Cameron Boyce's appearance in the HBO documentary is one of his final projects.

By Rosy Cordero
July 14, 2020 at 08:53 PM EDT
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Alex Winter's latest documentary project Showbiz Kids tackles the challenges faced by former and current child stars like Wil Wheaton, Todd Bridges, Evan Rachel Wood, Corey Feldman, Henry Thomas, and Mara Wilson. But the story of Disney star Cameron Boyce was one of the more painful tales to unravel after his 2019 death caused by complications from epilepsy.

At only 20, Boyce already had many years of performing under his belt. He was just 9 years old when he made his television debut in a 2008 music video for Panic! at the Disco's "The Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed)," playing a young version of Ryan Ross, the band's guitarist. It was an uphill climb after that as he entered feature films with roles in Mirrors, Eagle Eye, and later Adam Sandler's Grown UpsIt wasn't too long before Disney came calling with roles in Good Luck Charlie, Jessie, and Descendants.

Boyce was beloved by fans, including Winter's sons, which played a part in him asking the young star to take part in the HBO documentary. Talking to EW, Winter remembers Boyce for his talent and exuberance, explaining how honored he is to have been able to collaborate with the young talent.

"I have three boys and Cameron Boyce is a hero in my house," Winter tells EW. "He has been since he was about 10. I literally have watched him grow up on television. I was really eager to have [him in the documentary]. He exemplified to me the kind of child actor that was clearly born to be in front of a camera, clearly born to be on stage from a very young age and not shoved into it by his parents nor handled poorly by the family. He was a well-adjusted kid who had who dealt with the same challenges and stresses that we all dealt with coming up doing that work, but was so focused on the craft that it really helped keep him level headed."

Winter, who was also a child actor, was in awe at how Boyce handled fame at such a young age, especially with the culture created by social media that keeps fans waiting at every moment for an update from their favorite stars.

"His every waking moment was on social media and I don't know how he did it," Winter says. "I would never have functioned in that environment. I don't even really like public attention very much. A lot of child actors don't, believe it or not. We like being on set, or we like being on stage but the whole rest of like the intrusion into our private lives is not my thing at all."

Winter laments the loss of Boyce, an actor who had a promising road ahead of him in Hollywood. The actor-director still remembers where he was when he learned of Boyce's untimely death.

"I interviewed him. I loved spending time with him," Winter says. "I was down in New Orleans shooting Bill and Ted 3 when I got news about his tragic and just utterly devastating death, and it was really traumatizing. I can't tell you how much I feel for his family. This is a kid who hit the stage at five and passed away at 20. And for those 15 years, he was in his element. I'm so grateful that his parents let him do what he did because he loved it and he was great at it. That's who he was meant to be. It's not even like a destiny thing but just factually. That was his life, his life was to perform."

Showbiz Kids premieres at 9 p.m. on HBO.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

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