"Zack & Cody" embark on spin-off voyage
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - It's all aboard for Zack and Cody. Disney Channel is spinning off its live-action comedy "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," giving the hotel-set series a nautical twist. Series stars Cole and Dylan Sprouse, Brenda Song and Phill Lewis are set to reprise their roles for the spin-off, titled "The Suite Life on Deck."
The new series follows twin brothers Zack and Cody Martin (the Sprouses) and hotel heiress London Tipton (Song) after they enroll in a semester-at-sea program aboard the SS Tipton. To his chagrin, dutiful hotel manager Mr. Moseby (Lewis) also must go aboard, assuming responsibility for all three.
"Our audience has shown us that after 88 episodes, 'The Suite Life of Zack & Cody' remains one of their favorite sitcoms ever," said Gary Marsh, president of entertainment at Disney Channels Worldwide. "We decided to find a new way for Zack, Cody, London and Mr. Moseby to live 'The Suite Life' in a whole new setting -- this time aboard a luxury cruise liner."
The channel is now casting for other roles, including London's roommate, Bailey, a Southern girl described as the complete opposite of the hotel heiress. Not returning as a regular in the spin-off will be "Suite Life" and "High School Musical" co-star Ashley Tisdale, who is turning her focus to her film career. But Tisdale might return to the show as a recurring character, Disney Channel senior vice president original programming Adam Bonnett said.
Bonnett added that some scripts were completed before the writers' strike; he hopes to quickly put the show into production once the walkout ends. Like "Suite Life," the spin-off will be a multicamera show shot in front of an audience.
Noting Disney Channel's presence in countries around the world, Bonnett added that the cruise ship setting gives the writers and producers a chance to "go global with the concept" and offers other opportunities as well.
"This is a premise that can travel and go to different locales and ports of call so that we're not doing a show set just in the U.S.," he said. "(In addition), it's an organic setting to bring in unique musical numbers and performances. Like a real cruise ship, we can have a theater where we can create original production numbers."
The Emmy-nominated "Suite Life" was last year's No. 2 scripted series in the demographic categories of kids 6-11 and tweens 9-14, behind only Disney's "Hannah Montana."
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