A Star of the Stage: an interview with TV's Layton Williams as he takes on the lead role in Everybody's Talking About Jamie!
6 April 2019
Words: Tomm Ingram
Layton Williams has a great story to tell. Best known for his roles in BBC shows, Beautiful People and Jack Whitehall’s Bad Education, he’s always been a dancer and theatrical performer at his core. From a young age he was the first person of colour to be cast as Billy Elliott and more recently has taken on the UK, touring roles of Seaweed Stubbs in Hairspray and Angel in RENT. Now the Italia Conti graduate has taken a step further towards his inevitable stardom. As John McCrea steps away from the leading role in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Williams has taken the spotlight playing Jamie at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, now in its second year.
Training at one of London’s most prestigious stage schools, Williams has taken every opportunity thrown at him and made the most out of them. His professional talents, particularly in dance, have always attracted the interest of casting directors, though it’s his charisma and effortless charm that has skyrocketed him into the spotlight.
His first big break was when he became Billy Elliott on the West End stage at the age of 12, after a heavily-covered national ‘Billy Elliott hunt’. In a conversation with The Guardian recently, Williams said: “You don’t normally find your career at 12 years old, but I just stumbled across it”. Williams’ mother saw an ad in the paper and drove from Bury to Manchester for the audition. Williams, a novice at the time, was taken aback being the only person of colour auditioning for the role, but his parents wouldn’t let those thoughts hinder his chances. Soon after, a star was born. Williams was then cast in popular BBC television show, Beautiful People as Kyle and after finishing his training at The Italia Conti School of Theatre Arts at the Barbican, he had already made a name for himself.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a pop musical based on a true story and was inspired by the BBC Three documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen at 16. The musical centres around Jamie’s struggles with his teachers and peers who put him down for wanting to become a drag performer. Referred to as ‘the hit musical for today’, the show addresses minority group struggles, especially those around school children, no easy task for a big West End musical to tackle. But Everybody’s Talking About Jamie fits perfectly into London’s theatre scene, bringing something different and fun to attract more first-timers down to London’s playhouses.
Nica Burns, head of NIMAX Theatres, is the reason the show is in the West End and had this to say on the announcement of Williams’ casting last year, ‘“Layton is a supremely talented actor, singer and dancer with a long list of credits. I’m sure he will make the role of Jamie very much his own.”
Already proudly strutting through its second year at The Apollo Theatre, Jamie isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Williams started his run this January and is currently contracted until the end of September. So make sure you secure yourself some tickets, honey!