Layton Williams on homophobic abuse and playing Angel in RENT

Layton Williams by Joe McCormick
Layton Williams by Joe McCormick

High-kicking and back-flipping his way as lead character Angel for the London revival of RENT is young actor Layton Williams. But as his character gets caught between being in love and being HIV-positive, at a time when it was a death sentence, Layton told Gay Times magazine that he has had to go on a journey of self-discovery to find his voice and defy the haters.

Layton was only two when RENT debuted in 1996. A lot has changed for LGBT people since then.

We get people who see the show who are older and who go, ‘We lived through what you’re talking about’. I feel blessed and I feel the youth of today should know they’re lucky. You see people swanning about in Soho and I don’t think they realize how much the older generation fought for us to be able to do that.

Layton has had his share of homophobic abuse, being called ‘gay boy’ and ‘batty boy’ on the streets of Peckham, south London, where he now lives.

It made my blood boil and I was thinking ‘imagine I was here in a pair of heels and a red wig, I’d get it even worse’.

Layton is a Stonewall School Champion, going into schools to take part in group discussions about sexuality. He took part in the #back2school anti-bullying campaign which sends bullied celebrities back to school to talk about their bullying experience. Check out Layton’s video below.

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