Strictly Come Dancing contestant Layton Williams has said he hopes his appearance on the show has “spread a little bit of light”.
The film and theatre actor, 29, is partnered with Nikita Kuzmin and the pair landed in the second spot on the leaderboard after a dazzling week seven jive last weekend.
Williams, who starred in BBC Three series Bad Education, said in October on X, formerly Twitter, that the “messages of love” he had been receiving were “overwhelming” adding “as is the low-key trolling”.
Speaking to the PA news agency, Williams said of his journey on Strictly so far: “I just hope that it’s kind of spread a little bit of light, like a ripple effect throughout the country, you don’t realise how much representation is important.
“It could just be a little conversation about how boys like me, what I’m wearing, if that’s how I feel comfortable, and that’s how I want to present in that moment, then that’s fine. And if a child hears parents talking about that openly and candidly and positively, then that’s going to make them feel seen.
“It really is not something that I thought was going to happen necessarily. I just thought I was coming on the show to dance and have fun.
“But it just feels so much more special now because you’re kind of doing more than dancing … you’ll open up people’s hearts.”
Having previously performed on London’s West End in shows such as Billy Elliot and Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, the stage star has faced criticism for his theatre background.
He said: “Being a part of Strictly is such an honour, it’s such an amazing opportunity. So there was no way that I was going to be declining the offer.
“So when I said yes, obviously, I was like, oh, I hope that people are going to be excited that I’m on the show. And on the majority, absolutely, people have been buzzing but, online, you get the trolls here and there, and it has been a little bit relentless sometimes.
“But I think I’m just trying to think of the bigger picture and think of the gorgeous messages that I’ve had from parents, teachers, young people that have like seen themselves in us …”.
Williams, who alongside Kuzmin is part of this series’ only same-sex dance couple, said he tries not to look “too much” at the negativity online, adding that he has been “much better” at not looking.
He said: “At first I was like, a little bit like, oh my god, everyone’s following me … all these comments, and I’d read them and like they’d be the awful ones and I’d be like oh gosh, you can’t really unsee it, but in them moments of low, I just remind myself that you know, even Beyonce has haters …”.
Strictly professional Kuzmin, who previously danced on the show with social media influencer and CBBC presenter Tilly Ramsay and five-time Paralympic champion and broadcaster Ellie Simmonds, said of Williams: “He’s honestly one of the most hard-working students I ever had … he’s always hungry for more and more and more, which is fantastic and all you can ask from a student really. And he’s always positive as well.”
Speaking about his work ethic behind the scenes, Williams said: “I just think people maybe see this glossy you know, dolled up, lip-lined boy, and they don’t see, like actually every single step that I’ve taken to actually get myself on to Strictly.
“My career wasn’t just handed to me on a platter. I had to fight, I had to work hard, from the age of 11, 12 … I think some people think I’m maybe something that I’m not, and this has been a great experience to be Layton.
“As an actor and a performer, I don’t get to be me a lot, I’m playing and hiding behind characters.
“So it’s been really nice to show people what I am about, that I am grateful, I’m humble and I work hard, like I’m talking, we are putting in the work because we know that we are going to be penalised, we know that people are going to be looking very closely at my feet, et cetera, et cetera.
“So our goal was to always put on a show and we are most certainly proud of the things that we’ve been able to deliver so far.”
For week eight the pair will perform an Argentine tango to Tattoo, from Eurovision winner Loreen.
Williams said: “I’ve been looking forward to this one because I know that it was going to be quite different to other routines that we’ve done. We’re bringing the drama, we’re bringing the passion, but it’s serious, you know … But like it’s a whole other moment.
“The first couple of days was a bit overwhelming …. but I’m feeling confident that we’ve got an amazing piece … and we’re just going go out there and just hopefully just do our thing, and the Argentine (tango) is one of them big tick ones that you want to do … So it’s nice to do something a little bit different, people see a different side to me and Nikita.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub