Performance in a Leading Role

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Title: Performance in a Leading Role
Author(s): Madlori
Date(s): July 18, 2011 – December 29, 2011 on LJ
Length: 156,714 words
Genre: AU, slash
Fandom: Sherlock (TV series)
External Links: Livejournal, AO3,

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Performance in a Leading Role is a popular Sherlock fanfic written by Madlori and posted in 2011. It is an alternate universe story in which Sherlock and John are actors.

Summary: Sherlock Holmes is an Oscar winner in the midst of a career slump. John Watson is an Everyman actor trapped in the rom-com ghetto. When they are cast as a gay couple in a new independent drama, will they surprise each other? Will their on-screen romance make its way into the real world?

Original prompt from mushroom18: Sherlock is an Oscar-nominated method actor, John is in the usual leading man in rom-coms. They are both experiencing a slump in their careers, and their managers convince them to portray a gay couple in an upcoming film. Sherlock at first looks down at John because of his not so impressive filmography, but they film a certain emotional scene and he is impressed with John's really excellent acting. CAN LOVE BLOOM BEHIND THE CAMERAS?

Author's Comments

The Emmys were a bit odd in my little corner of fandom. For those of you who don't know, my most recent fanfic output was a 160,000 word "Sherlock" AU story called Performance in a Leading Role in which Sherlock and John are actors. Sherlock is a highbrow Oscar winner and John is the king of rom-coms, both their careers are in a slump until they co-star in an indie film about a gay couple. The story is about them forming a relationship, getting accidentally outed, dealing with that fallout, and the consequences to their careers both of starring in this highly-acclaimed film (and getting Oscar nominations for it) and of being together. One of the key scenes is late in the story when they accompany each other to the Oscars and are on the red carpet together.

So you can imagine that more than one reader had a bit of a flashback when Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were each other's dates to the Emmys (and man, didn't they both look gorgeous). I was out all day Sunday and when I got home I checked Tumblr and wondered why there were suddenly like 20 new posts in the "performance in a leading role" tag. Then I scrolled down my dash and was like...oh. Heh.

I was, however, relieved to see people saying "Well, that isn't how I pictured it, because I imagined Sherlock and John, not these two." I'm glad to have that distinction preserved, because it was hard work keeping Performance firmly out of the RPF category. A lot of real actors make appearances in it (John is friends with Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connolly, Natalie Portman talks to them at a party, etc) but the two main characters are that...characters, and not meant to be skins over the actors who play them.

That story...I have All The Feels about it. It might possibly be the most fun I've ever had writing a story, and I'm proud of how it turned out. I'm writing a follow-up and I wish it was coming faster but life happens.[1]

Reactions and Reviews

That’s the earliest [fic] that I read in the Sherlock fandom and my first thought was ‘this is something that could be published, this is really something that could reach beyond fandom’, it was beautifully written and I’d have to say my only criticism was she didn’t throw in what happened to them in Sydney. I’m reading one chapter I come to the end and then it skips and it jarred me out of it. But I was so into it, just from the first words and, you know, screaming for their romance to, to… them to get together, watching them struggle it was just beautiful.[2]
[Performance in a Leading Role is] definitely a classic in the Sherlock fandom, and we’ll link to that in our post-show-post so people can go and read it. For people who aren’t in the Sherlock fandom I think this is a story that you could read without- you don’t need to be in the fandom, you don’t need to know who these characters are it works on its own. It’s a really kind of a perfect AU in that sense, but the basic story is that you have these two actors who are both essentially straight male actors and they do a film together and over the course of the film they fall in love and so it’s the story’s about sort of the idea of coming out in Hollywood and what that means, and how that impacts their careers, and sort of what happens and how their relationship comes together. It’s beautiful, highly recommend it. So, Diana, do you have a recommendation? [3]

What it says on the tin. It’s a full-on AU with both John and Sherlock as actors. John is a rom-com star and Sherlock, despite the Oscar, has made some… poor role choices.

But the romance is well done; it surprises both of our boyz and they don’t really know what to do with it. There’s some nice ethical dialog about how Hollywood hides so much from the public and how actors essentially have to go along with it to keep working.

John and Sherlock are ‘cute’ together while staying firmly in character, each being insecure in a ‘he loves me?’ sort of way.

Don’t let the word count dismay you. It’s an easy read and Lori keeps it moving, explains much of the Hollywood references to anyone who might not know, and keeps you entertained all the way to the expected happy ending.[4]
"This is one of the best-researched AU settings out there. You feel like you’re learning something about life in Hollywood over every page. It’s brilliant, engaging, and incredibly memorable. If you’re looking for AU setting writing at its best, this is the fic for you. [snipped] Sherlock and many of the side characters are OOC here but you'll love them all the same. John is recognizable; irritable and intense and so blown away by Sherlock Holmes."[5] From Fanfiction Recommendations


  1. ^ The Emmys and Fanfiction, Sep. 25th, 2012
  2. ^ Kryptaria, Slashcast Writer's Corner Interview with Diana Copland and Kryptaria, 2013
  3. ^ Diana Copland, Slashcast Writer's Corner Interview with Diana Copland and Kryptaria, 2013
  4. ^ Slash World, 2013
  5. ^ Sherlock Fanfiction Classics on (Accessed August 12, 2020)