In January 2019, Layton Williams took over from John McCrea in the smash West End show Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Layton is probably best known for playing the character Kylie in the BBC series Beautiful People and for playing the lead, alongside Jack Whitehall, in the critically acclaimed BBC comedy Bad Education, the follow-up film was in cinemas and can now be seen on DVD. He is also known as one of the boys who played the title role in Billy Elliot the Musical in London’s West End. Layton recently took his dance talent to the stage touring with Matthew Bourne’s stunning show The Car Man. Layton then performed to rave reviews as the role of Angel in the UK tour of the much-loved musical Rent. His other major credits include touring the country in the popular musical Hairspray and starring in Kiss Me, Kate at Sheffield Crucible Theatre.
Layton recently took time out to chat about his career, and of course, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Q: Taking a brief step back in time – a favourite memory from your time as Billy in Billy Elliot?
Layton: The whole experience was incredible. Opening Night was amazing. It was the first time I had performed in front of so many people and something I will never forget. It made me realise it was the thing that I really wanted to do. Just being a part of the legacy was amazing and it was really the beginning of everything for me. They taught me how to dance, how to sing and how to act – the whole experience was something I will never forget.
Q: Of your screen roles – do you have a favourite?
Layton: It is so hard to pick favourites… but, I loved my first job in Beautiful People – being on screen and working with an icon such as Olivia Coleman. I also got to dance as well – I loved that aspect of it. I did some dance in Bad Education, but not to the same extent. More recently I have a dance routine in the Rocketman movie – and that was an amazing experience – the film comes out in a couple of weeks. It was on a night shoot, cranes up in the air, it was brilliant.
Q: On two Hairspray tours – you played the part of Duane and Seaweed J Stubbs. What thoughts on being a part of this show?
Layton: Being part of a show where the story is about segregation and racism, and it makes people think. I think that is what stands out for me.
Q: Again on tour, on to Angel in RENT. What did you enjoy most about that role?
Layton: I loved Angel. I was the first time I had been playing around in heels. That was an experience and definitely set me up for what I am doing now. Also, the best part for me was being a part of a new creative team. It is such an iconic show, as is Hairspray. Working with choreographer Lee Proud, it was like we are making a new thing here. It really resonated in the production that it was a ‘fresh take’ on the show. It was 20 years since they had done RENT and it was amazing to bring it back but with a fresh eye.
Q: Kiss Me Kate at Sheffield Crucible – Your favourite song from the musical?
Layton: It has got to be ‘Too Darn Hot’, of course. My jam, my song – it goes on for more than 10 minutes… it was so much fun and probably my favourite musical theatre number to perform. The choreography felt so right in my body and it was so much fun. The whole team was sweating after that number.
Q: From January this year you have been playing the role of Jamie New in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – How did you feel when asked to play the role?
Layton: I was ecstatic, I was confused, I was shocked, all of the above – I can remember calling my mum and crying saying “they want me to do Jamie…”. How it worked out was so not like any other audition. It happened so casually and randomly. I didn’t really have time to take it all in – and then I had to wait 6 months or so before I got to actually play the role. So, it was quite a build up before I actually did the role, but worth the wait.
Q: What can you tell us about Jamie?
Layton: The take on Jamie is always the same, but maybe differs in how I perform it. He comes from a council estate up north, a bit like myself, back in the day. So, it’s not much of a reach there when it comes to myself and Jamie. He is out at school but underneath that, he has got body issues. He has also got issues with his dad. Just a boy who is trying to figure stuff out while he has a load of other people trying to give him advice and basically the wrong information. What he should and shouldn’t do etc. Underneath all of this fabulousness and bravado, there is this really vulnerable boy. If you were to scratch the surface he would bleed – he has got that about him.
Q: How important is playing the role of Jamie to you?
Layton: It is important to me because it represents the LGBTQ+ community in such a light that I don’t think another show does. And the number of people that come and see me at stage door or write letters and fan mail each week, it really is changing people’s lives. Giving people the confidence to be who they want to be. To go out there and unapologetically be themselves, whether they are gay, bisexual, transgender – anything. They can see themselves in the show in every way – it is relatable. And it is a British show and people think we are on their side. It is really beautiful to be able to help people.
Q: Your favourite song in the show?
Layton: I love singing Spotlight reprise – it is really short but always fills my heart with joy. And I have just got to sing it at the Royal Albert Hall, which was really fun.
Q: Your favourite scene in the show?
Layton: It will have to be the eyebrow scene – where Jamie is trying to paint on his eyebrows and he doesn’t do it very well.
Q: Can you tell us about the choreography in the show?
Layton: Once we have done the rehearsals and the show is up and running we just do it. I love the choreography in the show.
Q: Do you have a ‘show-day’ routine?
Layton: I try to mix it up a lot. I don’t have set things to do. I usually come in and warm-up, do my make-up, put on some tunes – such as The Spice Girls etc… get into a feel-good mood, and just go down and get into the show. I don’t have rituals – I just make sure I am rested and well-hydrated and ready to play.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being in the show?
Layton: Being able to be a part of a show that relates to people and inspires them to be themselves.
Q: Why should everyone get along to see the show?
Layton: You should come and see the show if you want to be moved – it will make you laugh and cry, make you think and be more open and kinder and forgiving. And to leave the theatre and help to make the world a better place by representing the message that Jamie is trying to say: just, unapologetically be yourself. Everyone needs a little bit of Jamie to sprinkle in their lives.
Inspired by a true story, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is the hit musical for today. Jamie New is sixteen and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Jamie doesn’t quite fit in. Jamie is terrified about the future. He is going to be a sensation.
Supported by his brilliant loving mum and surrounded by his friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, into the spotlight.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Performance Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours 40 minutes including interval
Age Restriction: Parental discretion advised. Contains some strong language and mild sexual references.
Apollo Theatre, London
Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho, London W1D 7EZ