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Cameron Boyce shared a very special relationship with his grandmother Jo Ann Boyce, 91, one of the first Black students to attend an integrated high school in the South in 1956, known as the Clinton Twelve.
EW has an exclusive video of the Paradise City star in his final on-camera interview with costar Matt Pinfield where he opened up about the impact his nana had on his life. Boyce died on July 6, 2019, at the age of 20 due to complications from epilepsy.
His proud parents Libby and Victor Boyce also reflect on Cameron’s life on what would’ve been his 22nd birthday.
“By having that perspective from his grandmother, Cameron was really interested in civil rights and doing right by people,” Victor, father of Cameron and son of Jo Ann, tells EW exclusively. “The stories my mother would tell him hit him really hard, especially being that he is both Black and Jewish. His empathy level was just off the charts. Instead of saying, ‘Poor me,’ he decided to do something about it. He was encouraged to act because of my mom and his other grandmother as well. He was very invested in being a crusader for good.”
Adds Libby, “Jo Ann Boyce is an incredibly special person and she also has that magical touch that everyone felt Cameron had. They shared a very special connection, one that I can’t even articulate.”
The interview was shot in support of the series Paradise City, where he portrayed up-and-coming musician Simon Ostergaard in what would become his final on-screen appearance. Cameron recalled meeting series creator Ash Avildsen before shooting began and how they both shared a unique experience with a hawk. Shortly after the actor’s death, his mom also had a hawk cross her path.
“That particular part in the video really struck a chord with me,” Libby shares. “I’m not very spiritual, honestly, but shortly after Cameron passed, I took a walk in Franklin Canyon just to get out and a hawk came down and swooped right near my head and then kept going. I was with my brother and a good friend, who are more spiritual, and they were like, ‘uh-huh.’ I just broke down right on the hiking trail. So when I saw the clip of this interview you’re sharing, it made my hair stand up. It freaked me out a little bit.”
Adds Victor, “I’m not very religious but I am spiritual. Cameron was very precious and he had a deep understanding of the universe, more so than anyone I ever met. And that had nothing to do with me or his mom, he came out like that. I don’t know if that’s magic, per se, but it’s certainly magical how he affected people across the globe so deeply. Many he had never even met. I’ll never fully understand it but I sure appreciate it.”
The Boyce family is continuing to share some of Cameron’s magic with the world through the Cameron Boyce Foundation which focuses on ending gun violence and curing epilepsy.
“We launched the foundation within days of Cameron’s passing because we just couldn’t imagine his work to go away and it was also a way for us to cope,” Libby says. “We’re working to cure epilepsy and, if not cure, move treatments along more aggressively. As the guardians of Cameron’s legacy, we are using his voice and his platform to get more attention on epilepsy. A lot of people know someone with epilepsy or that has epilepsy themselves yet, we’re still not discussing it openly. We don’t feel the medical community is where it should be yet because of that. So we’re raising funds and creating awareness as our mission.”
Victor adds, “I wish the Cameron Boyce Foundation didn’t exist because that would mean Cameron would be alive. But because this has happened and I can’t escape real life, this situation has forced me into a position I never wanted but it has been impactful. In that sense, it’s been amazing. I never imagined I’d be a part of something that makes such a difference in so many lives. Libby and I have met so many parents with a similar situation as ours and it’s a club I wish I wasn’t in but I am. So our goal is to make something good out of something so horrible.”