Actors Cavin Cornwall and Layton Williams have spoken of the need for more black British role models in theatre. Cornwall said he had only American performers to look up to during his training.
The performers were speaking at the inaugural Black British Theatre Awards, where Williams won best male actor in a musical for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Cornwall won best supporting male actor in a musical for Jesus Christ Superstar.
Cornwall said that creating more role models was about highlighting the work of existing performers, arguing that the Black British Theatre Awards will help to do this.
“I’ve waited so long for something like this to happen for black British actors,” he told The Stage.
“We have a lot [of role models] for Americans, and as I was going through college all I had were American role models to look up to.
“Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s an amazing thing to aim for, but it was very difficult to have British black role models and for me that’s an important thing. Events like today are a huge stepping stone.”
Williams said he would “absolutely” like to see more black role models in mainstream theatre.
He added: “Because Jamie was white, and the first person to play the role was white, for black boys it would never have been a role that you would have been able to aspire to, and me playing that role has hopefully inspired people to be able to think you know what, reach for the stars: your dreams are there to be lived.”