“On our staff of writers, we’ve got two very hardcore gamers who know that world like the back of their hand – for everyone else, we’ve had to educate ourselves,” explains showrunner Jim O’Doherty (KICKIN’ IT), welcoming a group of 25 writers from the pop culture parenting space to the set of the new Disney XD series, GAMER’S GUIDE TO PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING. In a large, but still tight soundstage at Hollywood Center Studios, it’s about time for a “Network run-through” of the Halloween episode… except it’s June, and in addition to the 25 sets of peering eyes, there’s also a broader mix of extra bodies – from family members of the cast and crew, to some Disney execs eager to see how things are flowing, nine episodes into a series that hasn’t even premiered yet. “There’s games all over the second floor of this building – all over the writers’ room. What we write is right in front of us, and if we have questions, we go to our hardcore gamers and they supply the answers. This is storytelling, and storytelling is always about the characters, the connections, the interactions, the comedy — and gaming is a big part of our world, but that’s the backdrop. It’s really about the connection between these four characters.”
I’m sitting in the front booth of “Billy the Squid,” a fictional seafood restaurant that will serve as a frequent hangout for those four characters, the actors for which are seated in front of us – on the edge of about a 10′-wide walkway that separates this set from that of the “Mondale High School” entrance across the way. As the crew and onlookers start to light sets and gather for the run-through, Cameron Boyce (Conor/KidFury), Murray Wyatt Rundus (Wendell), Felix Avitia (Franklin) and Sophie Reynolds (Ashley) share a few words about their roles on the series, which finds Boyce in the role of a 15-year-old Professional Gamer that’s been sidelined by injury, stripped of his sponsorships and forced into a “normal” life in public school.
“Conor did all these tours – he went to Tokyo and London, and all these places doing professional tournaments,” leads Boyce. “During one of them, he breaks his thumb – which is kind of what you need to game, but it’s since healed. He was home-schooled to do his gaming [but since he’s no longer on tour], so his mom tells him okay, ‘well you’re going to go to a regular school.’ Since he doesn’t how to be a regular kid, he makes some friends and tries to use them at first to get back on the tour – where he thinks he belongs. But then he realizes that he likes them, and instead of doing a solo tour, he forms a team.”
“Franklin’s very positive, very energetic – he wants to fit in,” begins Avitia about his on-screen persona. “He’s not the best gamer like these guys, but he really wants to be, and he wants to be a part of the group. Outside of the gaming world, he’s very smart. He knows common sense and knows he loves school. And, of course, he’s got a great sense of fashion, always wearing ties and shoes and pants and shirts – but he’s just a good kid and he wants to make everybody as happy as they can be all the time. That’s what I love about him.”
“Ashley’s the girl. She hangs with the guys and is not always the smartest with the books, but she’s got a really good heart,” adds Reynolds. “She’s a good friend, and she’s a great gamer – a super-smart gamer, and her strength.”
“Wendell is very, very full of himself. He is a very cocky character,” says Rundus, a Warhammer 40K enthusiast in real-life. “He believes that everyone around him doesn’t know what’s really going on – that he is really the mastermind. He’s very aggressive when he plays video games with the crew.”
https://instagram.com/p/4aIELux-jW/” style=” color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;” target=”_top”>With #CameronBoyce on the set of GAMERS GUIDE TO PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING. #GamersGuideEvent
With a little bit of background on the principal cast, everyone moves to the opposite end of the soundstage for the run-through. The basic gist is that nearly every set for the entire series is built in a rectangular form down the stage, the aforementioned aisle separating the two sides. On the left, we have a variety of exteriors, as well as several locations within the high school. On the right, it’s the main gathering place – the “Riverwalk Pavilion” – home to “Game Pit,” the GameStop of GAMER’S GUIDE (where you can bet our actors will be spending a lot of time) alongside Conor’s basement HQ and Billy the Squid. Script in-hand, each actor takes their place and performs every scene live, the action moving from set-to-set as quickly as possible to keep the flow of the show moving. The ultimate goal is to make sure that pacing feels right, the story works, and that the jokes don’t fall flat. With so many extra bodies on set for this one, getting the oversized audience in-place is a challenge in itself.
Since the episode we’re seeing evolve won’t be airing until October, unfortunately there isn’t much I can tell you about it aside from the fact that every set is used in some form. I also have to give a shout-out to the production designers and art department team that have created the world that GAMER’S GUIDE will inhabit. Over the years, I’ve always found that those folks tend to have some of the most fun, and while I don’t know exactly how much of the detail you’ll see on-screen, there’s a lot of cool elements – like the fictional games on-display inside GAME PIT (BEARDS OF WAR and LEAGUE OF LEPRECHAUNS need to happen), and whoever decided to mount an original Nintendo Power Glove in a glass case in Conor’s basement has my respect (I still have one).
GAMER’S GUIDE TO PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING premieres Wednesday, July 22 at 9:30pm on Disney XD. Check out clips and more on the official site!