Interview: Layton Williams Brings Everybody's Talking About Jamie to Hollywood
Williams stars in the Los Angeles premiere of this West End hit.
Los Angeles is not gonna know what hit it. Everybody's Talking About Jamie is making its American debut via Center Theatre Group, and this much-loved West End musical is bringing a supergroup of veteran cast members to the West Coast.
At the head of the group is longtime star Layton Williams, who comes directly from the ongoing UK tour with very few moments of rest. Here, Williams tells us about the responsibility he feels in being part of this show's first U.S. production and the thrill of the audience dancing in the aisles.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
This cast is you, Roy Haylock, Shobna Gulati — it's like a Jamie supergroup.
We were just talking about that yesterday. They could have done the easy route and just been like "OK, we'll take a few of you and cast the rest out there," but from the management to the creatives backstage and onstage, we're literally all going. So that's really quite special.
Tell me about your history with California. I know it's your first time performing there.
I went out to LA just before I actually knew that I was going to be playing Jamie. I had this really special time when I knew I had a job coming up, but I didn't have anything in that moment, so I just went and did this trip from San Francisco. It took me to Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Vegas, all within eight or nine days. It was one of the most beautiful trips. I did it solo and actually made some fab friends who came to see the show a few weeks ago. They were like, "You're going back to California, where it all began!" In my mind I always thought, "I'm just coming here to see what's going down, and then one day I'm going to be back and it's gonna be business." Little did I know that it would be this show bringing me back two and a half years later. It's crazy.
Jamie is such a delightful show.
People truly just embrace it. They end up leaving with the biggest smiles on their faces, hopefully up and clapping and singing along. We had little grannies dancing in the aisles. It was adorable.
But it must be so tough to do every night.
It is so tough. Like really, really demanding. He doesn't leave the stage, he's got one song to sing, and then another song to sing, and then another big scene. It's high energy. And Jamie does go on a bit of a roller coaster with his emotions, as well. So dealing with that, and being not 16 and playing 16, eight times a week, is exhausting. I barely do much outside of work. It will be so tempting to try and run around Hollywood and do all these amazing things, but I've got to be really strict with myself because at the end of the day, the work comes first. But it's really fun. And I love it. But it is very hard work.
Between West End and tours, you've done the show several hundred times now. How do you keep it fresh for that eighth show?
I try to have as much as fun as I can. Sometimes I do love to be a bit cheeky. I'm known for that, but in a way that would never be detrimental to the show. As long as the audience doesn't know. But I do like to have a little laugh with my cast because we have to keep it fresh. And honestly, it's never the same. It's going to be a different audience. I'm really intrigued to see what the American audiences will take with this show, because it's such a Northern England show. Obviously, there are going to be little tweaks and things, which will hopefully help the show become as much of a hit there.
What does it mean to you that they're entrusting the show's American debut to you?
It's daunting, but it's also very humbling. When I found out, I was teaching a Zoom dance class, as you do in lockdown, and all of my team had called me, from my agents to, like, the producers. I thought, "What is going on?" This is a PR nightmare. Because it was a Sunday, as well. Have I got anything that could be detrimental to my life and career? I thought I was in trouble. But it was good news. I was pretty astounded, because there's been incredible actors that have played this part. I think it was just timing, too. I was playing the part at that moment, not to take anything away from my talent. But it's really special and I'm not going to take a second for granted.