When Cameron Boyce passed away on July 6, 2019, his promising career came to an all too sudden end. And while the Disney Channel star had looked set to make the leap to more adult fare with a role in Mrs. Fletcher, his death at the age of just 20 meant he would never go on to see the world’s reaction to the HBO comedy. But, most importantly of all, the young actor was both a son and a brother – and Boyce’s father would make his own revelation about the star while in the midst of his grief.
The actor’s family would divulge, too, that Boyce had died from an epileptic seizure in his sleep. And, sadly, he wasn’t the only one by far to have passed away in this manner. Every year, around 1 in 1,000 people are struck by Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, or SUDEP.
Of course, it goes without saying that Boyce’s family were devastated at their loss. And although many fans posted tributes to the late star on social media, the words issued by Boyce’s father, Victor, would stand out for revealing something truly heartfelt. In fact, Victor perhaps provided a further example of how collective grief can help to heal gaping wounds.
And despite his short time on Earth, Boyce had had a fascinating life – not to mention a family with a rich history. His grandmother Jo Ann Boyce, for example, was one of the first black people to go to an integrated high school, with her and her fellow trailblazers going on to be called the Clinton Twelve. In 2016 Boyce even appeared on the Disney Channel alongside his grandma to celebrate Black History Month.
What’s more, Cameron looked up to his family when it came to him striking out as an actor. “My dad always talked about not wasting your talent, which is something that has sort of stuck with me,” he told RAW in 2017. “I would say that is a good one, for my career. He’s always been my best friend, and he’s sort of been my light for me.”
Boyce added, “The best advice my mom probably gave me would just be to take the good from certain scenarios. Recognize the bad and do your best to cut it out, and then take whatever good you feel from – whether it’s a person or a scenario – and run with that as opposed to the negative.”
It seems, too, that Boyce had wanted to be on the Disney Channel ever since he was a little kid. “You’re watching all the re-runs and keeping up with the Hannah Montanas and the Ravens of the world. What they did looked really fun to me,” he said to RAW. “I told myself, if I ever get the opportunity to do that, I would definitely try to do it.”
And Boyce did get the opportunity. He made his TV debut in 2008, playing a child version of musician Ryan Ross in the video for band, Panic! at the Disco’s song “That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed).” That same year, he also earned an ongoing role on the soap General Hospital: Night Shift.
Then Boyce was seen in screen in one of his most famous roles as a child actor when he appeared as Keith in 2010 film Grown Ups. Now, while Grown Ups received fairly poor reviews, it did make a lot of money. In any case, the comedy did well enough to spawn 2013 sequel Grown Ups 2 – in which Boyce also appeared.
And in 2011 Boyce would finally achieve his dream of becoming a Disney Channel star when he popped up as a guest on the comedy show Good Luck Charlie. A few months after that, he would win a role that would define his career as a child actor: Luke Ross from the Disney comedy show Jessie.
Remarkably, Boyce impressed the Jessie casting directors so much that they penned the role of Luke especially for him. Originally, a Korean child called Hiro was meant to be among the main characters; Boyce was so good at playing a mischievous boy, however, that the part was rewritten and the character’s ethnicity changed.
What’s more, Boyce became even more of a Disney Channel star in 2015 when he was cast in the musical TV movie Descendants, which tells the stories of the children of the most iconic Disney villains. The fledgling actor played the son of 101 Dalmatians character Cruella de Vil.
And off camera, Boyce also turned his focus to philanthropy by helping raise money for homelessness charities. In 2017 he even began promoting the work of non-profit organization Thirst Project. At the time, he spoke about this to RAW. “When I learned more about how the global water crisis is something that can be completely demolished in our lifetime, it just makes you that much more crazy about it,” he said. In addition, he made a lot of money fundraising.
In fact, Boyce raised $27,000 for Thirst Project in no more than 40 days. And as he told RAW, it had been former actor – and Thirst Project co-founder – Seth Maxwell who had further inspired him to get involved. “Seth Maxwell’s story really inspired me, just because he was so young and he’s made such an impact on a lot of people’s lives at such a young age,” Boyce said.
Boyce added, “I feel like a lot of young people need to understand that they can do the same thing: they aren’t powerless, [and] they can actually make a change.” Touchingly, Boyce’s work with Thirst Project led him to the Biden Courage Awards in 2019, where the young actor introduced the former vice-president on stage and gave a speech. Sadly, though, it would be one of the last highlights of the 20-year-old’s career.
Shortly after that, in May 2019, Haute Living asked Boyce why charity work was important to him. “There’s a long line of difference makers in my family. I’m following in the footsteps of some really strong men and women who have showed me what it means to give back,” Boyce answered. “It’s the greatest way to fulfill yourself.”
And philanthropy and charity both appeared to be incredibly close to Boyce’s heart. “Every time I talk to someone who shares that similar passion, we talk about how there aren’t many feelings more euphoric,” he told Haute Living. “Changing someone else’s life positively changes yours for the better as well.”
Then Haute Living asked Boyce how he inspires others to give back. The Disney actor answered, “Many people have the heart to give back, but a lot don’t know how to. I try to be the bridge for those people – whether that means getting them involved in one of my campaigns or inspiring them by showing them a blueprint of how to get others engaged.”
Tragically, that final interview has come to be referenced by saddened Boyce fans since the actor’s sudden death, as it had been published just two months before his passing. Furthermore, on social media, many people talked about just how much of an impact the young man had made in his short life.
But to begin with, Boyce’s family posted a statement announcing what had happened. “It is with a profoundly heavy heart that we report that this morning we lost Cameron,” they said via a spokesperson in July 2019. “He passed away in his sleep due to a seizure which was a result of an ongoing medical condition for which he was being treated.”
The statement continued, “The world is now undoubtedly without one of its brightest lights, but [Boyce’s] spirit will live on through the kindness and compassion of all who knew and loved him. We are utterly heartbroken and ask for privacy during this immensely difficult time as we grieve the loss of our precious son and brother.”
Once the news hit, Thirst Project also released a statement via its official Twitter account. “We are at loss for words and a bit shaken up from the news of the unfortunate and untimely passing of our dear friend,” it read. “Cameron was such an amazing light to many and also did so much for Thirst Project.”
And Boyce’s Grown Ups co-star Adam Sandler paid his own tribute to the late actor. “Just the nicest, most talented and most decent kid around,” he wrote of his on-screen son. “Too young… sweet…funny. Loved that kid. Cared so much about his family. Cared so much about the world.”
And more shock was to follow from Boyce’s contemporary actor colleagues, with Boyce’s co-star in Jessie, Debby Ryan, seemingly particularly struck by grief. “This ripped me up. I keep trying, and I can’t make anything make sense,” she wrote on her Instagram account. “My heart is with his parents, Vic and Libby, full of grace, and his wonderful sister Maya. An unimaginable sorrow.”
But strikingly, some of the saddest comments of all came from Boyce’s father, Victor. And one day after his son’s death, he posted a statement on Twitter thanking those who had reached out. “I’m overwhelmed with the love and support our family has received. It really does help to ease the pain of this nightmare I can’t wake up from. I can’t thank you guys enough,” he wrote.
Then on July 10, the family released another statement confirming that Boyce had died as a result of epilepsy. “We are still trying to navigate our way through this extremely heart-wrenching time and continue to ask for privacy so that the family and all who knew and loved him can grieve his loss and make arrangements for his funeral – which in and of itself is agonizing,” they told E! News.
And the following day, Boyce’s sister, 17-year-old Maya, posted her own heartrending tribute on Instagram. Touchingly, she said, “Cameron was my best friend. He is someone I will always idolize. His smile could light up a room unlike anyone else’s. He was perfect. He always said that if you have a voice, you have the privilege of using that voice for change, and he did not take that idea lightly.”
The heartbroken sibling went on, “He understood his responsibility as someone so many kids would look up to. Cameron always went out of his way to be giving and kind.” She finished the post by saying, “I spent 17 years knowing what it was like to be loved by Cameron Boyce. That is the most beautiful gift I have ever received.”
Victor also shared a memory on Instagram that day by posting a picture of Boyce that had been taken on the day he died. “My son. Just hours before he was snatched from our lives,” the bereaved father wrote. “I miss him terribly. I hope that no one ever has to feel the agony I’m feeling, but no one is immune to tragedy.”
Victor went on, “The outpouring of love and support our family continues to receive is so beautiful and appreciated. Thank you all for helping us through our worst possible situation.” And more people wrote messages of sympathy in the comments section. “All love to you and your family. You raised a wonderful person,” wrote one.
After that, Boyce was laid to rest, with his ashes released to his family. But not long afterwards, on July 16, Victor made an astonishing announcement on social media. He revealed that the young star’s legacy would live on via a new foundation, which is intended to “make a positive difference in the world.”
The project’s website further explains, “The Cameron Boyce Foundation provides young people artistic and creative outlets as alternatives to violence and negativity and uses resources and philanthropy for positive change in the world. The foundation was established in 2019 to honor Cameron’s legacy.”
Another person working to ensure Boyce gets a lasting tribute is Descendants director Kenny Ortega. He told People, “Everything is about Cameron now. Descendants 3 is dedicated to Cameron. The Cameron Boyce Foundation has been set up and has an incredible mission to give young artistic people an outlet and also to help the philanthropic causes Cameron participated in.”
Ortega went on, “[Boyce] was a young person with not only an electric gift as a performer but [also] a big heart. We had plans to continue forward as creative partners, to find that next project. Now, it’s not a movie; it’s supporting his family and the foundation. That’s how we give importance to who he was.”
In further tribute, Ortega talked about Boyce in his acceptance speech for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “Sitting here today with us is my buddy Cameron Boyce’s dad, Victor, and his sister, Maya,” Ortega told the gathered crowd. “Cameron Boyce was so excited for me and wanted to be here, but he isn’t here today.”
Ortega went on, “His all-too brief appearance in this life inspired me beyond words and many of us here and generations of kids and families all over the world. His extraordinary talent and loving heart will be remembered through his foundation, the Cameron Boyce Foundation, [which] has been set up by his family to remember Cameron by continuing his pursuit to make positive change in the world.”
And since the foundation came into being, Victor has been keeping Boyce’s fans updated on how things are going. “Imagine how proud Cameron would be to learn that thousands of people have donated to #thecameronboycefoundation!” he wrote on July 20. “Cameron was determined to make a positive impact on the world, and with your help he is going to do just that.”
And on July 23 Boyce’s father provided another update. “#Thecameronboycefoundation is just getting started, but the support has been epic. We are working hard to continue Cameron’s mission of philanthropy. Watch for major changes and improvements in the near future. Thank you and stay positive,” Victor told his 670,000-plus followers.
Meanwhile, Boyce’s final projects are still to be released. Mrs. Fletcher, indie film Runt, TV show Paradise City and Descendants 3 are all still to come out. “He was an absolute pleasure to work with. The entire cast and crew adored him, and he will be missed dearly,” Carl Rumbaugh, the producer of Runt, told Entertainment Weekly when speaking of the late actor.
And on the front page of the foundation’s website is a quote from Boyce himself that has arguably now taken on a deeper level of meaning. After earning an award from the Thirst Project in 2018, the star said, “We all go… What you leave should be bigger than you,” he said. So, while Boyce did go – and too soon at that – he definitely left behind something big.