Shining a light on a dark place

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

The statistics startled Kameron Badgers and his grandmother, Deb McAlister-Holland.

As the second leading cause of death in teens, suicide claims the lives of more young people than cancer, AIDS, heart disease, birth defects, pneumonia, lung disease and the flu combined.

Badgers pored over the data, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, before filming “Beyond the Bridge.” The independent film chronicles the lives of three young men combating depression and suicidal thoughts. 

Badgers, a 17-year-old Lake Highlands High student, portrays Jacob, a teen who is befriended by a psychologist who lost his own brother to suicide. Jacob discovers the psychologist’s book about losing his brother,  and their relationship becomes complicated.

 The movie’s intense, complex themes were a hefty undertaking for Badgers, who was the youngest actor involved in the project. 

“It was the most heavy one,” Badgers says of his character. “It’s hard to get into that mindset, and I’ve never had to do that that much for any other role. It was a good experience, and I learned from it.” 

The film debuted in Plano. The screening was divided into two components. The first part was the fictional tale intended to break stereotypes about mental illness.  In the film, the person who needs intervention the most is the one who seems the happiest.

“Several people commented that it changed the way they looked at suicide and depression, and they realized how hidden it could be,” McAlister-Holland says. 

The second component included interviews with people living with depression or who are survivors of suicide. 

The producers — Matthew Thomas, Ramon Malpica and Lindsey Cummings — wanted the film to show viewers that mental illness isn’t always obvious, and to portray suicide in a way that wouldn’t glamorize it. 

“Since I’ve watched the movie, I’ve gained more understanding, more knowledge of the situations, and I think about it sometimes,” Badgers says. “I think about how I can help.”

When Badgers auditioned for the film, he didn’t know much about the role or what it would entail. McAlister-Holland  was hesitant, too, about how the role could impact Badgers.

“We talked about it quite a bit before we decided he was going to take it,” she says.

Badgers’ introduction to performing was not on the big screen, but rather the big top. He suddenly moved in with his grandparents as a second-grader. He was shy, so his grandparents enrolled him in a variety of camps to see what piqued his interests. He tried everything from karate to science activities.

He found his niche at the Lone Star Circus, where he learned to juggle knives.

As he’s grown, the demands of the circus have become tiresome, and he’s focused on acting. Just this year he’s performed in four movies and two TV shows.

“I don’t know if I’m going to do it for my career,” he says. “As of right now, I really like it for the most part. It’s a good way to spend time.”