The late 20-year-old actor's parents and fellow cast members open up about how the last film he completed serves as his legacy.
Cameron Boyce only broke character to play basketball. Casually shooting hoops was “all Cameron,” his parents, Libby and Victor Boyce, tell tmrw. But their son was not on set for indie film Runt at Verdugo Hills High School in Los Angeles to be Cameron. The late 20-year-old was fully immersed in becoming Cal, an isolated high school senior who has nobody to care for or receive care from other than his dog named Runt, for his heaviest and most mature role yet. He did not interact with his mother, whom he actually had a very close relationship with, for months because Cal’s mother was an absent parent. He was disciplined in Cal’s outcast and somber mindset at all times. He had something to prove, and he viewed Runt as his vehicle. As it turned out, Runt was Cameron’s parting gift.
The night before he tragically died on July 6, 2019, from a seizure caused by his preexisting epilepsy, Cameron went to dinner with his mom and dad. He texted his dad about the Los Angeles Lakers—basketball, all Cameron—until 12:30 a.m. Hours later, he was gone. He was just barely a young man, and Runt was an early step toward growing into himself.
“Runt is one of first projects Cameron started and completed without any involvement from us,” Libby and Victor say. “As a young man it was important to both of us that Cameron be in control of his own affairs, at least on the creative side.”
They are now solely in control of carrying on their son’s life work through The Cameron Boyce Foundation and its Wielding Peace project.
They add: “Runt was a very important piece for Cameron’s legacy because he was able to play a serious and socially relatable character, which is something he had never done. After Descendants 3 wrapped, Cameron was determined to do edgy, socially relevant projects that were both difficult and meaningful. We are very happy that he got to do this before his untimely passing.”
Outside of Cal, Cameron had infectious curiosity, generosity and energy. He had hope that the world could—and should—be so much better than this. There was something he loved more than acting or even basketball: serving others.
Runt is still his vehicle, though not in the way anybody originally envisioned. The film, which debuted at the Mammoth Film Festival on Feb. 29 and was so warmly received it became the first project in the festival’s history to have two screenings, is partnered with The Cameron Boyce Foundation and Wielding Peace.
“Who you are is something you’ll carry on forever,” Cameron told tmrw for print Volume #24 in April 2018. “… As long as they’re a good person, anything you chose to do in your life is cool. … Whilst it’s important to treat yourself, it’s so important to use what you have to make sure you leave something behind when you’re gone and that’s where true happiness stems from.”
Cameron could never have grasped how soon his own words would ring so poignantly.
Wielding Peace is a social media campaign devoted to ending gun violence. It originated while Cameron was in Brooklyn, New York, shooting a different project. His cousin, a photographer, took a set of images to outline the vision that evolved into Cameron wielding a guitar, an umbrella or any object he had access to as if it were a gun—giving power to creativity and stripping power from violence.
Libby and Victor detailed how Runt furthers this mission:
“Runt is a no holds barred example of how badly things can go wrong when young people have a lack of creative opportunities and or positive role models in their lives. Cameron’s vision for Wielding Peace is to provide creative opportunities which are often paired with an inspirational teacher, mentor or role model. Cameron led by example, showing that the arts, creativity and forms of expression can be weapons of peace and goodness in the world. Cameron also enlisted his broad ‘army’ of Wielding Peace Warriors to help him spread his message. Because of their love of Cameron, all of his friends, family, castmates and business associates are now involved in [Wielding Peace] and The Cameron Boyce Foundation. Runt is just one vehicle of many that the Foundation will use to keep Cameron’s vision alive and growing.”
As the Boyces continue, it becomes clear that the movie’s plot aligns perfectly with Cameron’s purpose:
“Because of the lack of tools, role models, healthy adult guidance, Cal cannot handle his frustrations and anger. Consequently, he responds in a negative way which results in a crescendo of violence. All of the characters in Runt ultimately respond in similar fashion. The negative outcomes would continue for years to come and impact the trajectory of their lives.”
Cameron had already built a faithful fan base through Disney’s television series Jessie and film franchise Descendants. He had already been a leader for young people, but Runt saw him take a more direct approach.
In Runt, directed by William Coakley, Cal is bullied. People have given up on him. He has been left alone to manage his anxieties and darkness, and that premature independence spirals into violence. Carson Boatman plays Hank, and Javier Bolaños plays Big Ern. Both characters are cautionary tales.
“I think if we pay attention the story, we can see that every action we take has an effect on others,” Carson tells tmrw. “It’s up to us whether that effect is positive or negative.”
Javier adds: “My character’s actions in the movie are very cruel and vial. However, I think people seeing that and the consequences that can be brought into the lives of those who choose to go down that path, really turns on a light to never be a wolf but rather a sheepdog that protects the herd and is there for others navigating difficult times and decisions. And [it] reminds people despite the fact there are people like my character out there, they can be overcome and dealt with if you have support.”
Runt, The Cameron Boyce Foundation and Wielding Peace showcase for the world what those closest to Cameron experienced first-hand.
Both Carson and Javier believe that Runt will have a lasting power to not only transform souls but save lives by juxtaposing the rewards of compassion against the dangers of violence and starting conversations surrounding difficult subject matter. Cameron embodied those characteristics, and it rubbed off on whomever he encountered.
“I think what each of us will carry with us, after having worked with and experiencing Cameron, is his love for life and humanity,” Carson says. “The passion, joy, and excitement he found in his work translated to how he dealt with people.”
“His talent on screen can only be surpassed by his friendship off-screen,” Javier says.
Cameron was not rigid like Cal. He was the opposite, and he was just beginning to round out. And now, his legacy will be a straight line drawn forward forever.
The Cameron Boyce Foundation will reveal a special tribute to Cameron on May 28, his birthday.
Below are the ways Libby and Victor encourage to support The Cameron Boyce Foundation:
Donate! It may sound obvious, but some people think that they have to make a large donation to make a difference. The reality is many of Cameron’s fans are still young people without a lot of disposable income—any amount they can donate, even as little as $5 goes a long way to help the foundation.
Post! Post your Wielding Peace photos on your Instagram with the hashtag #weildingpeace. You may become a Wielding Peace Wednesday Warrior and get your picture posted to the official Wielding Peace Instagram, where it will be seen by one million-plus followers.
Be kind! If you find yourself about to get angry with someone, stop and think, ‘What would Cameron do?’ Make positivity your way of life, and it will reward you in so many ways.