18 when all those things happened to me,” she said of finding fame. “So I think it’s very different when that happens when you’re young. You go through so much and you learn about yourself and about others. That’s hard to deal with and I think that could probably be traumatizing.”

“But I think when I was 18, during ‘The Suite Life’, and I had success, I kind of had a growth period where I really got to know who I was. And I think that’s really hard and hard. For me , it wasn’t the same experience (as Sprouse) because I was older.”

Tisdale then starred in the second and third installments of the “High School Musical” franchise: “High School Musical 2” and “High School Musical 3: Senior Year”. The franchise helped launch her career alongside a few of her co-stars, such as Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Efron, and Corbin Bleu.

Ashley Tisdale (Everett Collection)

Ashley Tisdale (Everett Collection)

Not to mention that Olivia Rodrigo, who played Nini Salazar-Roberts in the Disney+ series, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”, also became a huge star after the show’s debut in 2019.

“I’m obsessed with Olivia Rodrigo,” Tisdale said of the “Driver’s License” singer. “I clearly knew her from her music and I hadn’t seen the series at all, so I was watching it because of her.”

Although Tisdale revealed that she’s only seen one episode of the “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” she said she loves what she’s seen so far.

“I think they did a great job. I think you know, I was never a big fan of redeveloping anything. I’m just one of those people,” she said. “I’m like, ‘You have to leave things in the past as they were.’ But to be honest, I thought that was a great way to get into a series and I felt like everyone was really great at it.”

As for Rodrigo, the executive producer of “Young & Hungry” couldn’t take her eyes off her on the show.

“She just kills it,” Tisdale exulted. “She’s so, so good. I’m obsessed with her.”

At the age of 19, Rodrigo has won three Grammys and a debut album that has been certified triple platinum by the RIAA. But even with so much popularity, none of her hit songs are the go-to track for Tisdale’s 13-month-old daughter, Jupiter French, who she shares with husband Christopher French.

In March 2021, the duo welcomed their daughter into the world. And Tisdale says the only thing that puts her at ease when she’s “crying hysterically in the car” is listening to Pink’s 2017 song “Beautiful Trauma.”

“She’s my favorite artist,” Tisdale said. “But I mean, that’s not typically what you’d play your kid with.”

Jupiter’s taste in music and her love for instruments convinced her parents that one day she could have a promising career as a musician. But if she decides she wants to act, Tisdale’s okay with that.

“Obviously I grew up in this business and I’m so glad my family really kept me going,” said Tisdale. “There were ways I could have turned out I didn’t, thank goodness. So I feel like I’d love it if she kind of did her own thing.”

Ashley Tisdale (Noam Galai / Getty Images)

Ashley Tisdale (Noam Galai / Getty Images)

As for the other young actors in Hollywood, Tisdale has a bit of advice for them. She says it’s “important” to stay in the moment and not constantly worry about what’s next.

“It’s really great that you are yourself,” she said.

“I think when I was younger, so many things happened and a lot happened that I probably didn’t take as many moments as I could,” Tisdale added. “And I think it’s just important to take that in a little bit.”

Taking her own advice, Tisdale noted that she is in no rush to make her fourth studio album. She knows it’s time to make music again when she feels “inspired” by something.

Until then, Tisdale’s primary goal is to be the best mom she can be to Jupiter and to ever star in a single-camera comedy like “The Office.” Luckily for her fans, they won’t have long to wait to see her do the latter, as she already has something in the works.

“I’m really drawn to something where it showcases both my comedy and the kind of grounded comedy I really want to do,” Tisdale said.

“That is my dream.”

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