3rd September 2021
Photography: Owen James Vincent
Grooming: Destiny Williams (Dede)
Interview: Savannah Small-Swaby
Logo Design: James Shaw
Clothes: ESAU YORI
A big thanks to Juice mgmt for looking after us!
Whether you've seen him as the star of the hit theatre show Everybody's Talking About Jamie or you remember him from his Bad Education days, Layton Williams is a face you can't forget with an infectious personality you can't ignore. After a crazy year of stalled shows and moving his successful workshop, Pros From The Shows to Zoom, Layton spoke to ReVamp about the dynamic range of LGBTQ roles he plays, how to be an ally and his next steps on both the stage and T.V.
First of all tell us about your journey. I know a lot of it has been around the confidence you've had being out and proud. Tell us a little bit more about that.
I guess it all just comes from life, time and experience. Most kids, especially when I was growing up had to figure themselves out and hide themselves a little bit if they were like me. Now that I get the chance to be an adult, I'm fully comfortable in my own skin and I'm living my truth. It’s what I want to do every day. If I want to put that dress on, I put it on. If I want to put that lipstick on, I put it on, you know, and just live my truth. And if that makes somebody else uncomfortable, then that's on them.
Do you think your mindset has shifted since the pandemic?
I think I've always been a little bit like this, even when it comes to my personality and what I choose to wear and things. Don’t get me wrong, I do have chill days. I mean, most days during lockdown I was sat on my couch in a onesie but then I might get chances to stunt and have a moment. It's just nice to feel good. I think I've always kind of had this rebel inside me, to just be me and do me. Now, even more I have that feeling to live life. I'm a massive advocate for young kids being themselves. The sooner they can not give a damn about what others are going to think, the sooner they can make themselves happy.
Is this where the inspiration behind your acting workshop, Pros From The Shows came from?
A bit, yeah. The main idea is to provide experiences, workshops, opportunities for kids, and anybody around the country, and international. To inspire them to be themselves and to help them, hopefully, go down a path that leads to something they want to do. I’ve been doing it for quite a few years but when the pandemic hit everything went online and I thought no-one’s going to want to do a workshop on Zoom.
Low and behold, I’m doing Zoom classes left right and centre. Everyone was gagging for it! It’s been great. I’ve been able to take my sprit into Zoom. I hope it’s given people lots of joy in their living rooms and has become a reason to smile during this past year.
A lot of the roles that you played have a strong LGBTQ storyline. Is this something that's important to you as an actor?
I always try and flip the script on this one. Sometimes people ask me if I’m worried about it and I’m like, no! I celebrate it. I'm a gay actor, I play gay roles. And all these roles are different. Not every person in the LGBTQ community has the same story. Jamie is very different to Angel. There are so many different characters and people and moments and ‘isms’. I’m happy to be flying the flag and inspiring kids, especially to the point where they see themselves represented, it’s special. It's something that has just happened and I'm proud.
You touched on a really nice point about the different dimensions to LGBTQ people. We’re so used to seeing, especially in these demographics, one type of Black person or one type of Asian person. How important is it to make sure that we're showing the multifaceted lives of all these different groups?
We have to show that they have ups and downs, lows and highs, like come on. It's not all one note. It has been really, really nice to tell different people’s stories. I'll continue doing this until my career is done. It makes me happy, pays the bills and I can’t complain.
Speaking of roles, you’ve got a new TV show coming out soon. Can you tell us anything about that?
Yes. I’m going to be in the comedy, The Cleaner, which is going to be on BBC One. I’m really excited actually because I’m going to be one of around six 'guest stars', and I’m saying that with inverted commas because I wouldn’t call myself a star. I mean Helena Bonham Carter has an episode.
It's basically about a crime scene cleaner, and every episode is a different scenario. I'm playing an influencer, which is really fun. There’s a lot of drama going down. I got to be in my element, all week, just me and one other actor basically. And I really got to show, even to myself, I can do this. Put me back on the TV honey. I can handle this pressure. I was just ready to do it and I hope it shows when it comes out. I think it's going be really funny and also a relationship viewers wouldn’t expect from me and Greg Davis’ characters so it's really sweet little arc, without giving too much away but I think y'all are gonna love it.
I'm guessing you've met a lot of well known people. Can you think of a time when you were star struck.
I think because I've been in the industry for such a long time, it’s kind of jaded me. I mean, I've literally been to Elton John's house. You can’t really get more iconic than that, can you?
Okay, you can't just drop that bombshell and not elaborate.
Well, Elton John wrote the music to Billy Elliot, which was my first job. He invited us over for dinner with our chaperones and the whole cast with him and his [partner] David Furnish. So, from the age of about 12, here’s me in Elton John’s house, in the pool and just having a tour around his gaff. He’s probably the most famous person.
Oh, I do remember being gassed when I met Zac Efron, too. He’s such a spice.
On top of acting, you’re also part of charities such as Stonewall. What would you say to people who want to authentically support and be an ally?
Social media is really powerful. You want to be following people that speak up like Munroe Bergdorf. She’s a trans activist, model and just an all-round beautiful person. There’s so many people online who are doing their bit. Follow them online, interact, ask questions, don't be afraid. But also speak up if you hear things happening, and you don't think it's right.
I think that's the best place to be. Being open and honest, and accepting that sometimes if we're going to tell you that something's offensive, it’s not for you as a straight person to tell us how we’re feeling.
What can the world expect from Layton for the rest of 2021?
I'm getting back on the road for the Everybody's Talking about Jamie tour, which I am so excited about because I've got some unfinished business and I'll be coming to a city near all of you soon. And I do have a little trick up my sleeve for 2022, but I can’t say much on that yet.
We’re so excited about the Everybody's Talking about Jamie tour. You can’t walk down the street without seeing that beautiful face, that smile and that gorgeous red lipstick. Why do you think everybody IS talking about Jamie?
You just feel part of something. In the finale we sing In This Place Where We Belong and it could not be more true. We all have our isms, our moments and we're all beautiful in our ancestral ways, you know. We deserve to be loved, we deserve to be free, we deserve to be happy. And I really do think it opens up a little bit of everybody's hearts when they leave the show. That message has clearly been spread, and now the movie is coming out and people are excited to see it. It’s going to take it to a wider audience and people will see the movie and then want to see the tour. And I’ll be there.
And lastly. What advice would you tell your younger self?
Stop caring about what other people think and get yourself out and about and live your truth, because you're about to be booked and busy boo. Enjoy childhood and play out a little bit more. I was also going to say don't make certain mistakes but actually, these mistakes shape you. So go ahead and make them stupid mistakes.