Layton Williams on Strictly: The musical theatre star bringing ‘good drama’ to the ballroom

Do you know your Argentine Tango from your Viennese Waltz? Your Salsa from your Cha-Cha-Cha? Or a pas de bourree from a kick-ball change?

If not, there’s a high chance you’ll be fluent in all things dance in no time, as it’s Strictly Come Dancing season.

In August, 15 celebrities were announced as part of the 2023 lineup, ranging from broadcasters (Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Angela Rippon), to sports stars (Annabel Croft, Jody Cundy) to soap actors (Bobby Brazier, Ellie Leach).

TV star and musical theatre performer Layton Williams is a key part of this year’s crop, and has already begun documenting his glittery journey to the dancefloor in his TikTok series, #StrictlySlayton.

He’s sure to make his mark on this year’s edition of the show – and he’s no stranger to standing out from the crowd.

Williams was born in Bury, Greater Manchester on 13 September 1994. From an early age, he showed a passion for performing; he counts a turn as Captain Hook in a school play as a significant turning point on his road to stardom.

“I remember everybody was a bit like, ‘Wow, this is a bit more than just the average student playing a part.’ Every Halloween I would always spend an extra half hour on my make-up. I was always very dramatic,” he told The i earlier this year.

Williams’ parents saw his gifts and enrolled him in Bury-based Carol Godby’s Theatre workshop to further harness his talents.

His family moved to London for his theatre career when Williams was 11, and he got his first professional role as the lead in Billy Elliot on the West End, aged 12.

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Along with his other stage shows, including Thriller Live, Rent, Hairspray and New Adventures, Williams is best known for playing teen drag queen Jamie New in the musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie from 2019 to 2022, in London and on the UK tour.

Outside of the theatre, Williams is recognisable for his role in the BBC Three school sitcom Bad Education, in which his character Stephen Carmichael was a student, and then a teacher in the rebooted series.

He has also starred in I Hate Suzie and does the voiceover for the UK’s first gay dating show, I Kissed a Boy.

Williams is openly gay. While he’s long been open with his sexuality, he’s spoken about his past feelings of not being able to be his full self while growing up in a small community.

“I was loved but I was living a double life,” he told The i. “That’s normal for a queer kid, you never feel comfortable being 100 per cent yourself. That’s why I’m so out of the box now. That’s why gay people are so iconic – we spent so long pretending to be someone else that when we can be authentically ourselves there’s no holding us back.”

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When he was announced as part of this year’s Strictly lineup, Williams was forthcoming with his excitement, writing in a statement: “Absolutely buzzing to confirm that I will be taking part in THE most iconic dance competition in the UK! It’s time to bring it to the Ballroom… Bring on the sequins… ALL the sequins!”

Due to his professional musical theatre training and experience, Williams will enter the competition with a slight advantage compared to a celebrity who’s never danced before. But he’s noted that he’s never learned the specific dance styles that will be displayed on the show – so it’ll still prove challenging.

“Of course, there are going to be moments that will feel more comfortable being in the rehearsal room,” he said. “However, I can’t stress enough how different [Strictly is]… it’s like a plumber trying to be an electrician!

“It’s just not the same and if anything, I’m such a perfectionist with the things that I do, when it comes to stuff that I should potentially be able to do and everyone expects me to be able to do but actually it’s just sometimes unlearning.”

On TikTok, Williams is keeping his fans entertained with his Strictly journey with his #StrictlySlayton series.

In early September, he shared a clip teasing a little of what viewers can expect from him as a part of this season’s proceedings.

“Hopefully, I’m gonna bring some glitz and some glam, and a whole lot of camp and maybe a bit of drama. The good kind of drama!” he added, with a laugh.

Strictly Come Dancing airs every Saturday from 16 September on BBC One.