Tragic Real Life Stories From The Cast Of Jessie

We all remember Disney Channel's "Jessie" as the fun, adventure-filled series that followed the trials and tribulations of a young woman from Texas (portrayed by Disney star Debby Ryan) who takes a job as nanny to a bunch of sometimes badly behaved but always adorable Upper West Side kids. Running for four seasons (which, as you might remember, is the same as Disney smash hits "Hannah Montana" and "Wizards of Waverly Place"), "Jessie" remains a well-loved show for the Disney empire.

But behind the lightheartedness of "Jessie," the cast members have not always had the easiest times in life — between illnesses and altercations with others, they have had to deal with a lot. Throughout it all, though, many among the cast have remained close and acted as a wonderful support system for one another as they faced difficult times. Here are some of the most tragic real life stories from the cast of "Jessie."

A friend was abusive toward Debby Ryan

Debby Ryan bravely took a stand against dating violence in 2015 because a horrible experience that she'd had helped her realize how common abusive behavior was, and she knew she needed to do something about it. Ryan's experience wasn't with someone she was romantically involved with, but with someone she considered a colleague, who became controlling toward her. "I mean, he showed up across the country at a meet-and-greet of mine and said he needed to talk to me," she told Teen Vogue. This was after loved ones had previously helped Ryan get rid of this person. "I hadn't talked to him in a month. I told him to leave my life. So he threw a phone at me and it shattered to pieces and he was screaming, punching the wall, and cussing me out."

Ryan teamed up with cosmetics brand Mary Kay in 2015 to promote a texting service to help survivors of dating abuse. "I know firsthand how alone you can feel when you're being broken down in a relationship and forced to defend it or stay silent," Ryan said in a press release at the time (via PR NewsWire). "Mary Kay and I believe that everyone deserves a safe, healthy relationship that makes you stronger and better and I want to make sure people know how to get the help they need." Beautifully put.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Debby Ryan has struggled with her mental health

Debby Ryan has been incredibly open about her struggles with mental health, namely anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and body dysmorphia. Describing what the experience of anxiety feels like in her mind and body, Ryan told Teen Vogue, "It feels like the world is [made of] walls and they're all closing in on you and strangling you from the inside. When that begins to happen, your heart rate rises."

In a video for the Post It Forward Tumblr, Ryan opened up further about her anxiety, but also about her depression and how it acts as a kind of seesaw with the anxiety. She was super candid about her experience with OCD, as well. "Knowing with your mind that you've turned off the lights or pushed clear on the microwave five times, and knowing with your mind that it is okay and not being able to have that peace of mind and satisfaction until you've actually gone and done these sort of rituals... it can feel so cyclical and daunting," she said (via J-14).

Sadly, Ryan has also dealt with body dysmorphia throughout her life, not unlike her character Patty on "Insatiable," the much-criticized Netflix show she starred in. "For better or worse, I don't know if I've ever seen what other people see," Ryan told Teen Vogue. "I don't know if everyone sees differently." The actor told the outlet that what tends to help is therapy, medication and mindfulness exercises, among other strategies.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Cameron Boyce died far too young

Cameron Boyce, who portrayed the facetious Luke Ross on "Jessie," tragically died in 2019, at just 20 years old, from an epileptic seizure. "He passed away in his sleep due to a seizure which was a result of an ongoing medical condition for which he was being treated," a representative for his family told ABC News. "The world is now undoubtedly without one of its brightest lights, but his spirit will live on through the kindness and compassion of all who knew and loved him."

Boyce's co-stars shared heartbreaking tributes to their friend at the time. Karan Brar, who was especially close to Boyce, wrote on Instagram, "you were the greatest thing to have ever happened to me. i love you so much cam," while Peyton List remembered him as, "The boy whose contagious laugh I can still hear, The boy who left everyone feeling hopeful and full of love."

After his sad passing, Boyce's loved ones set up The Cameron Boyce Foundation in his honor. The organization works toward curing epilepsy and eliminating Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), as well as fighting against gun violence, a cause that was close to Boyce's heart. On the Foundation's website, Boyce was quoted as having said, "​​Many people have the heart to give back, but a lot don't know how to. I try to be the bridge for those people..." A beautiful soul, lost too soon.

Skai Jackson had to get a restraining order against Bhad Bhabie

Skai Jackson and Bhad Bhabie, real name Danielle Brigoli, got into a pretty nasty feud in 2020. Brigoli appeared to call Jackson out on Instagram, saying that she had posted about her on her "fake page" after seeing Brigoli with an unnamed boy. "That s*** don't sit right with me," the rapper said. According to Seventeen, things escalated so much between the two that their moms got involved in the argument via social media.

This whole fight seemed to revolve around rapper NBA YoungBoy, and it got so aggressive that Jackson felt compelled to take out a restraining order against Brigoli in February 2020. But the actor then dropped the restraining order in June after Brigoli "stopped threatening" Jackson, and the rapper reportedly chose to engage in therapy and rehab. "If she goes back to her old ways, of course, we'll have to change that, but I hope and believe that it won't be necessary," Jackson told TMZ. "I think it's great that Danielle is getting the help she feels she needs. I wish her nothing but the best on her road to recovery."

Skai Jackson was horrified by how much racism landed in her DMs

At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd, Skai Jackson was determined to publicly call out anyone she saw being overtly racist on social media. On Instagram, she wrote, "If I see you post it, I WILL expose you!! If you think you're big and bad enough to say it, I will most definitely put your own words on blast!!" On Twitter, she posted many people's usernames, retweeting or screenshotting their posts, and also promised to expose anyone she saw being homophobic. Things got so bad that at one point Jackson was receiving thousands of DMs containing racist posts, she tweeted.

Jackson was accused by some of "cyberbullying," especially because some of the people she was exposing were minors. But Jackson knew where to draw the line: "Also, please don't send me anyone's address," she wrote on Twitter. "I won't be posting that.. these people have said horrible things but posting someone's address is going a little too far. Let's hope they all live, and learn from this situation and educate themselves."

Josie Totah suffered greatly from hiding her true identity

Josie Totah officially came out as transgender in a 2018 essay for TIME. Before that point, she explained, people had just kind of assumed her identity — and she had often found going along with it was easier than the alternative. "When I was really young, growing up in a small town in Northern California, people would just assume I was gay," Totah, who was assigned male at birth, wrote. "Then I found myself playing that role once I got into the entertainment industry, and people kept assuming my identity."

But Totah's assumed identity didn't match up with her understanding of herself and, by 2018, she was ready for the world to know it. "My pronouns are she, her and hers," she wrote. "I identify as female, specifically as a transgender female. And my name is Josie Totah." Since that freeing announcement, Totah has been totally thriving in her life and career — and nowhere has this been more apparent than with her role in Netflix movie "Moxie," in which she plays a transgender teenage girl with a group of feminist friends. 

"Those are conversations I have in my own home with my friends, and conversations I know other people are having particularly right now, and getting to depict those on screen and depict the sort of feminist revolt amongst a group of women who come from various different socio-economic statuses, races, identities, cultures, is an honor," she told HuffPost UK in 2021. A total icon.

Charles Esten's daughter survived leukemia

Charles Esten may have played distant father Morgan Ross on "Jessie," but in real life, he is a truly doting dad to children Taylor, Chase, and Addie, whom he shares with wife Patty (via Bustle). Things haven't always been plain-sailing for the little family, though: They went through an extremely painful time when Addie was diagnosed with leukemia at just two years old. "You feel very powerless," Esten told the Tennessean. "It was terrifying." Well-meaning people around him wanted to know how the actor and his wife managed when Addie was in intensive care, and for Esten, the answer was straightforward: "I say, 'What's the alternative?' We were not without our share of bad days."

But they made it through to the other side, and Addie is thriving. Exhibit A: in 2021, the family went to support her at a soccer game during her senior year at William & Mary — which just so happens to be where her parents met (via the college's news page). "These four years have been quite a journey and throughout it all, she has shown her strength and great character," Esten wrote about his daughter on Instagram. "We couldn't be any more proud of her if we tried. GO ADDIE!!"

Pierson Fodé suffered blackouts due to brain trauma

You may remember Pierson Fodé as a love interest of Jessie's, Brooks Wentworth, but Fodé's real life isn't as lighthearted as a Disney Channel show every day. More specifically, he has struggled with "brain trauma" that caused "blackouts," which was obviously an absolutely terrifying experience. In 2019, he shared this vulnerable part of himself in an Instagram caption attached to a photo of himself with a visible heart monitor under his shirt, explaining why the monitor was there.

Despite this terrible condition, Fodé was able to find a deep sense of gratitude. "I just wanted to say how grateful I am to be back to myself," he wrote on Instagram. "Thankful for everyone that reached out, even if I was unable to respond. Grateful for my friends and family who encouraged me and gave me hope along the way (that was very needed). Grateful to the doctors. Grateful for the life I get to live."

Despite having moved on to new projects, Fodé has stayed connected to his time on "Jessie" by donating part of his Cameo proceeds to The Cameron Boyce Foundation, as he shared on Instagram. It's such a touching way to allow Boyce's legacy to live on.

Kat McNamara was bullied in school

Kat McNamara played a small but no less memorable part in "Jessie" as Bryn Breitbart, a "mean girl" from Emma Ross' school, according to the show's fandom page. But this role is an ironic one for McNamara, who was actually bullied in school herself — and has made a point of fighting back against bullying since she became famous. "[Bullying is] something that needs to stop, it really does," McNamara told Girls' Life. "There are so many kids out there that really are afraid to show who they truly are because they're bullied, and that's so unfortunate."

In 2021, the actor joined the STOMP Out Bullying charity for their #SEEME campaign, which encouraged kids and teens to be their most authentic selves. In a promotional clip for the campaign posted to the organization's Facebook page, McNamara introduced herself this way: "See me. I am a storyteller. I am a woman. I am an advocate for kindness and love." The actor also starred in the 2013 film "Contest," which makes a statement against bullying. "When I was bullied, it felt horrible. I was so sad that someone felt the need to make me feel bad about myself. I had, however, been taught what to do in these situations. My past experiences were a large part of why I was so passionate about being involved in the film," McNamara told Regard magazine.

If you or a loved one has experienced a hate crime, contact the VictimConnect Hotline by phone at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services to help. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

Garrett Clayton has experienced different kinds of trauma

In "Jessie," Garrett Clayton played Earl on a single episode of Season 3, in which he takes Debby Ryan's character on a dateClayton was also featured in Disney Channel's "Teen Beach Movie" and sequel "Teen Beach 2," along with popular Freeform TV show "The Fosters" and many other projects.

One of the projects that moved Clayton the most, though, was a movie from 2018. "REACH deals with some very serious and timely topics that have affected me personally, and have likely influenced many of your lives as well," Clayton wrote on Instagram, going on to describe some of the horrible experiences he has had over the years that make him identify with the movie. "I have personally dealt with suicide within my own family, intense bullying in high school, and — on top of it all — myself and the man I've been in a relationship with for a long time (@hrhblakeknight) have both experienced shootings within our hometown school systems," he continued. As you might have guessed, "Reach" tackles all of these subjects, and Clayton wanted to be a part of it so he could help people like him even a little bit.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.