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Phill Lewis looks back on all the sweet times that he had while working on the Disney Channel's two "Suite Life" shows

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Phill Lewis looks back on all the sweet times that he had while working on the Disney Channel's two "Suite Life" shows

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If you've watched television and/or been to the movies over the past 25 years, you're familiar with Phill Lewis' work.

I mean, how could you not be? This talented character actor has made memorable appearances on Top 10 TV shows like "Hill Street Blues," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Friends." Not to mention popping up in popular motion pictures like "City Slickers," "Heathers" and "Bowfinger."

A very young Phill Lewis as he appeared in 1991's "City Slickers."
Copyright Columbia Pictures. All rights reserved

But if you were to turn to a tween and then ask them who Phill Lewis is, they'd immediately ignore everything else on Lewis' resume and just zero in on a single role: Marion Moseby, Zack & Cody's fussy foil on the Disney Channel's two "Suite Life" shows.

Given that the series finale for "The Suite Life on Deck" airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET / PT, Phill was in kind of a reflective mood when he and I spoke on the phone earlier this week.

"I've going to Hollywood Center Studios (i.e. the LA production facility where both "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" and "The Suite Life on Deck" were filmed) for so long that my car basically drives itself there," Lewis laughed. "After playing Mr. Moseby in 87 episodes of 'Zack and Cody' and 71 episodes of 'On Deck,' it feels kind of strange now to finally be letting go of this character."

( L to R ) Adrian R'Mante, Phill Lewis, Ashley Tisdale, Dylan Sprouse, Brenda Song and
Cole Sprouse from the Disney Channel's "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody." Photo by
Craig Sjodin. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Of course, one of the main reasons that Phill is feeling so nostalgic was that he literally got to see his co-stars grow up over the course of these two Disney Channel shows.

"Dylan and Cole had done some film work and television prior to 'Suite Life.' But it was on these two Disney Channel series that they really came into their own as performers. Showed that they had the talent and the work ethic to succeed in this business," Lewis explained.

Mind you, as the "old guy" on set (Phill was in his late 30s when he landed the part of Marion Moseby), Lewis was always willing to share his wisdom & experience with the younger members of the cast. Especially when it came to the ins and outs of show biz.

(L to R) Phill Lewis, Dylan Sprouse, Brenda Strong,
Debby Ryan and Cole Sprouse from the Disney
Channel's "The Suite Life on Deck." Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"For me ... Well, as an actor who's working these days, I never ever forget how fortunate I am. How lucky I am to actually have this gig. Which is why I always do the best possible work that I can," Phill said. "More to the point, when you're lucky enough to have a job on a show like 'Suite Life' that has a fairly lengthy run, you should then take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way in order to promote your growth as an actor and as a person."

Which is clearly the sort of career advise that Ashley Tisdale listened to. Given her move from being Maddie the candy counter girl on "The Suite Life with Zack & Cody" to then playing Sharpay Evans in Disney's three "High School Musical" projects as well as that recent "HSM" spin-off, "Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure" ...  But in Lewis' case, growing meant moving behind the camera and trying his hand at directing.

"I directed one episode of 'The Suite Life with Zack & Cody.' And they must have liked the job that I did. Because I then got the chance to direct nine episodes of 'The Suite Life on Deck' over the course of that series," Phill continued. "And while I don't think that I'll ever entirely give up on performing, I have to admit that I do enjoy directing. In fact, I've just recently directed an episode of 'Good Luck Charlie.' And I've been talking with the Disney Channel lately about possibly directing some episodes of some of the other shows that they now have in the works."

(L to R) Dylan Sprouse, Cole Sprouse, Phill Lewis and Kim Rhodes on set at "The
Suite Life with Zack and Cody." Photo by Scott Garfield. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But that's in the future ... And - for now - Lewis is looking back at Marion Moseby, the memorable "Suite Life" character that he's been playing since 2005.

"I like to describe Mr. Moseby as being from the Gale Gordon School of sitcom acting, with a minor in Robert Guillaume," Phill said. "In that - while Zack & Cody & London often made Mr. Moseby's life miserable and often drove him crazy - you knew that, way down deep,that Mr. Moseby really cared about these kids. That he always wanted what was best for them."

That said, Lewis still remembers being pitched the hilarious cold opening for the very first episode of "The Suite Life on Deck."

(L to R) Phill Lewis, Dylan Sprouse, Kim Rhodes and Cole Sprouse in the premiere
episode of "The Suite Life on Deck." Photo by Dean Hendler. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"I was actually at my gym when I got the call from Danny (Kallis, the co-creator & executive producer of 'Zack and Cody' and 'On Deck'). And Danny told me about this great opening gag that they'd come up with. Where Mr. Moseby is standing at the top of the gangway on the SS Tipton. And he's so happy to see London when she arrives on board with all of her luggage. But then Mr. Moseby sees Zack & Cody and realizes that they're coming on this cruise as well. And Mr. Moseby's so upset that he hasn't escaped the boys, that Zack and Cody will actually be joining London at Seven Seas High, that Moseby immediately jumps off the ship," Phill remembers. "So I laugh and then ask Danny the really important question: Does Moseby get back on that boat?"

Thankfully, Mr. Moseby did get back on board the SS Tipton. Which meant that Lewis was able to continue on in a role that he really enjoyed playing.

"I got to do some really fun stuff as Marion Moseby. Take - for example - playing my own grandmother in an episode of 'The Suite Life with Zack & Cody,' " Phill recalled. "Mind you, it wasn't much fun having all of those prosthetics glued to your face. But - as an actor - to go through that sort of extensive make-up process and then play an entirely new character ... Well, that was a lot of fun."

Phill and the cast of "The Suite Life on Deck" during a promotional appearance at the old
5th Avenue World of Disney store in New York City. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

And that - in the end - is how Phill Lewis is going to look back on all that time he spent behind the desk at the Tipton Hotel and/or off sailing around the world aboard the SS Tipton. That he and his young co-stars all had a great time while working on the Disney Channel's two "Suite Life" shows.

"I know that it's kind of a cliché to say something like this. But over the course making 'Zack and Cody' and 'On Deck,' we really became close. Like a family," Lewis said. "The cast and I would do stuff together all the time. Like when I went back to 'Scrubs' to shoot my cameo appearance as Hooch for their series finale. I actually brought Dylan and Cole along with me to the set that day. They were big fans of that show. So they were thrilled to be there with me as 'Scrubs' closed out its run."

Wrapped up tight in a straight jacket, Hooch says "Good-bye" to J.D. in his own special
ways as part of the "Scrubs" series finale. Copyright ABC Studios. All rights reserved

And speaking of getting together with the Sprouses at a series finale ... Phill will be getting together with Dylan & Cole (as well as the rest of the cast of "The Suite Life on Deck") at an undisclosed location later tonight. So that - as a group - they can then watch as the SS Tipton sails off into the sunset.

"I hope that this episode turned out okay. To be honest, I haven't seen the final cut yet," Lewis concluded. "Whatever happens, it'll be great to get together. See everybody again. And remember how lucky we were to work on two shows that were as much fun to make as 'The Suite Life with Zack & Cody' and 'The Suite Life on Deck.' "

Which - admittedly - is kind of a bittersweet way to end an article about the series finale for "The Suite Life on Deck." But as for Phill Lewis ... Given his burgeoning career as a director for television as well as the voicework that he's now doing for hit Disney Junior shows like "Special Agent Oso," it's not like this talented performer is going to disappear over the horizon anytime soon.

(L to R) Wolfie, Dotty and Oso from the Disney Junior series, "Special Agent Oso." Wolfie
is voiced by Phill Lewis. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And as for any future endeavors that Phil Lewis may tackle ... To quote Marion Moseby's much-used comic catchphrase: "Good luck with that."

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  • Bring back the series was one of the best channels and now it's one of the worst. They ended wizards and suite life on deck. It can't get worse.

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