Layton Williams: ‘Writing Bad Education episode was the ultimate buzz’

Layton Williams has become a star of stage and screen since playing flamboyant student Stephen in the first three series of BBC Three’s Bad Education.

Now, he returns to the show that made him famous for a new series – and this time, the student has become the teacher.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen again. We did the movie, and then I was like, ‘okay, cool, it’s done.’

“But then I got this call from Jack Whitehall. I was in Hull, he was in Hollywood. LOL. And he was like, ‘how do you feel about coming back as a teacher 10 years later?’ And I jumped at the chance… after letting Jack stew for a couple of days!”

‘I was a very expressive queen. I found my moment, and I ran with it’

In the new episodes of Bad Education, airing now on BBC Three and streaming on BBC iPlayer, Stephen returns as a teacher to Abbey Grove after his showbiz career flops. However, Stephen sees his students as a way of kick-starting his celebrity life.

“Stephen is an absolutely terrible teacher,” says Layton, “but he is fun.

“He actually doesn’t do that much teaching. He makes his class his minions and gets them to help him. The teacher-student dynamic is definitely reversed.”

Stephen may not be Teacher of the Year, but Layton certainly taught the Bad Education series four cast some new tricks.

As a former child star himself, he had lots of tips for the cast of mostly newcomers who play Stephen’s students. His co-star Charlie Wernham tells BBC Three: “Layton was giving them loads of advice on how to make sure you’re definitely seen on camera in big group scenes. Barging your way to the front, making sure you’re standing next to the lead.”

Charlie says this was a trick his co-star learned on the original three series of Bad Education: “Throughout the earlier series, in a lot of scenes he’s clinging on to Jack Whitehall to make sure he’s got his best side on camera!”

“Listen,” Layton responds, “if the camera can’t see you, then what’s the point? My one advantage in the old cast was I was much taller than everyone else.”

He credits this with being the thing that made him a standout character: “I was a very expressive queen. I found my moment, and I ran with it. And so did Charlie. I think that’s half the reason why we’re here now, because our characters were so distinct in that sense.”

When Layton first appeared in Bad Education, he was already one of the more experienced actors out of the young cast. He’d made his West End debut in 2007, as the ninth actor to play Billy Elliot on the West End stage. He had also had a lead TV role the following year in the LGBTQ-themed sitcom Beautiful People.

Since the original series of Bad Education wrapped in 2014, Layton has had further stage successes in the UK national tours of musicals Hairspray and Rent.

‘If anyone’s going to write Stephen, it should be me’

At 28 years old, Layton has over 15 years of experience in showbiz – but returning to Bad Education was still a little daunting.

“The first time I actually stood at the front of the classroom,” he says. “I got really nervous. I’m used to sitting there. Now I had to command. It’s not just doing your lines or whatever, you have to command the attention of the students.”

Keeping control of a classroom was not the only new challenge for Layton. Bad Education series four saw the actor join the show’s writers’ room and choreograph some show-stopping moments like Class K’s irritable bowel syndrome-themed musical in episode one.

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