Sierra Teller Ornelas interview: ‘Rutherford Falls’ showrunner
“We really wanted to reflect the lives of the native writers on the show,” reveals Sierra Teller Ornelas about “Rutherford Falls.” For our recent webchat, she continues, “We had five native writers including myself. I am viscerally averse to the word ‘authentic’ because I think it should only be for food. But, I wanted it to feel like it actually feels in the room in tandem with it being super funny.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Ornelas is the showrunner for “Rutherford Falls,” which she co-created with Ed Helms and Michael Schur. The Peacock comedy series is about a town of the same name and the friendship of Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding) and Nathan Rutherford (Helms). The town descends into conflict when plans are made to take down the statue honoring an ancestor of Nathan’s. The controversy prompts the local Minishonka tribe to pursue litigation against Nathan about land rights claims. The showrunner says, “it felt like a safe writer’s room where you could ask dumb questions, say how you actually felt and you could debate. A lot of those debates and conversations were reflected in the show.”
The writer explains, “We are all capable of blind spots. My life and my experience has not been where situations of racism and oppression are easy to understand. It’s usually messy and complicated. People have blind spots about my community, and I have blind spots about other communities. So much of the show is asking the question of what is American history? What are these narratives we cling to and don’t let go of? And in doing that, what histories are lost? We wanted to tell a story about this town of characters, where on any given Sunday they can be someone’s best friend or ally. Then in the next episode, be someone’s adversary and have a complete blind spot about someone’s experience. That was the big idea we were chasing.”
She admits, “Ed Helms in a George Washington costume makes me LOL every time I see him. His character feeling so aggrieved for being in an inaccurate costume, which is something that happens to native people all the time, makes me laugh. Ed Helms really put himself through the ringer on this show and we were able to have so much more interesting conversations because he was really willing to put himself in these funny situations.”