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Interview: Sierra Teller Ornelas & Jana Schmieding of ‘Rutherford Falls’ On the Power of Representation and Comedy

Rutherford Falls is one of the freshest series of the year, full of layered and complex characters, unrelenting laughs and intriguing storylines. In addition to being a great piece of entertainment, showrunner / co-creator / writer Sierra Teller Ornelas and star / writer Jana Schmieding made sure there was much more to the series in beyond its razor-sharp comedy.

They were committed to proper representation for native and indigenous people not only on the screen but behind the scenes as well. The representation is not only important, it leads to a funnier, deeper, richer show that never punches down even as it dissects so many of the issues of this complex world.

Ornelas’s work on Rutherford Falls is the latest addition to an impressive comedy series resume that includes such favorites as Happy Endings, Splitting Up Together and Superstore. It has also allowed her to reunite with Mike Schur whom she last worked with on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Schmieding, who was originally hired as a writer, went from making funny videos for her family to the stand-up stage to a successful podcast to the unexpected star of the series. It is quite the Hollywood success story.

My words will not do it justice, so please watch the enlightening, entertaining and hopeful conversation below that covers a lot of ground – from their ‘superhero’ origin stories and working with the talented Ed Helms, to exposing more people to the often overlooked comedy voices of Native people – and much more. Enjoy!


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Written by Steven Prusakowski

Steven Prusakowski has been a cinephile as far back as he can remember, literally. At the age of ten, while other kids his age were sleeping, he was up into the late hours of the night watching the Oscars. Since then, his passion for film, television, and awards has only grown. For over a decade he has reviewed and written about entertainment through publications including Awards Circuit and Screen Radar. He has conducted interviews with some of the best in the business - learning more about them, their projects and their crafts. He is a graduate of the RIT film program. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd as @FilmSnork – we don’t know why the name, but he seems to be sticking to it.

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