My trailer (Mark Leiren-Young filming ReBoot: The Guardian Code)

I couldn’t believe it when I was shown to my trailer.

I’ve written for dozens of TV shows since making my debut with ReBoot back in the Jurassic era. Writers do not get trailers. Writers don’t even get cool chairs to watch people film their scenes.

Actors get trailers.

Today I was on-set as an actor. And since almost no one filming a show knows or cares who writes an episode (unless that writer is one of the producers doing the hiring and paying their salary) I didn’t feel any urge to tell anyone about my other role as the guy who’d created the character I was playing.

The name on my trailer was “Fanboy,” but no one calls my character that. I was “The User.”

I was the guy who inputs games for pleasure.

I was the freaking villain trying to kill Bob!

Maybe I’d always been the villain trying to kill Bob…

I’ve acted before. And when I first met ReBoot: The Guardian Code showrunner, Larry Raskin, I was touring Canada with my comedy act Local Anxiety.

Larry was developing a live-action TV series about the dramatic world of the internet (yes, really), told me he thought I should be writing for TV and, if his series was green-lit, I should write for him. That series didn’t fly (although Scorpion sure looked familiar), but years later Larry gave me my first ever hour-long dramatic script assignment on a show he was running –  Psi Factor.

I was performing with Local Anxiety in Vancouver when Helen DuToit saw our act. She thought I was funny enough to write for an animated series she was working on that was made just over the bridge: ReBoot.

So my acting landed me my first TV writing job – on ReBoot– and now I was rebooting my acting career on ReBoot: The Guardian Code. Yes, life can get very meta.

A few weeks earlier I’d received a call from my acting agent. He’d put me up to audition for ReBoot: The Guardian Code.

I assumed this was the audition I was hoping for, the chance to play The User. Nope. I was getting to try out for the part of the techie who works with Special Agent Nance. So I did an audition tape and took my best shot at spouting cyber-jargon I would have delivered opposite the amazing Luvia Peterson. The part went to the awesome Omari Newton.

Larry called and asked why I was auditioning for the wrong part. He wanted me to try out for Fanboy, like we’d discussed. I didn’t think we’d discussed it. I thought I’d half-jokingly suggested it and he’d humoured me by saying he’d think about it. But suddenly my partner Rayne was recording my audition on her camera.

I found out later that Larry pitched me to director, Pat Williams, who knew me from a series we’d almost worked on together years earlier (a reboot of Tales from the Crypt). Pat was open to me acting, but only if he liked my audition. I guess he liked it.

I contacted the Union of BC Performers and asked if they could retrieve my membership card from cold storage.

When I arrived on set Bob Frazer wanted to say hi. I couldn’t believe Bob was the Sourcerer.

Mark Leiren-Young hanging out with The Sourceror (aka Bob Frazer)

I know Bob as a stage actor – mostly from his work as a Shakespearean performer at Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach, but also from a heart-breaking performance in Whose Life is it Anyway? Bob is one of the best actors in Canada. I was not in Kansas anymore.

Yeah, sure, I can sort of act, but Bob Freaking Frazer is the real deal.

Up until I saw Bob, I was excited. Now I was officially nervous.

I signed a time sheet. I filled out forms. I took pictures of my trailer because… I HAD A TRAILER!

I swapped out my regular T-shirt for my costume – an original ReBoot T-shirt.

About a week earlier I’d stopped shaving in order to have maximum scruff. I wore a turtleneck under my T-shirt to provide maximum pizza paunch. I was likely the only one on-set during my shoot who knew what my animated avatar looked like – a buff, perma-scowling, square-jawed, pony-tailed douche – so my goal was to look like that was the avatar I designed in my dreams.

When I arrived at the house where we were shooting, Larry was there to show me around and my career had officially come full circle.

I was taken to my basement, which was adorned with ReBoot paraphernalia, including the Mike sculpture that usually guards the Rainmaker office. There was cola. There were stale Cheetos. There was candy at a craft services table. There was a game container for Starship Alcatraz and an old school joystick for me to play with. My new universe was complete.

The User (aka Mark Leiren-Young) hanging out with Mike.

I’ve acted in a few indie films, I’ve done some TV work and a ton of stage stuff – but I’d never acted on a TV show with a full-sized crew and an actual budget.

Even though we were “B-Unit” – because all my scenes were solo, since my co-stars were animated – there were still a dozen people who needed me to remember the lines I’d written (and/or Larry had rewritten), hit my marks and make all the moves in the script.

It was a hoot.

It was also terrifying. Every take costs money. Everything I did cost a few hundred dollars a minute. And even if I can act, I ain’t Bob Frazer or Luvia Peterson or Omari Newton.

And Larry had trusted me – again – I couldn’t let him down.

I said my lines.

I hit my marks.

I railed at my imaginary mom through the basement ceiling (a flashback to my friend Steve’s constant conversations with his mom, back when he lived in the basement).

I danced the Dance of Joy when I defeated Bob and the Guardians.

And when Googz used his damn cheat code to cheat me, I did the Dance of Despair.

I still wasn’t Bob (or Luvia or Omari), but my job was done.

I joined the rest of the cast and crew in the lunch tent and started dreaming of my next audition and the possibility that, if the episode made enough noise, maybe in season two I’d play games with Sourcerer Bob and Special Agents Omari and Luvia would be tracking me.

To Be Continued:

Coming next: The Web is Out There…

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