Layton Williams says homophobic trolls will never “dim” his “light”.

The actor, singer and dancer is one of 14 celebrities competing on the 21st season of Strictly Come Dancing. He is partnered with Nikita Kuzmin, who previously placed sixth and tenth with Tilly Ramsey (2021) and Ellie Simmonds (2022), respectively.

Williams is best-known for his leading role as Stephen Carmichael in BBC Three’s acclaimed comedy series Bad Education, as well as his work in the West End. He played the title role in Billy Elliot the Musical, a young Michael Jackson in Thriller – Live and Jamie New in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Ahead of his debut this Saturday (23 September), Williams has been met with – sigh incoming -anti-LGBTQIA+ comments online. Recently, he went viral for clapping back at a troll’s “internalised homophobia” by joking that he will “butch it up” for him in “week two”.

Speaking with GAY TIMES, the star confirms that he will, in fact, “never butch it up”. However, he teases that he will serve variety over the course of the season through different “characters”.

“I am an actor, so I could give you different vibes!” he reveals. “There are many sides to Layton. Sometimes I’m a butch queen, sometimes I’m a femme queen, sometimes I’m whatever I want to be. So, you will be getting that on Strictly because that’s what I’m like in real life. But, I won’t be butching it up for anybody but me.”

Strictly Come Dancing has made tremendous strides in recent years with LGBTQIA+ representation. Since Katya Jones and Nicola Adams made history as the first same-sex pairing in 2020, the series has featured two more same-sex couples with Johannes Redabe and John Whaite (2021) and Jayde Adams and Karen Haur (2022).

Despite the progress, Williams says he still “expected” backlash from anti-LGBTQIA+ viewers.

“What I would like to do is rise above it and stay focused on what the moment is. You’re never gonna dim my light,” he says. “I’m not here to please anybody who is not about me. I’m here to have a ride and enjoy my time with Nikita. I’m not here to teach lessons or preach. Me being on Strictly and being myself is almost an act of defiance.”

Because he simply wants to be “thrown about and look gorgeous”, being in a same-sex partnership “wasn’t even a question” for him when he signed onto the series: “It also gives me an opportunity to really play with gender roles. Like, who’s leading who? What costume am I gonna come out in? People will be gagged. I’m gonna keep you all guessing!”

As a Black queer man, Williams understands the impact that he will have on young viewers, particularly those who belong to his respective communities. He feels “proud” to be the representation he never had growing up and wants to make queer youth “feel seen”. “I want it to inspire boys, girls, they’s and them’s. Hopefully, this will open up people’s hearts,” he explains.

Describing his Strictly experience as “beautiful chaos,” Williams shares that he and Kuzmin are having a “great time” and are already in-sync with each other.

“I feel like I’m already understanding what’s going on in his brain. A lot of the time, we do have cameras in the room. But in the private moments, it’s really nice. He is a sweet person and an amazing choreographer and creator,” he says.

“He’s really pushing me, which is exactly what I want. I want to make sure that I’m really bringing myself to a high standard, and Nikita is the perfect person for that.”

For his first performance, Williams will be doing the Samba to Little Mix’s iconic pop smasher ‘Touch’.

Strictly Come Dancing airs this Saturday (23 September) on BBC One.