American Disney actor, Cameron Boyce, best known for his roles in the Disney Channel franchise Descendants and the TV series Jessie, has died. He was 20. Boyce’s family issued a statement confirming his death Saturday night, July 6. “It is with a profoundly heavy heart that we report that this morning we lost Cameron,” their statement read. “The world is now undoubtedly without one of its brightest lights.”
According to ABC News, Boyce’s death was caused by a seizure. The seizure was a result of an ongoing medical condition for which he was being treated. The underlying illness that caused Boyce’s death has not been made public. Cameron Boyce had not spoken about his illness or being sick in the past, and his death was a shock to fans and co-stars.
TMZ reported on July 8 that Boyce suffered from epilepsy. TMZ wrote, “Law enforcement sources says they have characterized it as a ‘natural death.’ As bizarre as it sounds — a 20-year-old dying of a seizure — the term ‘natural’ refers to conditions in the body which result in death.”
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, “Epilepsy is a neurological condition which affects the nervous system. Epilepsy is also known as a seizure disorder. It is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures (or after one seizure with a high risk for more) that were not caused by some known medical condition.” More than 3.4 million people around the U.S. have epilepsy, according to the foundation.
“Seizures seen in epilepsy are caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain. The seizures in epilepsy may be related to a brain injury or a family tendency, but most of the time the cause is unknown,” the Epilepsy Foundation writes.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, about 1 in 1,000 people suffer from Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, “SUDEP is the sudden, unexpected death of someone with epilepsy, who was otherwise healthy. In SUDEP cases, no other cause of death is found when an autopsy is done. Each year, about 1 in 1,000 people epilepsy die from SUDEP. This is the leading cause of death in people with uncontrolled seizures.”
The foundation continues, “The person with epilepsy is often found dead in bed and doesn’t appear to have had a convulsive seizure. Over one-third of the time, there is a witnessed seizure or signs of a recent seizure close to the time of death. They are often found lying face down. No one is sure about the cause of death in SUDEP and it may differ between cases. Some researchers think that a seizure causes an irregular heart rhythm. Other research has shown that breathing difficulties following a seizure lead to death.”
Boyce’s family asked for privacy and did not provide any other information about what caused the 20-year-old actor’s death or other details about exactly where and when he died. [Cameron’s] spirit will live on through the kindness and compassion of all who knew and loved him,” they wrote. “We are utterly heartbroken and ask for privacy during this immensely difficult time as we grieve the loss of our precious son and brother.”
According to ABC News, Cameron Boyce was found dead July 6 after suffering a seizure while sleeping.
A Disney Channel spokesperson issued a statement following Boyce’s death. “From a young age, Cameron Boyce dreamed of sharing his extraordinary artistic talents with the world. As a young man, he was fueled by a strong desire to make a difference in peoples’ lives through his humanitarian work,” they stated. “He was an incredibly talented performer, a remarkably caring and thoughtful person and, above all else, he was a loving and dedicated son, brother, grandson and friend.”
Boyce had posted a photo on Instagram on Friday, July 5, just hours before his death.
Boyce made his screen debut in the 2008 horror film Mirrors. He played one of Adam Sandler’s children in the comedy hit Grown Ups and its sequel, Grown Ups 2. Boyce’s greatest success, however, was on television. He achieved fame as one of the leads on the Disney Channel series Jessie. He starred as Luke Ross throughout the show’s four-season run. Boyce also starred in the 2015 Disney Channel film Descendants and its two sequels. He posted a photo from the set of the Disney that film a few days before he died. The third film in the Descendants series is set to premiere in August.
In a recent interview with Dazed, Boyce talked about his career and how he felt a responsibility to be a good role model for kids. “Being on the Disney Channel, I understood that I was going to affect a lot of young people,” he explained. “I’m gonna be 20 in five months, I’m an adult, but I understand that there are nine year olds watching my every move, so I try, at least in a public, to be as good of a role model as I can.”
Boyce also talked about his spirituality, and how it changed over the years. “Recently I’ve gotten way more spiritual than I ever have been. I’ve never been particularly religious but I have recently acknowledged the universe and it’s crazy powers, and that will probably fluctuate for the rest of my life,” he said. “But I believe in a lot of things that you hear, I believe in karma, I believe that things happen for a reason. I believe that if you put an energy out into the universe, you’ll receive it back.”
Boyce was set to appear as a series regular in the upcoming HBO series Mrs. Fletcher, starring Kathryn Hahn. It’s unclear whether he shot any scenes prior to his death.