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The late Cameron Boyce's final performance, in the indie drama Runt, is one that his parents can't wait for people to see because of how hard he worked on the project. But it's still a "painful" experience for Libby and Victor Boyce to watch the movie now knowing that their son, who died at 20 from a seizure caused by his epilepsy in 2019, isn't here to see all his hard work pay off.

"Runt is a mixed blessing for us," Victor tells EW. "When we see Cameron animated and moving around in these projects, it's hard to watch, but we're also proud at the same time. Overall we're glad to see it finally being released. He worked really hard on it, and he was very committed in his acting in this role and trying to show a different side to his acting chops."

Directed and co-written by William Coakley, Runt follows a group of neglected, misguided high school seniors who fall into a cycle of violence when the adults in their lives fail them. Cameron stars as Cal, a teen who grows into a ruthless person as constant bullying sends him down a path of pain and self-destruction. "The depth of his character is going to surprise people because most of the characters he played, I mean let's be honest, they're comedic and not necessarily deep," Victor says. "And this character is absolutely deep, multifaceted, cerebral, unpredictable. His fans will see a side of him that they've never seen, and they'll see acting ability that they haven't seen with him. This is something on another level."

Runt
Cameron Boyce in 'Runt'
| Credit: 1091 Pictures

Cameron's mother, Libby, says that because "he's not here to represent himself, we have that obligation." She adds that her son took "his first leading role outside of Disney very seriously," to the point where he went method for Runt and had to distance himself from his own family "because in his role he didn't get along with his mother and he didn't have any parental guidance." Cameron was living with his parents while filming Runt, and Libby reveals that "he warned me, he told me he was going to [keep his distance] from me because we're very close and he couldn't be close with me like normal and then go to the set and just be in that character. So he took it very seriously and it shows in the film, but it's incredibly challenging for us to watch it."

Victor adds, "He really immersed himself in this character to the point where I had never seen before. I had seen everything he did since he was a baby till he passed. And this was something far outside of what he normally did. He was determined and dedicated and immersed in this character, to the point where we couldn't even really approach him during that time. He put it all out there."

Libby says that because of all that, she and Victor don't want Cameron's work in Runt to go unnoticed. "He did amazing," she says. "He worked till 4 in the morning, he worked his butt off, he did a lot of research and put so much thought into his character, and we saw it. So now to see it and to know that he's not here to see the results, and to be the spokesman in a way for the movie, it's horrible. For that, we're extremely regretful and extremely emotional about it. We don't want his work not to get out there, but it's just very painful."

Balancing their grief with their pride in their son's work has been difficult, but they're both happy to have the Cameron Boyce Foundation — which works to reduce gun violence as well as cure epilepsy through digital campaigns and fundraising — partner with Runt to continue Cameron's legacy by spreading a powerful and timely message about the effects of violence and negativity.  "Cameron was always very, very philanthropic, and he was thoughtful about wanting to help young kids who don't have the guidance and don't have the creative outlets and things like that," Libby says. "He always had that, but I think it was Runt that really pushed him into wanting to define himself and figuring out exactly where he wanted to land in his philanthropic work."

Cameron also created the Wielding Peace campaign on social media before his death, largely because of what he experienced while filming Runt. "Wielding Peace was just such an inevitable thing for him, because the movie is about young people not having guidance and what happens if you don't have outlets, you don't have role models, you don't have anybody to point you in the right direction or hears you and loves you and supports you," Libby says. "He was very sensitive to that, and he was also really conscious about how much creativity meant in his life and how that could really change the lives of somebody that doesn't have that."

Runt premieres in select theaters Oct. 1 and on demand Oct. 19. Watch an exclusive clip from the movie above.

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