Out of all 87 episodes produced during The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’s three-season run, one is responsible for making the series last as long as it did. Halloween episode “The Ghost in Suite 613” made ghosts canon in the Suite Life universe and gathered the entire extended cast together for one spooky night in the Tipton Hotel.
One of the funniest bits from that episode was Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya De La Rosa Ramirez (Adrian R’Mante) going full-on Exorcist by pretending to channel the ghost of Irene. Because of it, Tumblr has been blessed with (and terrified by) this GIF, changing the popularity of the series forever.
“When we filmed that episode, in our hearts, we felt like this was going to change our future for this series,” R’Mante told MTV News, “and the next thing you know, right after that episode was done and completed and shelved and ready to be aired, it blew up.” That one episode created a huge safety net, allowing the creators to continue filming for the next couple of years.
After it was broadcast, R’Mante said Disney green-lit two more years for the show, taking Esteban from a recurring character to a series regular. (Could you imagine Suite Life being the glorious show it was without having as much Esteban as possible?) A major reason for the episode’s success, the cast realized afterward, was that it included everyone: Zack, Cody, London, Maddie, Esteban, Mr. Moseby, Carey, Arwin, and even Muriel. The same goes for “Christmas at the Tipton,” “Commercial Breaks,” and “A Tale of Two Houses.” “When we were all together, those episodes absolutely killed on TV,” R’Mante said.
Though the episode first aired 11 years ago this month, it’s still heavily memed and referenced in pop culture — especially in connection with American Horror Story’s Hotel and Roanoke. R’Mante recalled how the entire cast, including the then-barely teenaged Dylan and Cole Sprouse, skipped lunch for days and worked a ton of extra hours to make it the funniest, best creation it could be.
The cast improvised several of the famous gags: Esteban’s female ghost possession, the way he says “ghosty” in that sing-songy voice, and wrapping that cheetah-print cloth around his head like a bandanna. The table rising above the ground during the séance wasn’t initially planned, either, though R’Mante couldn’t recall who was moving it. And the Halloween theme extended behind the scenes as well, even in Suite Life’s early days.
“People don’t even know this, but when we first started out, me, Ashley [Tisdale], Brenda [Song], Dylan, and Cole all went to the Playboy Mansion during Halloween,” R’Mante said, quickly clarifying that they didn’t attend the actual party. They did get to hang out at the mansion during the day, though.
Apparently, Suite Life director Rich Correll is a major horror fan and decorates the (now former) Playboy Mansion. Correll let his cast of kids, plus R’Mante, tour the pad and look at all the spooky decor. “It was quite a crazy and awesome experience,” R’Mante said.
It’s been years since R’Mante acted on Suite Life in years, but he’s still recognized by kids and their parents for his iconic Disney Channel role. He is still acting, and in addition to discovering up-and-coming talent — including RJ Cyler from the new Power Rangers film and MTV Scream’s Bex Taylor-Klaus — has several projects in the works. Look for him in the near future in the thriller Unbelievers, on the TV pilot The Haunt, and on Instagram.