Layton Williams said he was “very good” at playing straight due to where he grew up and spoke candidly about how queer people feel they must hide themselves.
The Strictly Come Dancing finalist spoke with the BBC about playing Billy Elliot at the age of 12 and his roles in Channel 4’s Bad Education and the West End hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
“I was very good at just playing a straight boy,” the 29-year-old told the Beep. “I grew up in an estate in Bury, quite a rough one, so I had to have my wits about me.
“As queer people, we just have to go through that, unfortunately. Because we grow up in a society feeling people like us are not going to be accepted. I was able to channel that into Billy.”
Williams explained that during his first few weeks living in London he worked with openly gay male dance teachers who were “so inspiring to someone who was not there yet”.
“I messaged one of them when I was doing Strictly actually, because of all the flips and tricks I used on the show he had taught me when I was 12,” he said.
During the interview, Williams also admitted he was initially considered for the character of Michael, who is Billy’s gay best friend.
“I actually played Michael twice. They were about to cancel the show, but I knew the part,” Williams said.
“I had so much fun going out there being this fabulous little queen.”
Another role that was formative for Williams was his character of Kylie in the BBC drama Beautiful People, which also starred Oscar-winner Olivia Colman.
“To get the role of Kylie [a flamboyant youngster] I’d come in every time with a different bag, or a cheeky little scarf around my neck, or a pair of sunnies,” Williams explained, which he described as “giving them a whole other moment”.
“I was very confident, because that’s what I was like at that point. I was Kylie. I was living amongst the beautiful people. I was in London, I was living my dream, I was on stage.”