Michael Greyeyes and Jana Schmieding star in the Peacock sitcom.
The wait is over: Rutherford Falls, the acclaimed sitcom starring Michael Greyeyes, Ed Helms, Jana Schmieding and Jesse Leigh, will return June 16 for Season 2 on the Peacock streaming service.
Co-created by Sierra Teller Ornelas, Michael Schur and Helms, the series focuses on interactions between the populace of Rutherford Falls, a (fictional) upstate New York community, and residents of the (also fictional) Minishonka Nation reservation that borders the town. As he operates his tribe’s Rolling Thunder Casino, Terry Thomas (Greyeyes) hatches plans to better the lives of his people. Those plans, however, often place him at odds with Nathan Rutherford (Helms), a leading citizen of Rutherford Falls who just happens to be a direct descendant of the town’s founder. Reagan Wells (Schmieding), Nathan’s best friend and Terry’s key employee, struggles to balance her loyalties while trying to transform her tribe’s modest Cultural Center into a world-renowned museum.
“Rutherford Falls is back!” Orneals announced in a prepared statement. “Get ready to laugh, cry and swoon. Do people still swoon? Well, they will now! Ed Helms, Mike Schur and I had an absolute blast making a show that’s heartfelt, laugh-out-loud funny and depicts Native Americans in ways you never see on television. Also, a lot of people get punched/kicked in the face. We hope you enjoy Season 2!”
When we spoke with Michael Greyeyes for the cover-story profile in our August/September 2021 issue, we discussed the challenges he faced and satisfactions he enjoyed while filming Season 1 of Rutherford Falls.
Cowboys & Indians: Even before the first episodes of Rutherford Falls were available on Peacock, it was generating must-see interest as being the first U.S. television series with so many Native Americans in the writers room. What was your initial response when you heard about this?
Michael Greyeyes: I actually was really surprised. Because, as you know, I’ve been in this industry for about 30 years. It is unusual to have a writers room that welcomes Indigenous voices. But in this case, half of the writers were Indigenous. So surprise of course was my first reaction. But to be quite honest, it’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do the show so badly.
I knew, based on simply the makeup of the writers room, that we’d have a multiplicity of voices. That our showrunner's goal in dispelling the myths of sort of a monolithic native culture could actually be executed, because we had indigenous voices from all over Turtle Island. My experience as a Neechie person, a Cree man, is really quite different than a Comanche’s. Which is really quite different than a Mohawk. Which is really quite different than Mi’kmaq and different than Haida. By having a multiplicity of voices, I knew that we’d actually be able to create a really full sense of community.
C&I: Now you know, Michael, I think it’s safe to say that when most people think “comedy,” they don’t usually think “Michael Greyeyes.” Even those of us who admire you as a great actor don’t usually think, “Oh, that Michael Greyeyes. What a happy-go-lucky jolly joker.”
Michael: [Laughs] True.
C&I: But you have many very funny moments throughout Rutherford Falls, as you convey the dry and sometimes lacerating wit of Terry Thomas.
Michael: Well, I’ve been able to work with some really stellar actors over my career. And they all have had the capacity to simply come in with the kind of energy that the screen requires. Jana Schmieding did this from the first moment. Now Jana is a relatively new performer to film and television, but she comes out of theater. She comes out of stand-up comedy. So she's a seasoned performer. The craft of film acting is really quite specific. But there’s lots of ways, a million ways, to skin a cat. And there’s no one methodology that works better than the other.
So the female lead is dynamite. But because she was a comedian, and because Ed Helms is a marvelous actor and a comedic actor, I was the one that felt like, “Can I play tennis with these people?” Like, “This is not my forte. This is not where I built my career. This is not representative of my body of work.” I felt like I was the newcomer. I felt like I was the newbie on the show. But because both Jana and Ed and all the other actors on the show are so generous, they got me up to speed quite quickly.
Photo: Greg Gayne/Peacock