Jana Schmieding interview: ‘Rutherford Falls’
“At its core, comedy is a commentary on the culture of power,” reflects “Rutherford Falls” actor and writer Jana Schmieding. For our recent webchat she continues, “Native people have been using comedy to explore our pain and our trauma as long as we’ve existed. We had indigenous comedy culture and clown culture before colonialism really took a lot of those cultural touchstones from us. This feels like a really exciting opportunity for us to rebuild and reshape what native comedy could look like. These experiences that these native characters are having on ‘Rutherford Falls’ are understandable. We’re hitting those broader social issues that affect indigenous people. But doing it with a wink and a smile that tells people it’s safe to talk about this.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
“Rutherford Falls” is a new comedy series streaming on Peacock. It is about a town of the same name that descends into conflict when plans are made to take down the statue honoring an ancestor of Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms). The controversy prompts the local Minishonka tribe to pursue litigation against Nathan about the town’s land deal made by previous generations.
Half of the writing team on the series are native Americans. Schmieding reveals, “I was largely interested in bringing the native perspective to this show. I think we are moving into a new era of hope for content. I didn’t realize how much effect the writing staff would have on production. We brought in native designers that we had worked with and we brought in native musicians that we listened to. It made the world so much more meaningful.”
In the series Schmieding plays Reagan Wells who is Nathan’s best friend and a member of the Minishonka community. Throughout the season she is diligently trying to expand the cultural center for her people. The actress confesses, “Reagan walks through her world with a confidence that I don’t carry myself. She’s the kind of woman who is ambitious and sometimes blindly goes on these missions. But I have a lot of the same feelings about community that Reagan shares. She’s really an amalgamation of all of the native writers in the room. A trait a lot of native people share is a pull towards community and pleasing people. She realizes throughout the course of the season that you can’t please everyone. That’s a realization that I have had in my life. Playing Reagan on the show has been a very meta situation for me. A lot of the things Reagan was stressed about on the show, I was also stressed about playing Reagan.”