The former Rent and Billy Elliot star will soon be seen in the title role of the Los Angeles premiere of Jamie.
This week Playbill catches up with Layton Williams, who starred in the London and U.K. touring productions of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and will again step into the title role of that hit musical—about a teenager who finds self-assurance in the art of drag—when it makes its Los Angeles premiere beginning January 16 at Center Theater Group’s Ahmanson Theatre.
Williams made his West End bow at the age of 12, playing the title role in Billy Elliot The Musical. The actor has also appeared on stage in Hushabye Mountain; Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures; Kiss Me, Kate; Hairspray; Rent; and Thriller Live!, and his screen credits include Rocketman, Everybody's Talking About Jamie, Benidorm, Postcode, Beautiful People, Murder They Hope for Gold, and The Cleaner.
Can you describe how it felt to be back in a rehearsal room on the first day you and the cast of Everybody's Talking About Jamie assembled? It was just pure magic. We ended up doing a whole stagger through of the show. I had butterflies the whole time. It was all slowly coming back to me—scene by scene and song by song.
You've played this part in the West End and on the U.K. tour. Are there any parts of the role or the musical that seem particularly poignant/relevant following the events of the past 18 months? I guess the sense of belonging and the message of hope. As we’ve all had a difficult time navigating this new world, the sense of pure joy and being who you want to be really resonates.
What do you think is the message of this musical? What do you hope it leaves audiences thinking? I hope the audience leave feeling like they can live their true authentic lives, even though at times it may seem difficult. Have patience and hope, and, of course, be as fabulous as you want to be … Even if you’re just putting the bins out!
What would you say to audience members who may be feeling uneasy about returning to live theatre? I’d say not to worry, y'all, you’re in safe hands. Theatres are safe spaces, and especially our Jamie audiences are always so welcoming and very respectful. All procedures should be in place to ensure you have the best and safest experience. Plus I, personally, will do my best to entertain you, ha! Make you laugh, make you cry (and cheer), etc.!
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow artists, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further? Be aware that we are worthy, we are talented, and most of us have had to work twice as hard as anyone else to get into this industry. It shouldn’t have to be that way. So, yeah, it’s time to put some respect on our names in all fields. I’m seeing some change, but I’d like to see it from the top. I’ve only ever worked with one Black theatre producer in my life. That’s pretty wild, right? More visibility means we can continue to inspire the next generation to rise up.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest? I’d say keep your head up and know that you’re not alone. Lots of us have struggled. I’ve literally just come out of isolation, and, at times, it was tough, but I tried to keep my mind, body, and soul in check. But, you do you boo. If you wanna just chill and watch Netflix, that’s fine, too. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Make sure you reach out to loved ones and your chosen family, too.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past year-and-a-half that you didn't already know? I’m not very good at baking!
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change? Lots of people have been forced to be at home, which, unfortunately for some, may be a hostile environment. Especially for LGBTQ+ youth. So, I would love it if you’d consider learning about the charitable work of Mermaids and Stonewall. Any donations would be greatly appreciated so they can continue helping LGBTQ+ people.