Native American representation in the media hasn’t been given much of a chance to shine outside of different kinds of westerns and historical tales. But that’s about to change with a new comedy series coming to Peacock from The Good Place and Parks and Recreation creator Michael Schur.
Rutherford Falls is a comedy about two lifelong best friends, Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms) and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding), who find themselves at a literal crossroads when their sleepy town gets an unexpected wakeup call involving an inconveniently placed statue in the town square.
Rutherford Falls Trailer
Rutherford Falls finds a small town in the Northeast and the Native American reservation it borders turned upside down when local legend and town namesake, Nathan Rutherford (Helms), fights the moving of a historical statue that represents his family’s legacy. Meanwhile, Reagan Wells (Schmieding) is fighting to transform her cultural center.
It seems like this series will tackle the issue of preserving and recognizing history, including the presence of potentially problematic figures who have been idolized in the form of statues, as well as the place of Native Americans in the history of the United States. But this serious topic is given a comedic angle by making the two main characters best friends instead of being at each others throats. It also has that homegrown Parks and Recreation vibe to it, giving it just the right amount of charm. Plus, it looks like they’re making great use of the Universal Studios backlot set that was also used for the Hill Valley town square in the Back to the Future franchise.
Rutherford Falls is certainly making a play to give Native Americans more prominent representation in pop culture. Jana Schmieding herself is a Native American from the Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux tribe and Michael Greyeyes (I Know This Much Is True, Fear the Walking Dead) hails from the Nêhiyaw from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. The rest of the cast includes Jesse Leigh (Heathers) and Dustin Milligan (Schitt’s Creek).
On top of the representation on screen, the series also touts one of the largest Indigenous writers’ rooms with five Native American writers on staff: co-creator and executive producer Sierra Teller Ornelas (Navajo), series star Jana Schmieding (Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux), and writers Bobby Wilson (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota), Tai Leclaire (Kanien’kehá:ka [Mohawk Nation]/Mi’kmaq), and Tazbah Chavez (Nüümü [Bishop Paiute Tribe], Diné [Navajo], San Carlos Apache).
Rutherford Falls is co-created and executive produced by Michael Schur (Parks and Recreation, The Good Place), Ed Helms (The Office), and Sierra Teller Ornelas (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Superstore). Other executive producers include Mike Falbo, David Miner, and Morgan Sackett. Universal Television is producing in association with Fremulon, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Pacific Electric Picture Company
Rutherford Falls is slated to premiere on Peacock starting on April 22, 2021.
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