"I'm still only 23, but for the first time in my life, I feel like I have a strong, fleshed-out sense of self that I haven't before."
Dove Cameron is looking back at how she has coped - and how she hasn’t coped - with being a hero for millions of Disney Channel viewers around the world.
"There's a nice feeling of security in that and I actually feel like a role model now - or at least someone who is capable of being one."
Dove Cameron is a whirlwind, a great bundle of energy and wise beyond her years. And despite being in the middle of a lengthy slog of promotion for Disney's Descendants 3 – a film franchise so popular with kids that it barely needs any promotion, other than answering the question, 'when is it on telly?' – the young actress is generous, exudes Hollywood charisma and comes across as genuinely interested in the long line of journalists speaking to her that day.
Disney's Descendants is a musical series in the mould of High School Musical. Swap out cheerleading and cheesy grins for classic Disney villains and sass and you're in the right ball park. A phenomenal success that has broken all sorts of viewing records for Disney Channel and topped the charts with its soundtracks, it's one of the main reasons Dove Cameron now has over 30 million followers on Instagram and looks destined to become the next big Disney Channel breakout star.
Dove Cameron stars as Mal, the daughter of Maleficent, alongside Booboo Stewart as Jay, the son of Jafar, Sofia Carson as Evie, the daughter of the Evil Queen and the late Cameron Boyce as Carlos, the son of Cruella de Vil.
Since starting the series in 2015, Dove has fallen in love with co-star Thomas Doherty, launched a musical career and earlier this year appeared on stage in London, winning plaudits for her performance in The Light in the Piazza.
Ahead of the premiere of Disney’s Descendants 3 on Disney Channel in the UK, BT TV caught up with Dove to find out how much the series has changed her life, her dream Disney roles and her fondest memories of the late Cameron Boyce.
1. Do you remember where you were when you found out you had got the role of Mal?
That’s funny, I do remember where I was. I was filming a movie called Barely Lethal. I was 17 and I had auditioned for Descendants a number of times. I’d auditioned for Kenny Ortega, the channel and I knew that they were really behind it and I loved the concept. So I was really nervous and anticipating the call.
It was raining, it was the lunchbreak and we were in Georgia. We were doing a night shoot so the lunchbreak was at 9.30pm, which meant it must have been about 6.30pm LA time. They called me and I was in a tent, it was pouring rain, but the phone said 'no called ID', which at the time always meant it was the Disney Channel. And they called me and told me I’d got the part and I just remember screaming, disrupting lunch and running outside to tell the director. It was huge at the time for me and I was really excited to work with Kenny. I remember that moment very clearly.
2. Do you also remember the first time you met all your co-stars and your first impressions?
The first person I met was Cam. I was doing [Disney Channel series] Liv and Maddie at the time and he was doing [Disney Channel's] Jessie. We were in the same studio lot, right next to each other. We’d see each other walking around. He'd been on Disney Channel a lot longer than me. I knew who he was and I remember seeing him leaving the lot one day when I was leaving and telling everyone to hold the car for one second because I needed to meet this kid. I knew he was in Descendants, but I didn’t know who he was going to be. I said, ‘Hey, I think we’re going to be doing this thing together and we’re going to be friends, I’m sure of it’. And that just really strikes me now, obviously, for a number of reasons. Because we became really close and we became really good friends.
I met Sophia in the audition for Liv and Maddie. She auditioned for a role in Liv and Maddie and when she auditioned against me to see if we had chemistry, we apparently had such good chemistry that they brought her in to audition as Evie.
And I met Booboo when he was auditioning to play Prince Ben. They made us do a chemistry test and we just had no chemistry. We had brother and sister chemistry. In the audition room, they told us to do a scene where we had a romantic squabble and we were just terrible at it. They then told me, ‘he’s really shy, we need you to help – go and throw pillows at him’. So on the first day we met, Booboo and I had a massive pillow fight together. We always talk about that because it was the start of our brotherhood together.
3. Did you take anything off the set as a memento from the films? One of Mal's wigs?
I think I’d be killed if I took one of the wigs. They’re worth more than a lot of people’s cars. I wouldn’t want to say how expensive they are. The cast and I, we weren’t allowed to do this but it’s been long enough without people coming knocking on our doors – so I’m just going to start telling people – we on the very last day of shooting [and we] went in the costume truck.
One of the crew, who shall remain nameless, said, 'do you want to go in the costume truck?' and we all just shouted ‘yes!’ We took the key and found all the little boxes marked with Mal, Carlos, Evie and just took whatever we wanted. We got asked to give them back and we just said no.
We thought, we deserve some of the characters' jewellery. They have about nine copies of everything so we didn’t feel too bad. We just wanted to keep a few little mementos.
4. Disney remakes are on trend right now. What Disney remake would you like to star in?
I would love to do a dark Alice in Wonderland. I know Tim Burton just did that, but I would love to do that. I mean we’re making back-to-back remakes these days, so who really cares about the timing right? Something more leftfield, I would love to play Gwen Stacey in the new Marvel/Disney world – that falls under Disney I think.
I would love to play a villain. Like a really dark version of the Queen of Hearts. Thinking about it, I’d love to be in any sort of Disney remake. The characters are all so multi-dimensional and there’s so many great roles for women like myself.
5. Do you have a favourite song or routine from the series?
Kenny is such a brilliant choreographer. A lot of the more rhythmic dances like Break This Down in the last film with the hand-clapping and stomping routine in the final film is really fun. As is the Ways to be Wicked choreography, because you spell out ‘wicked’ with your body. But I always have a soft spot for Rotten To The Core when it comes to dances. It was wild to start a franchise with what was essentially moshing set to dubstep for a children’s show. It’s quite nuts.
6. Cameron's death earlier this year was absolutely heartbreaking. Why do you think he connected with so many people around the world?
The amazing thing about Cameron, the reason people feel like they knew him and the reason why hearts broke around the world, even when lots of people had never actually met him, was because he was exactly how he seemed to be. That’s a really rare quality to find in someone.
I think I wrote online, what was special about Cam was who he was in the quiet moments when nobody was watching. And there aren’t many people in the world who are who they are. Who are who they seem to be. Through and through. Even when nobody seems to be watching.
What I like to say about Cameron is that he’s everything that we loved about humanity, without everything that is difficult about humanity. He was very pure, very selfless and I’ve never met anyone like him and I doubt I ever will.
7. In Descendants 3, Mal has to deal with the pressure of being a young leader. Can you relate to that pressure?
Definitely. I think there is always a balance in the films, so that wherever Mal is, I’m somewhere similar. I think the writers drew from where we all were as people and put that into where we are as characters. I don’t think that was ever accidental.
You have to find yourself when you’re young. So to find yourself in a position of being a role model, when you have no idea who you really are, to be expected to figure everything out before all your peers do, it’s a strange thing to ask of someone. Fast-forward through your life, so that everyone watching can learn from you. If you don’t know something…you can’t force someone to be more developed than they are.
In this film, when Mal comes into a position of Government and she knows one day she will become a Queen – that is something she had no idea was going to happen. Obviously, I’m not anywhere close to being a Queen, but the idea of being in a position where lots of people are listening to you, it’s something I have become comfortable with, only through becoming comfortable with myself.
When I was younger, the idea of having to be an influence for someone my age was really daunting, because I didn’t know more than they knew. But I do feel now very grounded in myself, very secure in my beliefs. I’m still only 23, but for the first time in my life, I feel like I have a strong, fleshed out sense of self that I haven’t before. There's a nice feeling of security in that and I actually feel like a role model now, or at least someone who is capable of being one.
Disney's Descendants 3 premieres in the UK on Disney Channel on Friday, October 11th.
How to watch Disney's Descendants 3 on BT TV
Disney's Descendants 3 premieres in the UK on Disney Channel on Friday, October 11th.
Disney Channel is available to BT TV customers with the BT TV Kids pack.