Top image: jacket and shirt by SAINT LAURENT by ANTHONY VACCARELLO SS18; ring CAMERON’s own
Article originally published in HERO 19.
Cameron Boyce’s Cheshire Cat smile and can’t-really-sit-still energy drove the pace of Disney’s hit series Hey Jessie. From 2011-15, and now on endless repeat through the small hours, it’s perfect stoner TV: bitesize episodes, saccharine colours and easy to digest morals (Disney at its finest).
Next came Descendants, a rite-of-passage role for a child of Disney rising up through the machine. But Boyce is an enigma and there was always more going on behind the scenes. The LA born and bred actor is a member of dance crew X-Mob, and appeared in Ice Cube’s music video for Ya’ll Know Who I am. More recently, the activist within has started itching to make a difference, so Boyce worked with the Thirst Project to bring clean drinking water to people living near contaminated sources. With lots of young, impressionable eyes on the actor’s next steps, he seems to take the responsibility in his stride.
Jane Fayle: How did you first get into the world of Disney and what has it been like to work for them?
Cameron Boyce: I was always an entertainer as a child and I guess that stems from what I watched. I’m a firm believer that we’re all a product of what we’re presented with as a child and Disney was one of the things that every kid I knew watched. Whether it was Hannah Montana or That’s So Raven, these were legendary shows in our minds, with actors and characters that we really cared about. I’m a very observant person and I definitely was as a child, I just soaked everything up. I guess that was one thing that I grasped onto, the feel of the shows, the rhythm and everything that came with them.
JF: And how old were you when you first auditioned?
CB: About ten when I first auditioned for Disney, but I’ve been acting since I was about eight. Disney is a specific brand and requires a specific type of acting, a lot of times when I talk to other actors they ask me about what it’s like to act on Disney projects because it’s almost like a separate style.
JF: In what way?
CB: There’s more energy in Disney acting than most others. There are specific things, like really having to enunciate and project. Also, the Disney lifestyle is about being an example for young children. A lot of people my age were on shows where they were swearing and having a bunch of sex, so they didn’t have to have a filter. Even now if I curse or do something like that it still surprises people.
JF: Descendants and Descendants 2 were both hugely successful.
CB: We just kept our heads down and had fun doing it, but it was really like, “Let’s make this the best that we can possibly make it, and hopefully people like it.” That’s sort of the mindset that you have going into any movie. The first time I really realised how big it was was when our director sent us a picture of our faces on one of the big red buses in London. At that point I’d never been to London, I’d never actually been to the UK, that was just crazy to see myself across the world in a place that I wanted to visit so desperately.
“There’s certain things where you really can’t go from the writing on the page, you have to get in there and feel the energy…”
JF: And that was just the beginning, so what’s next for you?
CB: That’s a good question because the life of an actor is so sporadic, there’s a bunch of different little fires burning and you just hope that they don’t all go out [laughs]. Like I was saying before, this Disney thing is so specific that you find yourself going, “I have to snap out of that and mould myself into an actor that can work on NBC or ABC” – or whatever it is. Now I have to make sure that I’m doing what’s right.
JF: You’ve got a process for selecting these new roles and carving your niche?
CB: I don’t think there should really be a process in anything when it comes to acting. For me, I’ve always found that everything is different. I’ve talked about this with my friends a lot and they’ll say things like, “I’ve read this script and it’s kind of weird and I don’t really like it.” Then two years later it comes out and it’s an Oscar-nominated film and they’re like, “Shit! Why didn’t I do it?” There’s certain things where you really can’t go from the writing on the page, you have to get in there and feel the energy – everything is different.
JF: You need to take a gamble on things.
CB: Totally. If there is something that I don’t have my whole heart in then I won’t regret it if it becomes a smash hit, I’ve been so lucky to do stuff that I’m passionate about and then it also becomes successful – that’s so rare.
JF: And aside from acting you’re also a professional dancer. Tell me more about the breakdancing side of things and your involvement with your dance crew X-Mob.
CB: It’s really cool to have that in my back pocket in case I need it, there so many roles that require dancing or singing and you have to be able to do all three. With X-Mob, those are my guys, I’ve known them since I was six so we’ve grown up together. We’ve been breakdancing for a long time and we’re now becoming successful actors too [laughs].
JF: It’s incredibly important to keep doing these things you enjoy and also having that variety.
CB: So many people chase success and expect that to lead to happiness, but it’s the opposite. If you really pursue happiness then success will stem from that usually. But success, money and material things are just extra – it’s not what fulfils you.
JF: Also, having that tight support network is vital, you seem to have a very close relationship with your family and friends.
CB: Oh yeah, prioritise your people, that’s what I say. I actually just posted something about my two friends that are in this show and I was really excited for them. I don’t even think of them as friends anymore I just think of them as family. I’m super tight with my mum, dad and sister, it’s so important and I honestly feel really lucky to have them all in my life, and then all of them just being able to mutually support each other is the coolest thing ever. Siblings usually don’t get along and they annoy each other, but me and my sister are just two peas in a pod. We think similarly and she’s like my best friend too. When extended family comes in they’re important too and you don’t always see them a lot. A lot of people neglect their family, which sucks because nobody stays here forever.
JF: I have to ask about your work with the incredible Michelle Obama, how did that come about?
CB: I’ve worked with her a couple of times and I’ve actually been in the White House twice, which is crazy – it’s such an incredible feeling.
JF: Not many people can say that…
Cameron: It’s nuts. I was so afraid that it was going to be one of those things where you really idolise someone and then you meet them and they’re not quite what you thought they were going to be, but she was everything and more. She’s exactly what she’s like in magazines and on TV, just so down-to-earth and friendly. She’s taught me a lot in the short time that I’ve been with her, she even let Sophia [Carson] from Descendants and I ride in her motorcade. It’s crazy to be around someone who is so influential in the world and is trying to help people.
JF: Well you’re also extremely active in the community, especially your work with the Thirst Project.
CB: That’s something I’m incredibly proud of. I believe I gave 1081 people water for life in Swaziland, which is cooler than anything that I’ve ever done onscreen and anything that I’ve ever done for my own career. When I did the Thirst Project campaign I launched it on my birthday because I wanted to send the message that even on days when it should be about you, those are the best times to give. I mean, every time is the best time to give, but we think about ourselves so much that I really wanted to make a point that I don’t want presents, I want donations. It ended up being life-saving for some people, so I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. It definitely won’t be the last campaign I do, next time it might be something different.