When the FaceTime connects, Cameron Boyce appears on my laptop screen, grinning from ear to ear.
He’s wearing a wooly hat because, at the time of the call, “LA is grey and gloomy” and he’s only been awake for an hour. I tell him it’s the same story for me, only I’m in the North of England – and it’s almost time for bed.
The 18-year-old actor – famous for playing Luke Ross in Disney Channel’s Jessie, Carlos De Vil in Descendants and Keith Feder in the Grown Ups films – is charming and charismatic as we gear up for our conversation. To begin, I ask him why Los Angeles is so great. “It’s a big melting pot of everything – there’s something for everyone,” he responds, openly acknowledging his bias. On top of this, he’s always been fascinated by the amount of people that move to the city to make it in their respective creative field.
But for Cameron, it was different. “I didn’t have to move. I didn’t have to commit to something then stick to it. [Acting] was just something that was around me. It was a lot easier because I was already here. I could really figure out, maybe this is something I wanted to do, maybe not. I dipped my toe into it at first, then eventually my whole body was in the pool.”
Getting the role of Luke in Jessie was his big break. Being in the show from the ages of 11 to 15 (“when you’re figuring out you’re crazy teenage self”) and having the Disney framework set helped him deal with feelings he was going through as a young man. “As an actor, there are a lot of things that you want to keep and there’s a lot of things you want to weed out,” he says, as he puts two fingers in the dimples of his cheesy grin.
As a person, Cameron embodies creativity. He makes it clear that he’s open to any opportunities that create a spark within him. Despite acting being his main endeavour, it doesn’t define his creative essence. “Being an actor is like being a firefighter – there’s a lot of waiting around, and when you’re waiting around for that call, to do other things to keep your head screwed on straight,” he notes.
“There are so many actors who also have a music career or have a fashion line, and that’s because when they’re waiting for the next call. And once you get that call, you slide down the pole and you’re ready for that audition. There’s a lot of creative people in this industry and I think I’m one of them. I want to stay active. It’s something that keeps you grounded and also keeps you moving.”
It’s a case of keeping the creative juices flowing – but only for the right reasons. Cameron says some of the best advice he’s received (from the director of Descendants, Kenny Ortega) is to only be involved in projects that hit a nerve: if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it; if it does, pursue the heck out of it. It’s a mantra he’s proud to stand by.
Being a part of Hollywood – or in fact, anywhere – right now is to be surrounded by activism, conversation, and call-outs. It’s something that Cameron is acutely aware of, despite his young age. We speak about how he was teased for his freckles in elementary school, or because of how Cameron “looked pretty different from some of the other kids.” Social media, Cameron tells me, is “a big driver of this terrible train”.
When we expand on the topic, Cameron speaks with a passion that could only be from a generation that grew up in tandem with it. “There are so many people who are so beautiful who don’t know it, just because they look different or because they’re not meeting either Hollywood’s standards or Instagram model standards, which are kind of unattainable anyway.
“They now feel the need to cover [their faces], which sucks. I’ve always felt awkward about that, because obviously there are a lot of people on Instagram who say, ‘I just woke up like this’ but it’s three hours of make up. It’s the craziest thing to me. So we need to do something about it – and I’m not sure what it is. But it’s a double-edged sword. When you have a platform and you use it the right way, then that manifests into then other people following suit.” Looking at events like attendees wearing black to the Golden Globes to spread the word that #TimesUp, is, in his opinion, “outstanding” and indicative of the positive power of social media platforms.
“It’s funny, it’s like your thumb has a brain, it opens the app and it’s scrolling. One of the things I wanted to do in 2018 is every time I pick up my phone and go to Instagram, I catch myself, I put it down, and I pick up a guitar,” he says. “It takes up so much of our time, and when you’re young especially, you don’t have a concept of time. You don’t realise that eventually your time expires, so we waste a lot of it.”
“I’ve vowed to spend my time in more productive ways. I think that’s what we should be thinking about now, just using [social media] for what it’s supposed to be used for and not over indulging in this crazy fantasy world that is Instagram models and whatever. That’s sort of my thought on it, but everyone has their own opinion.”
But what else is Cameron up to in 2018, besides kicking his scrolling habit, I hear you ask. Well, here’s you answer: “There’s so many things going on, but they’re in a certain stage where I can’t really talk about them yet. What I would say is, 2018 is going to be pretty awesome. It’s going to be a really good year.”
Then Cameron apologises for teasing and we say our goodbyes. I’ll be keeping my eyes constantly peeled open for the next 11 months, how about you?
** Images of Cameron Boyce by Michael Becker, styling by Veronica Graye, grooming by Jeffrey Paul of Exclusive Artists **
Words by Eliza Frost