Dustin Milligan knows a thing or two about small town comedy sitcoms. The 36-year-old actor won over viewers hearts playing Ted Mullens, ’Schitt’s Creek’s’ charming resident veterinarian, and then again on his newest role playing Josh Carter on Peacock’s ‘Rutherford Falls.’ So what is it about small town comedies that captures viewers hearts? Milligan thinks it’s the sense of community the programs can provide during isolating times.
“Schitt’s Creek was obviously something that resonated with audiences and I think Rutherford Falls does in a lot of ways too. It’s such a wonderful reflection of small town America, but also just American life right now,” Milligan told Los Angeles.
“Specifically, we’re all being asked to question what our role is in our community, what our role is in our town, what our role is within our family circle or our friend unit or whatever it is, and we’re being pushed a little bit to think outside of what we traditionally assumed life was gonna be like in a way that I think benefits us and hopefully will make us laugh a little bit more,” he added.
Speaking of community, Milligan was born and raised in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, where a lot of people were hesitant about the show accurately representing their stories, but now are relieved at its accurate take.
“In Yellowknife there’s a lot of people that are just really excited about it. There was hesitation too because frankly the indigenous community has been burned many, many times by promises of being represented accurately and fairly,” Milligan said. “It is such a pleasure to be a part of something that would have this response of people in my community being so positive and to be something where they’re feeling like there’s accurate representation, but also just making them laugh.”
There’s like inside jokes and there’s all these layers to the humor that not everybody I think can quite understand, but that certainly people up north got, and that was a fulfilling thing, for sure
The sitcom began as an idea between Helms and Michael Schur, who previously worked together on The Office, to make a comedy about complex indigenous characters. After getting Navajo show runner, Sierra Teller Ornelas, on-board with the idea, the trio formed the largest indigenous writing staff in American TV, with half of the room being of Native American heritage.
“You have to just start from the ground up and it’s obvious, and it translates so well through this show,” he said. “It’s such a privilege to have six native writers in the writer’s room this year, as well as, Sierra the creator, being indigenous, it’s all just so clearly benefiting not just our show, but what’s really lovely is that now we’re seeing it be an example for other shows to continue doing the same thing. And frankly, I’m just really excited to be an actor in this moment when we get to see new untold or more thoroughly told stories.”
Rutherford Falls centers its story around two lifelong friends, Nathan Rutherford (Helms) and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding), whose relationship is tested when a crisis hits their small town. After the mayor decides to move a statue of Nathan’s ancestor because car drivers keep crashing into it, Nathan begins a quest to keep the statue in its place, causing Reagan to juggle loyalty to her friend and to her people, the Minishonka Nation. Season 2 finds Nation and Reagan helping each other tackle work, romance, and major changes to their small town and the Native American reservation it borders, initiated by Tribal Casino C.E.O. Terry Thomas (Michael Greyeyes).
“Season one was so wonderful in how it explored these people who had pretty rigid ideas of who they were in their lives, and then by the end of season one, it kind of was all blowing up and everything they thought they knew was slipped on its head,” Milligan said. “And so season two is all of those same characters and then even more of the periphery characters from season one coming in and interacting in such a way where now that’ kind of being put to the test.”
“There’s also new interests, sort of romantic plot lines that are explored a little bit and some of the backstory in season one that was touched on just gets explored even further into season two,” he concluded.
All eight episodes will stream June 16th on Peacock.
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