"He became like one of my kids," the Descendents director shares with PEOPLE in this week's issue of the film's late star

By Dana Rose Falcone
July 24, 2019 12:00 PM

Cameron Boyce — who starred in Jessie and the Descendants movies on the Disney Channel — died on July 6 at the age of 20 of an epileptic seizure. Ahead of the Aug. 2 premiere of Descendants 3, director Kenny Ortega, 69, pays tribute to the late actor in his own words in this week’s issue of PEOPLE.

When I pursued Cameron for the role of Carlos in Descendants, I was told, “He’s really busy with Jessie.” But I didn’t quit.

Then we ran into each other at the Disney Channel offices, and I told him the idea face-to-face. That led Cameron to saying, “I want to do this.” From that minute, he became like one of my own kids. He was a source of inspiration. The light he brought into the room was extraordinary.

RELATED: Disney Star Cameron Boyce’s Sister Says She ‘Was with Him Hours Before He Died’ from a Seizure

I was traveling [when I learned of his death]. It was unimaginable—that’s how it hit us all.

Everything is about Cameron now. Descendants 3 is dedicated Cameron. The Cameron Boyce Foundation has been set up and has an incredible mission to give young artistic people an outlet and also to help the philanthropic causes Cameron participated in.

John Sciulli/Getty

He was a young person with not only an electric gift as a performer but a big heart. We had plans to continue forward as creative partners, to find that next project. Now it’s not a movie — it’s supporting his family and the foundation.

That’s how we give importance to who he was.

RELATED VIDEO: Cameron Boyce Said He Hoped to Lead by Example on ‘What It Means to Give Back’ in Final Interview

Descendants 3 premieres Aug. 2 at 8 p.m. ET on Disney Channel.

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