With the debut of “Rutherford Falls” in Peacock in 2021, Sierra Teller Ornelas became the first Native American to serve as a comedy showrunner. It’s a title he didn’t take lightly – although it did create a certain degree of pressure for the show to succeed. With Season 2, however, Ornelas was able to have a little more fun.
“In Season 1, we felt the real responsibility that was the first of its kind. [by Season 2] What we really want to say is that we feel confident in telling stories, “says Ornelas Diversity. “Like, how do the natives do Halloween?”
This is a serious question. Reagan (Jana Schmidt) calls Halloween “Super Bowl of Cultural Appropriation” in Episode 7 because of the offensive, often sexual attire of local historical figures, such as the Pocahontas who pop up every year. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Indigenous people also count the days of leave. “Many Indigenous families can’t wait to start decorating their homes,” says Ornelas. “My nephew was dressed as Jason, and he’s four. That was perfect.”
Pitched by author Tai Leclair, who came from a glamorous reservation where Halloween was a big deal, the episode sees the people of the Minnesota nation celebrated in their own way. Some Minishonka gathers to work pearls; Some go to classic costume parties; Some paint anti-colonial graffiti. This is an example of the kind of native comedy that show writers had more freedom to face this season.
The Rutherford Falls season 1 final left Reagan and Nathan (Ed Helms) in a difficult position. Reagan breaks up with Josh (Dustin Milligan) to release a podcast in which Nathan Blood is not Rutherford. The fact that he is not biologically related to the family whose history he had dedicated his life to preserving has left Nathan in an identity crisis, and he leaves Rutherford Falls without a destination. Reagan begins to succeed at work, eventually gaining support to expand her Minnesota cultural center, but without the support of her best friend.
Ornellas found the flipped dynamics between Reagan and Nathan the best starting point for a new joke. “What does it look like to see a man who has lost everything rebuilt from scratch, while his best friend – who is usually a beta support system – has been greatly upgraded in his community and profession?” She says
In the season 2 premiere of “White Man in the Cupboard”, Nathan emerges from the Harry Potter-style hiding place at the Cultural Center, where Reagan hid from the rest of the city while reading books like Robin Dianzello’s “White Fragility”. To learn how to “de-center” yourself (even when working for the center). Her move in the Whiteness Study is clearly frighteningly wrong, as she decides to reunite at Rutherford Falls with a video talk about how humble she is by crashing Terry’s (Michael Grays) birthday party. But eventually his progress becomes real, leaving the show to focus on issues beyond the self-absorption of a blonde boy: for example, the dirty details of a small-town political feud within indigenous communities, in this case between Terry and Feather Day (Canihtio). Horn).
“Until this year, the show’s villains were systemic. It’s been corporations, governments, big bodies,” says Ornelas. “So we got excited about finding a real, powerful villain this season through Feather Day.”
Feather’s mayoral race, the owner of a posh gym and a staunch opponent of the Running Thunder casino, creates real problems for Terry, the respected community leader who owns the casino, and therefore Reagan, whose cultural center is funded by the casino’s money.
“I always thought, if someone removes Terry Thomas, who will make Terry Thomas nervous? It will be an Indian woman,” says Ornelas laughing. “It was really interesting to find a character who was informally confident and willing to win, but at the same time a mother, there are layers and not cartoons. Kaniehtiio has such a great comedy time, and she was like, ‘This is the first time I’ve had fun. , Wide, network-comedy-fun-like, with other indigenous people. ‘
At one point in the season, Terry and Feather feel that their children are secretly dating each other, which is credited to Arnelas for his desire to play in the troupe of Star-Cross lovers from Native Lens.
“I always enjoy the Hatfield and McCoy type [stories]. I grew up on Classic TV, so I can get into that, but we always want to make sure that people have levels and textures, “she says.” You’re taking on these people who are fighting in the community, but humanizing them by reminding their parents Everyone has the same problems. “
Feather’s pressure in Season 2 also enabled an increase for 18-year-old Bobby (Jesse Leah), who was Nathan’s unpaid intern in Season 1. Terry needs someone to run against Feather and at first he arrives with Nathan, who rejects him outright but Bobby suggests. Some people may be excited about it. Because Bobbie is Asian and non-binary, their candidacy allows the show to remove common stereotypes about what places like Rutherford Falls really are.
Arnelas – who grew up in Tucson, and regularly visited family members in the countryside – has always been fascinated by the mainstream depiction of small towns being so straightforward and white.
“I grew up around different African countries and Middle Eastern countries and a lot of LGBTQ people,” she says. “In many ways, ‘Rutherford Falls’ is a show about America. For me, you need the first people of that land, the natives. You need white people. You need black people. You need immigrants.”
“My favorite thing about Bobby is that he was originally written as a gay teenage boy who was Asian. We opened the casting for Latino and Asians, and the Jesse Classic ’80s sitcom came along with time. We were laughing out loud, so we switched. [Bobbie’s gender] To better reflect the artist. But I would also like to say that we destroy everything that Jesse does. Mainstream audiences often party [Native] The same can be said for trauma, and for the non-binary and trans community. I am proud to have such a happy character. There are many LGBTQ people in my family. They are the glue of our community. It’s not just aspiring; It’s a reflection of small town life. “
Arnelas, who says she grew up wanting to be “Navajo Nora Efron”, found it important to shed light on what it was like to fall in love with the natives. Thus, Dallas Goldtooth is cast as Nelson, a Dakota man who comes to work at Reagan’s Cultural Center in Rutherford Falls – and his new love interest develops.
“We always joked on the set that the native romance always ends with the man behind the prison glass holding hands in the window. [before] Credits. Or someone has PTSD, and they hold hands at the bus stop for a minute, and then credit, “she says.” You never get crane shots to clean up with a kiss, or they can’t stand each other and then they fall in love, my favorite classic screwdriver. Like Rome-cum. “
Part of the uniqueness of Reagan and Nelson’s relationship, and “Rutherford Falls” as a whole, is the background of the original art around them. After Season 1, Ornelas said Diversity About the “power jewelry” used in the show from the personal collection of the cast and crew members. As the Minnesota Cultural Center grows in Season 2, so does the list of artists who can support the show by acquiring various items from the Santa Fe Indian Market; Richard Glaser-Dane’s painting, which Arnelas found at the British Museum when he was four years old. And a cradleboard made by Horn’s own boyfriend.
“Now is a very exciting time for original art and fashion and media,” says Ornelas. “We really, really like to show off our excellence.”
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