Photos by Rachel Kaplan
At NYU Local we have the opportunity to interview a wide array of interesting people, but we rarely ever follow them through a typical day in their lives. This past Friday, photographer Rachel Kaplan and I met up with Disney Channel star Dylan Sprouse (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody).
If you’re not familiar with him, just stay in your room today and watch Big Daddy. That little blonde boy grew up to be the Gallatin student known as Dylan Thomas Sprouse. Dylan does have a twin brother named Cole Sprouse, but it made us respect him when he acknowledged that, even though he enjoys the time that he spends with his brother, he enjoys being recognized as an individual.
As of right now, Dylan is in Gallatin and plans to concentrate in video game design with a double major in poetry and studio art.
As Rachel, Dylan and I began our adventure, the first place that we set off to was a quaint coffee shop called MUD Coffee.
Dylan told us the café has coffee trucks but that the menu there has more options. I had never tasted MUD Coffee before, so I asked Dylan what his favorite coffee was. He said that anything on the menu was good, especially the sandwiches and coffee selections, so I took his advice and ordered an iced MUD mocha and the Mudman Special sandwich. As we waited for our orders, we began to discuss our interests. This was where Dylan’s passion about video games began to surface as an important part of his life:
“With video games, everything is the narrative. If you think about it, the way you design it is like mechanics, dynamics, and then aesthetics. As a player, you first see the aesthetics, and then you play and you’re like, ‘Oh, I really like the controls!’ And then you realize the mechanics, so it’s backwards for the player.”
At one point during the conversation, Dylan even joked about how a typical day of his life involves mostly video games. I noticed that, no matter what the conversation topic was, Dylan always spoke articulately about it. For example, during the video game discussion, Dylan talked about turning a “hobby into a passion. It’s for your work; it’s for your benefit.” Rachel and I found it to be admirable that he’s doing something that makes him happy and is taking classes that will help him in the long run.
Since Dylan is looking to have a career in the video gaming industry, it was clear when we talked to him that right now in his life he wants to focus on academics. He spoke about how his first class “taught me what to look for, so that while I’m playing, it taught me to look past the playing as an escape or expression and to look more so at the mechanics and aesthetics.” Having such a deep insight into video games and the ability to articulate their deconstruction demonstrated that working in a different part of the entertainment industry is the right fit for him.
It is important to look at video games as a form of entertainment – just like television, music, and movies – because, as Dylan stated, “video games are already prevalent, but they’re right on the cusp of becoming a validated artistic outlet.” After we had our lunch, we headed towards the subway.
As always, it was packed, but we managed to stay together as a group, bonding over the fact that everyone falls or stumbles at least once on the train. We went uptown to The Morgan Library and Museum, where Dylan had to examine the work of Josef Albers. His homework assignment was to take a piece of artwork by Albers and use it as an influence for a new piece of artwork that would be painted by Dylan himself.
After we left the museum, Dylan talked about the art we had just seen, particularly stating how “it’s always enlightening to see someone’s practice or study of preliminary work.” It was enlightening to see that he was not standoffish or pretentious at all. Even during our first few moments with him, he said that he is open and will often go on mini-rants in conversation. It was just nice – and somewhat ironic – that he wanted to get to know both Rachel and me when we were the ones interviewing him.
What separates a normal interview from this type of interview is that I learned more about who Dylan is as a person – as opposed to who he is as a celebrity. When you first hear that a celebrity is coming to NYU, you may make negative and judgmental comments (“Oh, I wonder if he/she is going to be a diva!”). After spending some quality time with him, though, my perspective changed, and I found Dylan to be one of the most humble celebrities that I have met. It makes you realize that, sometimes, first impressions aren’t everything.