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The Rise of a Child Actor

Cameron Boyce stays grounded and focused as he morphs from child-actor to adult under the scrutiny of the public eye.

Juli Schafer
  • Manfred Baumann
  • Disney
  • Disney
  • Manfred Baumann
  • Disney

Cameron Boyce wants to work, not be in the limelight.

Boyce is a rare find these days. Growing up in the eyes of the world has proved daunting to many young actors in Hollywood, but Boyce has managed to take his success and fame in remarkable stride, displaying maturity and humility far beyond his years.

At just 18 years of age, Boyce is already a veteran of show business. He starred in the Disney Channel’s hit show Jessie, and as Carlos in the wildly successful Disney television movies Descendants and Descendants 2.

Boyce also starred as Conor on Disney XD’s Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything which saw the best series debut in XD's 15 year history.

Boyce started performing as a dancer in pre-school. While he is accomplished in many styles of dance, break-dancing is at the top of the list. His talent clearly shines in his dancing scenes on Descendants and Descendants 2.

His rise to popularity continued with Disney Channel's Jessie, which ran for four seasons. He was just 11 when he was cast in the role, and it made quite an impact on Boyce’s life.

“That was four years of my life that molded me into someone I wasn’t before and it broadened my view of the whole world.  I was never planning on being homeschooled, but once I booked Jessie of course I had to become homeschooled. I didn’t get to go to prom or play varsity basketball.

"I was completely immersed in something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I started taking college courses at the age of 11. It changed my trajectory completely.”

“I was constantly around professionals and adults and I had responsibilities. I had to hold myself accountable. All the things you are supposed to learn after you graduate from college I had to learn at the ages of 11, 12 and 13. So at this point in my life I feel that because I was in that professional work environment my whole outlook on life changed. I reflect on that a lot. I think that if I stayed in school I would have been a very different person.”

Being thrust into Hollywood at such a vulnerable age can chew you up and spit you out. Boyce sees it every day, but isn’t about to land in that pitfall.

“It’s sort of a two-way street. Being in Disney and having professional people who I can aspire to be like, but  also seeing people who have gone the other way who have lost sight of themselves are both examples. Some people go down a route that maybe is stereotypical of a child actor.”

“It really started to click when you would see one side say ‘Listen, this is what you’re supposed to do and this is how you’re supposed to act,’ and then see the other side doing the opposite of that. And you could see the repercussions and the consequences of that. And I think also having a family that says, ‘Hey make sure you’re seeing yourself,’ that really helps.”

Boyce won the 44th Annual Daytime Emmy Award with Disney XD for Outstanding Promotional Announcement for their series Timeless Heroes-Be Inspired honoring Black History Month.

Boyce’s grandmother, Jo Ann Boyce, was one of famed 12 black teens who were the first to integrate into a public school in Clinton, TN in the 1950’s.

“We were living in a town with a high school right down the road, but the black students had to ride 20 miles down the road to go to another school. We weren’t hand-chosen to go, we were just the 12 that were ready to move on. It was something that needed to be done to correct the injustice. We were not going to be intimidated even though we were fearful. We were just going to walk,” recounts Jo Ann Boyce

While Boyce is extremely proud of his grandmother, it comes with a great mix of emotions.

“I think it’s sad that it took me to get the story out because not a lot of people know about the Clinton 12. They’re civil rights heroes and it took her famous grandson, a Disney kid, to get the story out, but I’m so happy to do anything I can to share it. My grandmother deserves so much more than what I’m able to give to her.

"It’s crazy to think about rocks being thrown at her on the way to school and cars being overturned. We talk about it, but she never takes it to a dark place. Her outlook on it is that it’s helped our country grow. Someone had to be brave enough to do it. She and her friends broke down barriers.”

“It’s far greater than anything I can ever imagine myself doing. I’ve always know that she was incredible, but now everyone else knows,” says Boyce.

Currently Boyce is taking some downtime playing guitar, writing poetry, traveling. But he is also looking for his next job.

“I’m auditioning like a madman, but I’m at a pivotal point in my life where I’m transitioning from Disney into the real world, but I’m being selective and not rushing it. I want my next project to be something very different and something that really challenges me.”

“A lot of people have a stigma of what it is that a Disney kid or a child actor is. I do see a lot of those stereotypes. There are a lot of us who are there to do our work and don’t complain and get involved in controversy.

"For the people who view an actor’s life as all glamor and we just want to be famous, it’s a job that we do, just like any crew member who has a job. We like to do it, not to be in the limelight. It drives me crazy when actors lose sight of (reality.) The special effects guy is working just as hard as we are. The editors have to compensate when we do a bad job on set.”

Boyce works hard to stay extremely grounded. When asked how, he doesn’t hesitate to answer, “I try really hard not to take things for granted. I separate my lives. When I go home I don’t think about how successful my day was. I put on some sneakers and go on the driveway and play basketball.

"I don’t like to boast or brag about things (because) I don’t know how long it’s going to last or what’s going to happen in my life.

“I’m 18, I just became an adult, and I already feel like I have a pretty good idea of how I want my story to go, how I want to act and how I want to be.”