An actor's vagabond existence can get confusing. Take Winston Rekert, for example.

The Canadian actor calls Vancouver home. But he moved most of the way across North America to Toronto because, after all, you've got to go where the work is. Then there was work back home, so it was back to Vancouver. But then there were all those auditions down in Hollywood, so it was off to California. Then he landed the role of V. H. Adderly in the CBS Canadian import series, "Adderly," and it was back to Toronto for filming. Along the way he and Pat, his photographer wife, were raising a family, Dylan and Carson.

"I was asked sometime ago about the ages of our boys," he recalled. "I said one's 4 and the other ... he's 22 episodes old."

The younger boy is now 26 episodes and one hiatus old in television time, which translates to 1 1/2 child-years.

One of those episodes aired in prime time last week, emerging from CBS's late-night slot in a summer test of the show's strength among non-night owls. Five more airings are scheduled at 10 p.m. Fridays.

Those unfamiliar with the show will find Rekert playing the engaging Adderly, a top-notch secret agent whose career has been clouded by an assignment that didn't quite go right and cost him the use of his left hand. Washington bureaucrats will appreciate Adderly's new assignment to the Department of Miscellaneous Affairs.

Each episode, he manages to break out of this pigeonhole to become once again involved in the risky business of espionage, taking with him loyal secretary Mona Ellerby, played by an actress with a polarized name, Dixie Seatle. His bureaucratic antagonist is his supervisor, Melville Greenspan, played by Jonathan Welsh.

Despite the serious business he's in and the ever-present symbol of grimness at his sleeve, Adderly has a light touch, sort of an Equalizer with a grin.

"He's a nice guy," Rekert said of his character. "A lot of people can identify with him. A lot of people have humdrum jobs -- and can do better -- and have jerks for bosses. They're on my side."

The whole story of Adderly is one of emergence from obscurity. He was originally a minor character in a less-than-major novel called Pocock and Pitt, written by Elliott Baker, who is also a screenwriter.

"The executive producer, Jerry Golod, read the book," recalled Rekert. "Adderly in the book is a secondary character -- and he's older, gruffer and a little mean. But Jerry found him intriguing, with his bad hand and CIA background."

"Adderly" is one of two original late-night shows produced in Canada for airing on CBS. The other, "Night Heat," is similarly getting a summer prime-time test on Tuesdays. The word is that a strong showing could make either of them a midseason replacement this fall.

"Night Heat" is a police action show, staring Scott Hylands as a veteran detective and Jeff Wincott as his younger partner. This one is three seasons old.

Both shows are filmed with Canadian crews in Toronto and are produced at costs that make network executives smile as million-dollar-an-hour prime-time series become more the rule than the exception.

Because the shows air in Canada as well as the United States, the crews are kept busy keeping Toronto looking like a generic North American city, and the writers have to be careful not to put in anything that would locate the shows on one side of the border and not the other.

"By network standards the production is done on a shoestring for the quality they get out of it," said Rekert. "They get the most mileage from the people who work on the show -- I'm not talking about me -- I'm talking about the crews, the people who get the lighting right and so on."

One of the crews' jobs is to make up the city of Toronto itself to hide elements that would label it as Toronto. "There are some obvious landmarks that give it away if you're familiar with Toronto," said Rekert. "But there's a certain amount of money and time spent disguising things. Streets are renamed, plain license plates are put on the cars, store names have to be changed."

To get "Adderly" ready for prime time, the production will be spiffed up a bit. For one thing, it will be shot using 35 mm rather than 16 mm film to enhance the look of the show. And there'll be more second-unit work to add dimension to the action sequences.

To boost interest for a prime-time American audience, several familiar guest stars have been enlisted for the summer campaign: Harry Guardino, Nehemiah Persoff, Joe Santos and George Takei (Sulu from the "Star Trek" series).

The episodes will have the feel of pilots, he said, to give new viewers more background on the characters. Don't look for much change in the relationships of the players from the late-night episodes.

No romance between Adderly and Mona?

"I don't think that relationship will change," said Rekert. "She's the only reason he stays with his agency -- Adderly has a friend and ally in Mona. I don't know that it will change."

Things have changed for Rekert, though. After high school in home-town Vancouver, he studied acting for two years at Vancouver City College. Before he took to the stage, he took to the woods, working for a time as a logger.

He began acting in 1965 and has done stage, screen and television work in Canada, earning nominations for the Genie award (the Canadian Oscar) along the way.

His TV work has included a miniseries ("Brothers by Choice") and regular series appearances, including parts in "Night Heat." But "Adderly" breaks ground for the 38-year-old performer.

"I've never sustained a character for this length of time," he said. "It's sort of like entering a tunnel for eight months of filming and hopefully coming out the other end in one piece."