Layton Williams - Slayton
Layton Williams is truly non-stop. This young star has had a whirlwind career, proving he is one to watch, ever since his dazzling journey to the stage began in 2007, when he took the title role in Billy Elliot the Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London. Williams was the second non-caucasian boy to take on the role, the other being Matthew Koon, and the first black boy to star in the show. He is also the second-longest running performer to play Billy in the show’s history.
Williams recent theatrical repertoire consists of Angel in Rent, Seaweed J Stubbs in Hairspray and Young Michael Jackson in Thriller Live. He’s also danced in Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies and The Car Man. It’s doesn’t stop there - when Williams has a break from the stage, he also takes on roles in TV shows such as Bad Education (which was later released as a feature film), Benidorm and, my ultimate favourite, BBC’s Beautiful People.
I recall all those years ago seeing the triple threat actor on The Paul O’Grady Show. This was the very first time I saw a young person of colour in a leading role. It was so inspiring to see such a narrative lead this way.
In this interview I got to capture Layton in his gorgeous South London pad and discuss his exciting projects and recent events over a delicious Thai takeaway meal.
Gabriel Mokake: So, Mister, what are you currently up to at the moment?
Layton Williams: Well I’ve just finished a glorious season touring around the UK with Dance with Layton and Pros from the Shows. However at the moment, I’m filming for Rocketman, the Elton John biopic, which is super fun!!! It’s all very exciting and a last-minute booking!!! But it’s been a fabulous experience so far. We’re currently shooting a fabulous musical number, which I can’t wait to see on the big screen. I’m also soon to be going into rehearsals for Kiss Me Kate at The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, which in my opinion produces some fabulous work. I’m super excited to get started on this project in particular because I’ve not yet been part of a legit Musical Theatre show.
GM: What excites you most about Kiss me Kate?
LW: It’s Too Darn Hot! It's a spectacular number. I mean, it’s ten minutes long but I’m hopefully going to slay it and turn it out!
GM: How did Pro’s From The Shows and Dance With Layton come about ?
LW: So as some people know, in 2016 I launched Dance With Layton a programme where I tour around the country teaching various dance workshops. I don’t necessarily see myself as an expert choreographer but the aim is to teach what I’ve learnt about positivity and hard work. Thankfully, it really took off and the workload became full on so I introduced Pro’s From The Shows. I’ve had the pleasure of working with and befriending such talent throughout my time in the industry so far, so I took this as an opportunity to employ people who I trust and whose talent I know will also inspire the next generation of performers. We’ve been able to teach 1000 + students at over 100 schools around and my hope is that hey continue to grow and flourish in this fabulous industry.
GM: Tell me to date your proudest achievement thus far and why?
LW: Definitely being on the red carpet for the premiere of Bad Education (The Movie) I remember thinking “How did this happen to me?”. When you go from doing the series to filming an actual movie and its nationwide. It's kind of surreal and a huge achievement for me. I think every young performer dreams of it.
GM: How would you describe the person you have become now?
LW: I think I’m still quite grounded, and know my worth and levels because I’m confident, yes, but I’m not out there pretending I can do everything when I can’t - so I’m very aware of my abilities and know my barriers, which helps in making me the performer I am today.
GM: What advice would you have given your younger self?
LW: I guess “Enjoy your childhood a bit more!”. I say this because I didn’t have a normal childhood, as I was working professionally from such a young age.
GM: And is there anything you would do differently?
LW: I would have encouraged the younger me to come out a little sooner at state school and be proud of who I really am! Because it will work in your favour!
GM: What’s your voice within the black gay community?
LW: I believe that me being proud and present as a black gay man is where I find my voice. With regards to activism, I’ve had the pleasure of working with various charities. However, my main form of activism is presented through my work, and encouraging people to be loud and proud with their true selves unapologetically.
I think it’s hard for people of colour within the gay community as the stigma is still very prevalent now. Even on a recent trip to Jamaica I was scared of how I’d be perceived, but I just had to be me because it’s all I’ve ever known. When I have people messaging me to let me know that I’ve given them confidence to come out to their family and friends, It’s touching and makes it all worth it.
GM: What are your views on social media?
LW: I love social media because I can use it as a platform for myself and important issues, and it’s a brilliant way to reach out to my amazing supportive fans. Also it’s so important for my businesses, Pros from the Shows and Dance with Layton without my social media following these businesses wouldn’t flourish as much as they have, because most of the bookings are received through these platforms. It definitely helps with advertising.
GM: What are your tips on nailing an Instagram post?
LW: I really don't like the use of too many filters, so keeping everything as natural as possible in my opinion is best. Not spending to much time on it, and once you have the right image to post, just post it! I see too many people who are addicted to it and seek too much validation from it.
GM: Now Layton, talk to me a little about your recent events at Edinburgh Fringe.
LW: (Layton sighs) I was kind of shocked and angry, to be honest. Can you imagine this stuff still happens? It's 2018! Edinburgh was truly wild! It was crazy to be in the position I was in, knowing what was happening, and not quite believing it. Being racially profiled isn’t something that’s blatantly happened to me before, but here it was, in the flesh.
GM: For people that didn’t see these events, Williams was subject to racial profiling outside a Edinburgh Fringe venue because staff said he “looked suspicious” and resembled “someone who had jumped the fence” two weeks prior to this event. The venue apologise when Layton posted his experiences on Twitter. The post went viral in a matter of hours and was picked up by many of the major news publications.
LW: This is why social media is good in these instances. I’m just glad the situation sparked up a conversation about this kinda stuff... and I’m asking for more!
GM: Staying on the same theme, you recently teamed up with Lynx and anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label.
LW: Yeah it’s really disappointing, in regards to the campaign I just did in partnership with Lynx. We forget that we live in a bubble, in our lovely communities surrounded by the support and love of our friends, families, allies and fans. But when something as important and meaningful as this is out there for the big real world, the reality is sometimes shocking and people aren’t as nice and supportive. I’m so tired of people trying to put me down with negative labels. Like I said before, I’m way bigger and better than any word thrown at me.
GM: Right, let’s change up the tone a little with a quick fire round. What’s your favourite song to dance & sing to currently?
LW: Heartbreak Hotel by Alice Chater - It’s such a bop! Ohh and maybe her latest single Hourglass. I’m literally stanning her right now!!!
GM: You’re on a desert land, What are you four things you couldn't live without ?
A sexy man
Avocados (although I could probably just pick them off a tree lol)
And If I’m still blonde I’d have to take some hair dye to keep these roots at bay.
GM: Your best looks so far?
LW; Well I think it would have to be the Halloween looks I pull every year, where I serve you a cute drag moment! Side note, I’m actually quite nervous about this year’s look (I might not go out this year... too much work to do!) but rest assured my Halloween looks are always fire!
GM: Man Crush and Woman Crush ?
LW: My man crush would be Richard Madden from BBC’s The Bodyguard , he’s stunning and incredibly talented, he could definitely be my personal bodyguard with benefits anytime (lol) & my girl crush has to be Model and Business Woman Leomie Anderson. She’s bomb and has everything going on - I've been following her career since Channel 4’s The Model Agency. I’m basically a fan girl but I love the platform she’s created for young women with LAPP.
GM: Where do you see your self In five years from today?
LW: You know what, ultimately, to be happy and I hope I’m still doing all the fantastic things that I’m doing currently and more! I would love to work more internationally, maybe New York City or LA because I freaking love it out there. So basically branching out to a wider audience but overall it’s about happiness. And slaying these streets.
And slay he will.
You can catch Layton in Kiss Me Kate over Christmas and keep an eye out for big things happening in 2019 !!!