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Rutherford Falls showrunner on what inspired the Terry and Reagan mentorship

Omar Sanchez
·3 min read
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In the second episode of Peacock's Rutherford Falls, Reagan Wells, played by series writer Jana Schmieding, takes a trip to speak with the mother of her scorned ex-fiancé. Reagan, who manages a small Native cultural center in town, doesn't know right away why she's there until Terry Thomas (Michael Greyeyes), the man who may one day give her more funding, helps her see the big picture.

"You need to confront your past, so you can really move on," Terry tells her.

One of the many bright spots of the new Peacock comedy is casino owner Terry shepherding Wells as she begins to make amends and reconnect with the Minishonka reservation. Rutherford Falls co-EP and showrunner Sierra Teller Ornelas says that Reagan being humbled by Terry is rooted in her own relationship with her grandmother, a master Navajo tapestry weaver.

"I could have said [to her], 'I'm an astronaut. I'm about to go to the moon.' And she's like, 'Great, are you leaving?'" Ornelas jokes. "It was really giving a little bit of shine to that way of thinking that there are cultural requirements that you have to work towards, and that you're not above it."

Reagan learns from Terry that she needs to get her hands dirty and think outside of herself. In a montage, we see Wells chopping wood, attending bingo nights, and even doing some caulking for casino council members as a way to be welcomed back by the people around her. It's a necessary step as she's torn between supporting Terry and best friend Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms), who's looking to keep a controversial statue honoring his ancestors — the town's founder — in the same spot it's been for centuries.

"Terry has this line [to Reagan] where he says nobody likes a complicated story. We are drawn to easy narratives. Black hat versus white hat. I think what we were trying do is bring a little nuance to each of these characters," Ornelas explains. "At one point, they're adversaries, and then at another point, they're actually someone's ally. It's constantly shifting because I do think there are phases. This stuff is muddy and complicated."

Reagan comes to Terry in a moment where she's had to question several aspects of her life. At Rolling Thunder Casino, Terry teases Reagan for leaving the Minishonka reservation to go to college and get her master's degree. It's not her drive that bugs him, but how distant she's become from her roots.

"In Native communities, like in many other marginalized communities, there's an expectation that if you're going to leave, that means you're going to move out into the world, get your degrees or get your training, and then bring it back to help your people. I think it's a value," Schmieding says.

Colleen Hayes/Peacock Dustin Milligan and Jana Schmieding in 'Rutherford Falls'

Reagan has moments of self-doubt about her career aspirations, but that's when Terry swoops in.

"She is so fearful in parts of her life," Ornelas says. "And then when she is with him, she's oddly brave and able to kind of just speak her mind."

Looking ahead, we see in episode 4 that Terry was once a young entrepreneur selling lemonade and brownies to the people in town. During a conversation with journalist Josh (Dustin Milligan), Terry describes how he had to make sacrifices "out of bare-knuckle necessity." So, in turn, he holds those same expectations for those around him, including Reagan.

You can see the results of Terry's mentoring and Reagan's journey on Peacock, where all 10 episodes of Rutherford Falls are currently streaming.

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