'Rutherford Falls' to Feature Largest Indigenous Writing Staff on TV
By Stacy Lambe
Co-created by Ed Helms, Mike Schur (The Good Place, Parks and Recreation) and Sierra Teller Ornelas (Superstore), Rutherford Falls is a timely and topical Peacock original about the lives in a small town in upstate New York and the Native American reservation it borders, which are turned upside down after town namesake Nathan Rutherford (Helms) fights the moving of a historical statue. The team behind the production will include the largest Indigenous writing staff for an American TV show.
During Peacock’s virtual Television Critics Association press tour, Helms said inspiration for the series struck when thinking about “How we related to historical narratives [and] what happens when those historical narratives get turned on its head.”
In order to execute this series, he and Schur realized they “needed a Native American voice in this process,” which is when Ornelas came on board.
In addition to Ornelas, who serves as executive producer and showrunner, there are four other Indigenous writers, which she said was a first for a writers room.
“In the writers room, we all saw things differently,” Ornelas, who is Navajo and Mexican American, said, explaining that it allowed them to fully flesh out ideas and representation seen onscreen.
She added that this series is also an opportunity to see Native Americans depicted as regular people. “You just never see Indians on TV. When you do, it’s one guy and he has to transform into a wolf or something,” the showrunner explained, revealing that “there are multiple Native American characters.”
On Monday, the series announced that Jana Schmieding, Michael Greyeyes, Jesse Leigh and Dustin Milligan have joined the cast.
Schmieding, a Lakota Sioux performer, will play Nathan’s best friend Reagan Wells, who dreams of making her tribe’s modest Cultural Center into a world-renowned museum. Last seen on I Know This Much Is True, Greyeyes will play Terry Tarbell, the CEO of his tribe's mid-level casino.
Additionally, Leigh (Heathers) will play Bobbie Yang, Nathan’s nonbinary teenage executive assistant. And fresh off the final season of Schitt’s Creek, Milligan will play reporter Josh Cogan.
Schur also revealed that the series is still early in the production process, which was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. “We are scheduled to start shooting in three or four weeks,” he shared.