It’s been over a week since the terrible news broke that Cameron Boyce had passed away in his sleep on July 6, due to a pre-existing condition (reported as epilepsy). The Emmy-winning actor was only 20 years old, and had just living with his fellow Disney Channel peers Karan Brar and Sophie Reynolds. He had landed a role in the upcoming HBO series Mrs. Fletcher, one of his first projects since moving on from his previous manager and leaving Disney.
Many child and teen actors to appear on the Disney Channel go on to stardom and sustained careers, and while he hadn’t reached the superstardom level of Zendaya or Selena Gomez, Boyce quietly put together a decade of premier work in acting, activism, dancing, and modeling that just touches the surface of how talented and passionate he was.
“I think of myself on my deathbed and realize that I’m not going to regret that I didn’t party enough. I’m not going to regret that I didn’t make a stupid decision…What I’m going to regret is not pursuing my creative endeavors in the way that I wanted to. So, for me it’s about staying active and being ahead of the game.”
– Cameron Boyce, 2018
The Life and Career of Cameron Boyce
The multifaceted “Bl-ewish” actor
Cameron Boyce was born to Afro-Caribbean and Jewish parents in Los Angeles, California and trained as an actor and dancer from an early age. “As a kid, I always sort of liked the fact that I didn’t look like everybody else,” he told RAW in 2017. “Some people struggle with the fact that they don’t look like everybody else, but it’s totally what makes you beautiful and unique.”
Cameron Boyce’s first major acting appearance came in 2008 in Panic! At the Disco’s music video for “That Green Gentleman” where he plays around with Russian nesting dolls that members of the band pops out of in miniature form and run free. The video ends with Boyce as one of the kids that climbs into a larger version of the doll, and they are rolled down a hill where they pop out as elderly versions of themselves. Boyce’s profile only skyrocketed from there, as he starred alongside Shia LaBeouf in the Steven Spielberg-produced blockbuster Eagle Eye and in the horror flick Mirrors with Kiefer Sutherland and Paula Patton – both combined to gross nearly $180,000,000 worldwide in 2010. He went on to appear in 7 episodes of SOAPnet’s General Hospital: Night Shift, which marked the beginning of Boyce’s Disney career (as SOAPnet was owned by the company) and was shuttered to make way for the Disney Junior channel. He would win a Young Artist Award for his performance in Judy Moody and The Not Bummer Summer (2011).
Rising, from Jessie to Descendants
Boyce became a regular appearance in family households everywhere once he joined the Disney Channel family, starting with his starring role in the sitcom Jessie. He played the oft-prankish, humorous Luke Ross, one of four adopted siblings under the care of the titular nanny in a rich family’s New York loft. This is where Boyce would meet his close friend Karan Brar and co-stars Peyton List, Skai Jackson, and Debby Ryan. He also secured the titular voice role on the animated series Jake and The Never Land Pirates, and made varying appearances on the network’s other shows Shake It Up, Austin & Ally, and Good Luck Charlie.
Through our screens, Cameron’s distinct freckles and grin made audiences uniquely empathize with his innocent or mischievous characters.
Boyce would later tell Cool America Mag that “For the first couple of years I was on Jessie… I wanted to go Six Flags and ride rides without having kids run up to me and look at me like I wasn’t just a kid.” Children tuning into the Disney Channel found a vibrant friend in his roles, and older viewers that would see him alongside Adam Sandler in Grown Ups or on Code Black were immediately pulled into his characters. He stood out next to other talented and unique performers that made him unforgettable to audiences.
Onto A New Path
By the time Jessie came to an end in 2015, Cameron had already found new notoriety as Carlos of the Disney Channel original film Descendants, and he reprised that role for two sequels and an animated series as well. He then earned the first and only leading role of his career in The Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything, which ran for two seasons, and lent his voice to two separate Spider-Man animated shows on Disney XD.
After parting ways with his agent due to alleged sexual misconduct, Boyce decided it was time to move on to newer pastures. He appeared in the pilot of the Gennifer Goodwin-starring Steps over on ABC, but the series wasn’t picked up and Boyce left the Disney corporate family. He found roles in the film Runt, and the spin-off series of American Satan, Paradise City, but his most notable upcoming role was Mrs. Fletcher, presumably as one of the college student peers of the titular character’s son.
Cameron, Beyond the Screen
More recently, Boyce focused his attention on enjoying things outside of acting. When referred to as a “slashie,” Boyce embraced the idea, saying “I haven’t narrowed in on just one thing yet. It’s unfortunate that so many people in their life feel like they need to narrow in one thing and then stick with it.” He was a very accomplished dancer in a breakdancing crew – featured in the web series The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers – and recognized for his vocal abilities and modeling as well.
Where Cameron may have shined most exceptionally was in his activism. Being the grandchild of one of the first “Clinton 12” high school students to integrate the south in 1956, working toward change was clearly a strong suit of his. He spoke at his grandmother’s high school on behalf of Disney when they released a short film remembering the Clinton 12, which earned him a Daytime Emmy Award. He also advocated against sexual assault with “It’s On Us” and started “Wield for Peace” with Delaney Tarr of March of Our Lives, campaigning against gun violence. Boyce was most recently associated with The Thirst Project, which he described as of most important to him because “the global water crisis is something that can be completely demolished in our lifetime.” In his honor, it was announced his family was creating a foundation in his name.
Cameron’s beloved, buoyant persona, on and off camera, put anybody at ease, and set a standard for anyone on how to be cool, responsible and sensitive altogether, and that may be the most important thing he’s given the world.
But most of all, Cameron Boyce just wanted to be a normal kid. Like most child stars, he spoke of isolation and difficulty in growing up adored and idolized by so many. What set him apart though is that he didn’t shy away or crumble from the difficulties of his career – in fact, he learned to love it. “As normal as I am or want to be, the reality is I love what I do and if what I do makes me a little different, I’m okay with it,” Cameron reflected in 2018. “I realized that when they come up to me or when they sort of sneak a photo of me, or sort of whisper about me or point at me, it’s not because of anything other than the fact that they just appreciate what I do.”
We appreciate what you’ve done, Cameron. It won’t be forgotten.