Everyone’s favorite Disney star has to “grow up.” Eventually, it simply didn’t make sense for Zac Efron to stride down a High School Musical hallway sporting scruff or for Demi Lovato’s maturing vibrato to take the stage in Camp Rock! Not every actor can push the boundaries of time (re: Jason Earles playing the 16-year-old brother to Hannah Montana at age 29). Yet you could easily argue that growing up was the goal all along. Efron has clearly succeeded his Disney career with a robust resume in film, and Lovato, well, needs no introduction these days. For a young actor “graduating” from Disney Channel can mark the beginning of an exciting (and profitable) journey, and that’s exactly what Descendants 2 star Cameron Boyce is embarking upon today.
The actor—who’s also held parts in the likes of Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything and Grown Ups 1 & 2—has just recently turned 18, and now, it’s graduation time. “It’s an interesting transition going from Disney Channel to [the] ‘real world,’” Boyce says, “I want to find my breaking point and what I’m made of. Whatever I do next will probably be very shocking for the people that follow me.”
Whether it’s writing or directing, Boyce sees the world as full of opportunity, and in the midst of this journey the actor took a moment to chat with DuJour about the second installment of the Descendants franchise, the growing pains of being a Disney star and what’s next up for him.
What has Descendants 1 & 2 meant to your career?
I don’t go to the Disney store to look for my face, but the fact that the first movie came out two years ago and our faces are still in the store—it’s crazy. It’s exciting to have that kind of impact on a global fan base. I was just in Cabo San Lucas, and you forget how crazy people are for what you do! Living in L.A. they either don’t care or they demand a picture and then go on with their kale and quinoa or whatever, but in foreign countries they love you!
You recently graduated high school and turned 18 around the same time! Were these moments as big or emotional as you expected them to be?
It’s so funny because I went to this campus probably five or six times in my life, ever. Oak Park [Independent] School is set up for people who have busy schedules—Zendaya and Gabby Douglas went there—so the teachers come to you, and I’d never had to go in. So when I went to the Oak Park High School graduation I only knew my very close friends at a [ceremony] that had like a thousand kids that had gone to school together since preschool. They were all crying and I’m just like, “I don’t know any of you, this is so weird….” I was with friends who we’d dragged each other through school like Karan Brar and Sophie Reynolds, my two best friends, so it was a cool day. But I think it was less emotion and more like: let’s get to work.
I’m guessing you know other actors who got their diploma but decided to skip out on the ceremony. Why did you make the decision to go?
I talked to actors in my graduating class at school who didn’t want to go, and I thought that was weird because we do have these super abnormal lives, so to get one taste of normalcy is worth it, even if you’re sitting in a ceremony with a bunch of students you don’t know.
Just like you crave normal moments, your fans probably crave the complete opposite!
I went to regular school through sixth grade and I remember a lot of my friends from then, and around the time I was calling my publicist to figure out a way to shape my career I saw all my friends in prom gowns and suits on Instagram. I was like, “Whoa, I didn’t get to do that: that’s weird.” Not that I’d trade places, but it is interesting to see other people develop in a completely different way and to be on the outskirts of that. But then everyone else is looking on the outskirts of what I do, wondering what it’s like on the other side.
And now—even though it’s centered on acting and your career there—you’re facing the incredibly normal life moment of graduating high school and figuring out your place in the world.
I find that a lot of actors, and even Disney actors, have this deep desire to figure out who they are; I feel like it’s that thing that really drives us crazy. First of all: yeah, my life hasn’t been the same as the people around me. And second, I’ve spent half of my life acting as someone I’m not. My friends and I talk about this all the time because we are all actors and we are all going through the same thing right now. [Laughing] We ask each other: “Is this who I am? Who am I?” Also, we’re 18 years old and we have to be these mature, responsible people at this vulnerable point in our lives. It can get kinda crazy and in young Hollywood, you see that. For me I start with separating my career and my life.
How do you separate the two?
Between work—even the best actors aren’t working 24/7—I just do normal things. I’ll play basketball with my dad; I’ll write poetry. The poetry has recently reflected young Hollywood in different lights, I’ll find myself writing about certain people who break the stereotype and some who are totally the stereotype.
What do you see the stereotype as?
The stereotype is that every young actor in Hollywood makes bad decisions as a result of an unhealthy relationship with themselves. For young actors in general there’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with the stereotype, that people can’t overcome, and I think for Disney kids that’s heightened even more. I also know a lot of young actors who are very good about preaching body positivity and things of that nature, like “love yourself” and “don’t care what anybody else says,” yet unfortunately they can’t seem to take their own advice, which is really sad. But that’s sort of what I’m surrounded by. Just because this industry can be ugly doesn’t mean that I have to cave to that; I just do this because I like it. If my agent tells me I’m too fat for a role, then fine, I’m too fat for the role.
Don’t tell me anyone has ever said that to you!
Not to me! But you’d be very surprised with what certain people have heard, it’s really ugly. You just have to trust and stick to who you are. Like, “If I’m too ‘overweight’ for this role then screw it—that might not be the right role for me.”
Speaking of causes like body positivity, are there causes you’re especially passionate about?
I’ve been really invested in homelessness because of my mom; it’s an issue that’s not really pushed to the forefront and a lot of people don’t seem to care, but I think it’s because they’re not educated about it. Most of the time homelessness is caused my mental health issues—something you have no control over—and then substance abuse, and sometimes both. I also took on a forty-day partnership with the Thirst Project, the youth nonprofit that takes money raised by word-of-mouth to build wells in third world countries. They save entire villages. It’s another issue that’s swept under the rug, especially when we’re so used to just having access to water.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Main Image: Manfred Baumann