“You never see Indians on TV,” said Rutherford Falls co-creator and showrunner Sierra Teller Ornelas. “When you do it’s one guy and he has to transform into a wolf.”
The Peacock comedy, which also comes from Ed Helms and Mike Schur is set in a small town in upstate New York and the Native American reservation it borders. Helms plays Nathan Rutherford, a local legend and town namesake, who fights the moving of a historical statue.
Schur, who is coming off NBC’s The Good Place, said on a panel as part of the CTAM press tour that the show is scheduled to shoot in the next three to four weeks.
Teller Ornelas, who’d previously worked with Schur on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, said that the show, which this morning announced the casting of Jana Schmieding, Michael Greyeyes, Jesse Leigh and Dustin Milligan, was able to showcase the gallows’ humor of Native Americans.
“We take these subject matters very seriously but I’m excited by the way that comedy can process these big themes,” she said.
“What’s great about this show is that there are multiple Native American characters. A lot of times on show, there’s one type of person and they have to represent the whole community. In the writers’ room, we had five Native writers, who all saw things differently. They had different views on casinos, on border relations and it was really great to have that reflected in the show.”
Schur added, “These relationships, as we’ve learned over the course of making the show, thanks to Sierra and the other native writers, there’s very specific ways that Native people relate to the towns around them and they’re fraught. It’s complicated and complex and it involves commerce and culture. Part of the project of this show is to get really detailed and explain to people who don’t know anything to explain to people how these relationships exist between towns and their neighbouring reservations. It’s very important for us to get very specific and explain how that stuff works.”
Produced by Universal Television, in association with Fremulon, 3 Arts Entertainment and Pacific Electric Picture Company, the show has been in the works since 2017.
When asked whether the recent news about statues and monuments, particularly those celebrating the Confederacy, Helms said, “The existence of historical and Confederate statues going way back, fed into these ideas that we were bouncing around but there isn’t a specific series of event like in recent history that triggered it.”
“It didn’t impact the premise. The original idea was about reckoning with history, which America doesn’t do great with,” Schur added. “It was in the ether.”
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