Inspiration. Ambition.
Passion. Process. Technique.

By: Geri Cole

Promotional poster for RUTHERFORD FALLS

To kick things off for Season 9, Geri is joined by Sierra Teller Ornelas and Mike Schur, co-creators — along with Ed Helms — of the new Peacock sitcom RUTHERFORD FALLS, to discuss how the series tackles big issues around race and culture with an abundance of humor; how they built an inclusive and equitable writers’ room; and how television, and the world, is better off when we learn from history.

Sierra Teller Ornelas is a Navajo and Mexican American writer, producer, and showrunner whose long list of past credits includes BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, SUPERSTORE, and SPLITTING UP TOGETHER.

Mike Schur is a writer, producer, and actor who is probably best known as the co-creator of PARKS AND RECREATION and BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, the creator of THE GOOD PLACE, as well as a writer on THE OFFICE and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE – among other things.

Their latest project is the sitcom RUTHERFORD FALLS. The series—which was co-created by Ornelas, Schur, and Ed Helms, and for which Ornelas is showrunner—follows Nathan Rutherford and Reagan Wells, two lifelong friends who find themselves at a crossroads, quite literally, when their sleepy town gets an unexpected wake-up call. The complete first season premiered on April 22 and is available to stream on Peacock.

Seasons 7-9 of OnWriting are hosted by Geri Cole, a writer and performer based in New York City. She is currently a full-time staff and interactive writer for SESAME STREET, for which she has received Writers Guild Award and two Daytime Emmys. She also performs sketch and improv at theaters and festivals around the country.

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Thanks for listening. Write on.


Geri Cole: You’re listening to On Writing, a podcast from the Writer’s Guild of America, East. I’m your host, Geri Cole. In each episode, you’ll hear writers working in film, television, and news break down everything from the writing process to pitching, favorite jokes to key scenes, and so much more.

Today, we’re thrilled to be joined by Sierra Teller Ornelas and Michael Schur, co-creators, along with Ed Helms, of the new sitcom Rutherford Falls, now streaming on Peacock. Sierra has written for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Superstore, and Splitting Up Together. Mike is the creator of Parks and Rec, The Good Place, and has written for The Office and Saturday Night Live, among other credits.

Rutherford Falls follows two lifelong best friends who find themselves at a crossroads, quite literally, when their sleepy town gets an unexpected wake-up call. We talked about how the series tackles big issues around race and culture with an abundance of humor, how they built an inclusive and equitable writers’ room, and how television, and the world, is better off when we learn from history.

First, I just want to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making this show, because it’s fantastic. I guess let’s start talking about how it came together. How did you guys meet? What the original seed of the show?

Mike Schur: We’ve got this answer down by now, don’t we, Sierra?

Sierra Teller Ornelas: I think so.

Mike Schur: It’s a two-part answer, and it’s like clockwork. We’ll tell you the story, you judge us on a scale of one to 10 of how well you think we tell the story.

Geri Cole: Okay.

Mike Schur: Many years ago now, 2016, Ed Helms and I, who had worked together on The Office, ran into each other and had one of those conversations you have a lot when you run into people you know, which is like, “Hey, we should talk about doing something.” Except, unlike every other one of those conversations I’ve ever had, we actually followed through on it. We started meeting and talking very, very generally and slowly and organically about a character that Ed could play, which was a guy who was a goodhearted person, who meant well, but who had this incredible blind spot for what we think of as narratives, narratives that he had swallowed whole about his family history, about American history. We made a million pages of notes just about this guy and what kind of world he could be in.

And then we eventually realized that, in order to tell the story of a guy like that being forced to come to terms with contradictions in those narratives and reality, that this was really a story about Native American history, at which point we realized, “Well, we need help here.”Sierra had worked on Brooklyn Nine-Nine first season, and I knew her through that, and she had also coincidentally developed a pilot with Ed, so we thought, “Well, let’s get Sierra in here and pitch her this idea and see if she has any interest in fleshing this out and providing basically the other half of that story.” We called her, and now, here’s where Sierra takes over the story.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Before I start, [Navajo 00:03:07]. My name is Sierra Teller Ornelas. I’m a member of the Navajo Nation. I am Edgewater Clan, born for the Mexican clan. Traditionally, that is how Navajos introduce themselves when they’re talking to a group of people, so got to do that. Box checked.

But yeah, no. At the time, I was working on a show called Superstore. I’d had a baby. The network grind was a lot. 22 episodes is so much television, so I decided to take a break and really figure out what I wanted to do next. Luckily, I got this call from Mike and Ed asking if I wanted to meet and talk about a project, so met with them. Usually, I will say Native writers at my level will get calls like this often when people are done with the move, or they’re like, “Oh, a white person has already written the script. We just need you to go through and make sure it sounds good.” And you’re like-

Geri Cole: It’s not terribly offensive.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: No, yeah. And it’s a mess, and you’re like, “Well, we’re filming tomorrow.” It’s just a nightmare. It’s very rare that you get a call from good dudes like Mike and Ed at the beginning of an idea, where they were like, “We have half an idea. Would you like to work on this with us?” We met. I had grown up in museums. My mom is a Native artist, and I worked at the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian on the Mall for many years as a film programmer, so I just had a wealth of stories and ideas about what kind of characters could populate the story, about the Nathan character specifically. We just kept talking and talking and organically created this world and these characters. It was a really great experience. I feel like we talked about it for almost a year before we-

Mike Schur: Another year.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: … even pitched it.

Mike Schur: Yeah.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Which I feel like is really rare. And it really helped. Especially once we got a room together, we had a great vision of what we wanted to do. And we were so open. There’s still stuff we totally throw away because a writer had a better idea, but it was a great foundation of what we were trying to tell and who these characters were.

Geri Cole: Were there any challenges that you guys faced in trying to get this show made, like relentless-

Mike Schur: Nope. Zero. Zero challenges. It was 100%-

Geri Cole: Smooth sailing.

Mike Schur: … smooth sailing from beginning to end.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Yeah.

Geri Cole: This could just be speaking from my world. Advisors, consultants, any executive feedback that you had to wade through.

Mike Schur: Well, yeah, sure. Look. Every TV show has challenges, right? That’s the point of that dumb joke that we just made. And this was no different. We pitched it to a lot of places, and a lot of them thought, “Okay, but no thank you.” We got lucky early on that Peacock was just forming, really. Peacock was a new… It didn’t even have a name. When they bought this show, they didn’t know what they were going to be called. They were just excited, I think, at the idea of… I think they genuinely liked the show. Bill McGoldrick, who was running Peacock at the time, had genuine enthusiasm for the idea. Also, he was excited at the idea of Ed coming back to TV, and he was excited at the idea of Sierra running her first show. It’s not like there wasn’t any enthusiasm, because there certainly was.

After that, the mission statement of the show, I would say, and Sierra can speak to this I think more specifically that I can, but there was a very specific mission statement, which was, “Represent Native people in a way that they had never been represented before, really, on TV or in movies, which is as just normal people doing mundane, normal, stupid stuff. Having the normal problems that all normal humans have with their kids and their families and their jobs, and some people like their jobs and some people hate their jobs.” That wasn’t really an obstacle coming from above in terms of network interference or something. That was just a hurdle that we were constantly trying to overcome, which was, “Let’s just write the best stories we can and show multidimensional people who happen to be Native American, instead of having everything be specifically about, ‘As a Native American, how do you feel about thing X, Y, or Z?'” Right?

The fourth episode of the series is about the character Terry Thomas, played by Michael Greyeyes. That was when we truly, I think, for the first time maybe fulfilled that mission statement, which was, he’s giving this interview that’s very, very specifically about a specific aspect of his Native American-dom, which is he runs this casino, he has this big plan for how to help his tribe people have certain assumptions about him that he wants to dispel. But then in the middle of it, he goes to his kid’s lacrosse game and he talks to his wife, and he’s having a problem because his daughter doesn’t really fit in with his worldview of how his daughter should live her life.

That was the intentional outcropping of what the mission statement of the show was, which was, “This isn’t just going to be about a Native American nation or tribe or something. This is specifically aimed at presenting Native characters three-dimensionally and interestingly and also boringly in the way that other people from other ethnic groups and social groups have been portrayed for now 80 years on TV.” That was our obstacle, I think, that we were trying to jump over. I don’t know if you would add anything to that, Sierra.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Yeah. I think one of the big themes of the show was this thing called the backfire effect. There was a podcast that we all listened to, and the idea of when people are presented with information that goes against a core belief of theirs, they will not only reject it, but they will double down on their original belief. It’s why we have anti-vaxxers, it’s why we have the crazy political system we have now. We were also really drawn to this idea of, what is American history? When we cling to certain narratives, what are the histories that are lost to the mainstream, but that certain types of people are dealing with every day?

It was something interesting about having a character, who you didn’t flatten and turn into a cartoon, reconciling with their own history, juxtaposed with a best friend who is constantly having to reconcile with their history on a daily basis. That idea of what is American history I think really resonated, and I think that’s why Mike and Ed were initially drawn to this idea of the first story of American history, which is contact, right? I think it was trying to talk about these bigger things that we were seeing in the country while also focusing it on a friendship between two people.

And then, as Mike said, usually, when anyone attempts something like that, I find the Native characters are perfect or they have all the answers or they’re murdered and are villains, or are, like House of Cards, the villain that gets you to the back five episodes or whatever and are flattened in cartoons. What I really like about the show and what we always talked about was the idea that, on any given Sunday, the character you like could be someone’s ally or someone’s adversary. The Josh character is incredibly kind to Reagan and really sees her, but he’s completely blind to who Terry is and can’t really see him until Terry turns off the microphone and says, “Hey, I’m going to tell you. I’m going to break it down for you.” What I liked about that was you made the characters more complex, and you could never really… Just when you think you had one figured out, something happens where you’re like, “Oh, that’s not exactly what I thought that character would do.”

And it’s really funny. I also find Native stuff that is made by non-Native people often just feels like homework, and it hurts my chances of getting to make something, because people assume it’s going to have to be something that’s very serious or un-fun or boring. It was great to also… Mike worked on The Office. I think it’s one of the greatest examples of a show that really grinds into the mundane but is incredibly funny and enjoyable and has a lot of heart. That’s what we wanted to do, especially for the Native characters, but also for everyone on the show.

Geri Cole: Oh, man, you guys. I have so many followup questions. Oh. Ooh, yes. Ooh. Oh, man. Where should I start? I want to talk about Nathan and Reagan’s dynamic, because that was one of the things… Actually, let’s start there. That was one of the things that I really loved about this show, because it rang so true for me and I think probably for a lot of people of color, where it’s like you have that white friend that you genuinely love, and you can see that they’re trying, but they’re so far from understanding your perspective, which was not a dynamic I’d seen on TV before. Was that always the plan, or did you find that in the room?

Mike Schur: No, that was the plan.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: That was the plan.

Mike Schur: Yeah. This is where the fusion of Ed’s and my pre-work and then Sierra’s coming in and fleshing it out really, I think, shines, because we were like, “Okay, here’s this guy and here’s his problem and here’s what he thinks about the world and here’s where he’s a dope and here’s where he doesn’t understand everything.” And then when Sierra came in, it was like, “Okay, here’s what you need. You need this character. Her name is Reagan. Here’s what she does, here’s what her life is like, here’s how she relates to him, here’s how she’s supportive of him, here’s how she’s frustrated by him.”

Nathan, in a lot of ways, is pretty sensitive and pretty empathetic. There’s an episode that we all really loved, Breaking, which was how… It’s the question of, can you separate the art from the artist? They’re judging a high school history fair, and they watch, as two history nerds, this person has made this really moving video about the Minishonka Nation, and then it turns out he’s just this fake woke white dork. And Reagan is like, “Well, I don’t know now, because that’s not okay that he’s the spokesperson for my people,” and it leads to this huge conversation.

And Nathan understands that problem. He fights against it a little bit, but he really fights against it just because the white kid makes fun of his family. But originally, he’s super on board, and then later, they’re having a bigger discussion about these cultural issues. This one funny chef guy at one point is like, “Yeah, yeah. If Black people can say the N-word, why can’t I?” And immediately, everyone is like, “No, man. That’s not what we’re talking about.” And Ed improvised this line, which we all loved and kept in. He goes, “Why would you want to?” It’s exactly the right response to that kind of attitude, right?

There are a lot of ways in which Nathan is fairly sensitive and emotionally aware, but even with his best friend, a woman that he truly loves and would throw himself in front of a train for, he just can’t really empathize. He can’t put himself in her shoes. Again, that is the real glorious result of Ed and me working on this character for Ed, and then Sierra coming in and saying, “Here is the other half of it, here’s the other side of this coin, and here’s how they relate together.” It’s a shining example of the kind of thing that you cannot get at if you are only operating from one side of this equation. That’s why you have to have people who are representative of the group you’re talking about in order to tell the story that you want to talk about, because otherwise, you’re going to get it wrong.

Geri Cole: Yes. Actually, let’s talk a little bit about the writers’ room, because that also was a historic first, I’m assuming, that aside from you and Ed, the rest of the writers were all Native.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Well, there were non-Native writers in the room as well.

Geri Cole: Oh, okay. Sorry.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Counting Mike and Ed, there were 12, but 10 without, and then five of us in total were Native, five non-Native. Five to seven.

Geri Cole: We say the most Native writers in there.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Yes. But then it was a weird thing, because later in production, a lot of people went off to do other shows with COVID and everything. There was a point where it was Eric Ledgin, who’s non-Native, running the room, and then it was the three Native writers, because Jana was on set, because she was starring. It fluctuated, but yes, there were five Native writers in the room.

Geri Cole: What was the room like, and what were the ingredients that you were trying to get when you were choosing who you wanted in the room?

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Yeah. It was interesting to put the room together, because nobody had agents, so we were going through the database. We reached out to a lot of Sundance, Skins Fest, places that had these workshops that pulled Native writers and cultivated them with helping them with samples and stuff. We went out to Instagram, UCB shows, all kinds of stuff to find different people. There was also just friends that I’d worked with on Superstore and other shows that I was like, “I definitely know we want to hire these people.”

Yeah. I remember Mike saying, “How many writers do you want?” And I was like, “10.” And he was like, “Well, five should be Native.” And I was like, “Holy shit. Okay. Yeah. That’s the dream.” Once I had that marching order, it was great, because I never felt weird about it in terms of being like, “I have to fight for this,” because you could just be like, “Mike said this is what we’re doing.” By the way, “Mike said this is what we’re doing,” is an incredible… It’s like a black American Express card. It’s pretty great.

Geri Cole: That’s awesome.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Yeah. We met with a bunch of different… What was amazing was, when I first started out, there were people who… I wrote a sample that was set in a trading post, these Navajo sisters running a trading post. I got a lot of jobs off of it, and they would say, “Oh, this is a great sample. It’ll never be made, but it’s a really cool sample.” And it was just this given that there wasn’t enough infrastructure, there weren’t enough writers, there weren’t enough actors. We just never found that to be the case. There were way more writers than we had spots for, there were way more actors. Later on in the season, we were like, “Oh, we can write this role for this actress who we saw when we were looking at Reagans or Sallys.” It was an abundance that was really wonderful.

But in terms of the writers’ room, we wanted there to be five Native writers. The Native writers are all different people. They’re from different parts of the country, different nations. Some of them grew up in communities, some of them are urban, some of them grew up all over. I’m a suburban Native. There’s all different kinds. That was really wonderful. But we also had gay writers, Asian writers, Black writers, Latino writers, even there was no Latinos on our show. It was just important to have a real reflection of a country, but also at different levels. It was very important to me to have another woman of color at a co-EP level. If you had first-time writers of color, they wouldn’t just come to me. They could come to her.

It was trying to build those roles, and then having just super supportive, open, secure white writers, to be honest. I wanted to make sure… I think the first week, it was a little bit like, “Can I ask questions about Native stuff?” It was a little bit of that, and it became very clear very quickly, just by the tone, that I think Mike, Ed, and I said, “Everyone gets asked dumb questions, everyone gets to say exactly how they feel, and everyone gets to hear their piece. We get to have this debate, we get to have this discussion.”

And then the big thing was really just, because there were so many Native writers, there was no Indians 101. Usually, when I’m the only Native writer on a show, I have to do 400 years of history before we can even just explain the joke that I’m trying to pitch. With this, we had so much shared experience. I always use this as an example. We were talking about crabs in a bucket, and a lot of the white writers did not know what that term was. We were explaining it, and then the Black writer was like, “Oh, it’s crabs in a barrel. We have that.” Latino writers, same thing. Bucket crabs. And then Mike was like, “Oh, it’s like people from Boston.” He was like, “You think you’re better than me?” And I was like, “Yes, exactly.” Once we had that, we could all build on that story and pitch on that story.

Morgan Sackett, who is his incredible producer and just really the glue of everything I’ve done in the past two years, has a no-asshole policy, just like, “Nice people, we hire nice people.” And I was skeptical about it, I will admit, the first couple months, and it really did work out. I had these note cards that had everyone’s name, description, level, and they were color-coded. I always wrote, “A joy to be around,” and all the people who were a joy to be around got in, basically. Yeah, it kind of worked out.

Geri Cole: Guys. This sounds so fantastic. Oh my God. I feel like it comes across, too. You can tell that it was a room full of people who were really enjoying what they were doing.

Actually, continuing talking about the writers’ room, how did you guys… Because there were five different Native writers coming from five different nations, how did you go about creating this fictitious tribe? Did you try and pull general things? Did you have to consult and/or get any weird feedback from different people?

Sierra Teller Ornelas: The show’s set in the Northeast, and we had one writer who is Mohawk, and he is from the Northeast. He’s from Kahnawake. We pulled a lot in terms of the cultural consistency. We wanted to be cultural consistent. I’ve seen a lot of TV shows where it’s set in Oklahoma, but she’s wearing a Navajo outfit. It’s completely inaccurate, and it’s a buffet that you just pick from. Even though the tribe was fictitious, we didn’t want to treat it like a buffet.

However, it is very much a pan-Native story, in that if there was a storyline or a discussion in the room that four of us have experienced, we’re like, “Okay, let’s chase that. Let’s chase that story.” It does seem to have resonated in Indian country, because we’ve gotten a lot of response from people of all nations saying, “Oh my God, this is my life,” or, “Oh my God, I wear that shirt.” There was a lot of crossover. We’re obviously not a monolith. Even within nations, there’s over 500 federally recognized tribes. But we did have a lot of shared experiences in terms of growing up the way we have, even though we grew up in very different areas of the country.

Mike Schur: We came to this conclusion early on. Again, this was a thing that Sierra noted that made a lot of sense. It was that we’re fictionalizing the white history here, right? The Rutherford family is an amalgam of a bunch of different families that you’ve heard the names of, because their people signed old, crusty documents that are in museums and stuff. That almost made it more okay to fictionalize the Native history.

Obviously, one of the biggest problems, like Sierra just said, with the way that Native history has been depicted, it’s just willy-nilly. A tribe or a nation from the Northeast is depicted as using teepees or something. It’s like, “Well, no. That never happened. They had no use for those.” There’s been so much fictionalization of Native history that it felt a little bit risky to come up with a fictional tribe. But when you’re fictionalizing the white history and you’re saying, “We’re making all this stuff up,” and it’s this amalgam of different families and different events, that made it feel more okay to have it be like, “Okay, well, this is just a fictional world, so everything can be slightly fictionalized.”

But then within that, again, like Sierra just said, we wanted to be as accurate as we could about what it would feel like or look like or what the color schemes should be. The animals that are important to the Minishonka, we didn’t want to have those be animals that wouldn’t have been important to a nation from that region. It was this back-and-forth, and we just did it on, “We’re going to do our best. We’re going to try our best here. It’s not going to be perfect, because there is no such thing as perfect here in this world.” But we tried our best to be consistent with how we represented the Minishonka.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Totally. And we also did avoid certain color schemes and animals that are clearly drawn to something that we wouldn’t want to appropriate. We were trying very hard to toe that line.

But what we did do, also, I would say, is we… How do I say this? I don’t know. As a sitcom writer, so much of what I find is helpful in rooms is we say, “What would really happen? What would really happen?” Usually, that’s where you find the comedy. Even in episode two, I think we hadn’t really done the idea of a tribal council and having to go and make sure that people approved it, and that it wouldn’t just be very easy for the Terry character to push this thing through. Someone brought that up, and we ended up throwing out our second episode because of that. It was like, “Oh, you’re right. That is what would happen. There is a bureaucratic thing you have to do in order to get stuff done.” But then that’s how the Reagan story came about and her having… It was a much more dynamic, fun way of her having to re-ingratiate herself into the nation.

We interviewed a tribal lawyer to find out… Tribal law is very specific, and it’s different. Or NAGPRA. Mentioning those things, those things do exist and those things are real, so it was interesting to get to use that stuff, while at the same time… I don’t know. I’ve had movies and television shows made about my nation where everything is “accurate” in terms of the clothing and stuff, and it’s just bad. To us, it was much more about the accurate experience and that sort of feeling of what it feels like to embody these situations and your response.

One of the things we talked a lot about was, aunties and uncles are very big in many Native cultures, and the idea of that uncle vibe and that auntie vibe. That’s what Reagan represented and what Terry represented. That, to me, is something that’s not necessarily something you’d find in a book that’s accurate or whatever, but is something that is very felt in so many of our communities.

Geri Cole: And I felt like I was being exposed to Native culture, even though I recognized that it wasn’t exactly a real tribe. It was actually one of the things that made me realize how much I did not know or understand about Native cultures. I never get to experience it.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: No, exactly.

Geri Cole: Yeah.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Yeah. And we’ve heard from a lot of people in Indian country of being like, “Oh my God, I bead.” There was a story that was told to me about a little girl that was like, “Oh, Mom, maybe my bead work could be in a museum,” because she saw the Maya character donating items to Reagan’s cultural center. And it really is touching in the sense of just the power of getting to see yourself and the power of getting to see yourself depicted as just a person. It shouldn’t be revolutionary in 2021, but it really is, in terms of a lot of the feedback we’ve gotten. I don’t know. I used to stay up late watching Golden Girls with my mom so she could weave all night long, and to know that there’s Native artists staying up all night beading and weaving to our TV show, it’s just mind-blowing to me. It’s an incredible feeling.

Mike Schur: There’s a real good theme in the show, and half of it is how little the average person in this country knows about Native culture, right? I think of it as… For white people, imagine if you were at a party and the person was like, “Oh, are you white? That’s so interesting.” And you were like, “Yeah.” And then their response was like, “Oh, here’s what I know about white culture. I know the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and I know about grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread. Do you listen to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and eat grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread?” And you’d have to go, “No, not really. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, that’s part of a division of music that I never really cared about, and white bread’s gross.” And they’d be like, “Really? You don’t eat white bread grilled cheese sandwiches? Huh. I thought all white people ate grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread and listened to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. That’s so weird.” Part of it is that.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: It’d be like, “I went to middle school with a guy named Ben Foster. Do you know Ben Foster?” “No, I don’t know Ben Foster.”

Mike Schur: “Really? He was white. I’m sure he was white. I remember him being white.” There’s that part of it, which is obviously… That’s the biggest chunk of this show. Native American people pay taxes like everybody else, and most white people, or many white people think they don’t, because they just have some really half-cockeyed view of how Native culture works. They don’t know anything.

There’s that, but then there’s this other great parallel thing, I think, which is toward the end of the show. This is a little bit of a spoiler, if anybody wants to skip this part. When Terry is enacting his plan and he wants Nathan to play basically a generic colonial guy with a butter churn, Nathan is like, “This has nothing to do with my actual family history.” And Terry has this wonderful speech where he says, “Look. We’ve done research on this, and the average American’s understand of American history can be boiled down to about seven things. It’s Independence Day, Independence Day the movie, George Washington, cherry trees, and butter churns.”

He’s sort of right. It’s not just that Americans are ignorant of Native culture, which they certainly are. They’re also ignorant of our own white culture. We just don’t know anything. We do a bad job in this country, an extremely bad job, I think, of investigating and grappling with our history. And when I say our history, I mean the entire history of everyone who’s ever lived on this continent. We just don’t do a good job of delving in and understanding and working within nuance. As proof of that, you need only to see people storming the Capitol Building with Confederate flags and going like, “Do you understand what’s wrong with that?”

Neal Brennan, my friend, used to have a joke where he said that he saw a guy with a Confederate flag tattoo and an American flag tattoo on the same arm. And he’s like, “That’s like saying…” I can’t remember exactly the joke, but he’s like, “This one is to commemorate my husband Steve, and this is to commemorate the time when I left my husband Steve and married another guy.” Anyway, the point is, I think the biggest… If you really zoom out to our widest lens, we’re just trying to say that things will be better if we are a little bit more intense and careful and thorough in the way that we just look at history and the way that we grapple with it and the way that we try to hold the good and the bad of all of this history in our brains at the same time.

And I think that there’s a certain kind of mentality that is on display all the time, which is if you say anything bad about anything that ever happened in America, you are un-American. Of course, the truth is, it’s the exact opposite. Fundamentally, to me, what it means to be American and to have the freedoms that we have, we should be harder on America than any other country. We should be harder on ourselves in search of this more perfect union that we always hear we’re trying to find. We should be much harder and tougher on our own history than we should be on anyone else’s. And to think otherwise is to basically say, “We are going to ignore the mistakes we’ve made. We’re going to pretend they didn’t happen, we’re going to ignore them, and thus, we are giving up any chance we have of learning anything from them and getting better as a country,” and that makes no sense to me.

Geri Cole: Guys, I’m getting riled up.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: And it’s also better. Holding two things in your hands at the same time and embracing this messiness, it will, I think… It made for better storytelling, and it makes for better history, it makes for better everything. I think the reconciling is… I think people will do anything to avoid discomfort. They’ll do anything, and that means erasing entire cultures of people, that means erasing entire narratives. The more we can actually dive in on that stuff. It being centralized with these two friends, their friendship is stronger the more open and the more intimacy, for lack of a better word, but the more real they are with each other, I think the stronger those bonds. And the more we all pretend everything’s okay, the less strength there is in that friendship.

Geri Cole: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike Schur: Yeah.

Geri Cole: I would actually also argue that it’s not actually comfort you’re living in. It’s something [crosstalk 00:31:07].

Sierra Teller Ornelas: No, 100%.

Mike Schur: It’s denial. No, it’s denial. Yeah.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Yeah, yeah. 100%. You’re avoiding discomfort, but you’re not comfortable, for sure. No, no, definitely.

Mike Schur: Yeah. Look. If you get a 73 on a math test, you have two choices, right? The two choices are, number one, look at the 27% you got wrong, figure out why you got it wrong, and try to learn it so that next time you get a better grade. Or take scissors and cut out the problems you got wrong and take it home and go, “Look, I got 100. I got an A-plus.” This country has, in its past, gotten some B-pluses on some stuff, and we’ve gotten some C-minuses on some stuff, and we have outright failed some of these quizzes, straight-up flunked. The way to be a better student isn’t to cut out, excise, Occam’s-razor all of the stuff we got wrong and claim we got 100 on every test. It just doesn’t make any sense. The way that we talk to our kids when they’re in school and they get something wrong on their homework, we have to have the same mentality when we look at our own history and our own past deeds as a nation.

There’s a secondary thing happening, I think, for a lot of people, which is, they’re like, “Well, that wasn’t me. I didn’t do that, whatever that thing is. I didn’t oppress Native people. I wasn’t President Andrew Jackson. I wasn’t Thomas Jefferson. I didn’t own slaves.” And it’s like, “Yeah, well, that doesn’t matter, man. You’re part of the country. You’re representing the country somehow. You still got to grapple and understand and work through and try to improve.” It’s a very foreign and non-comprehensible mentality to me. I just don’t get it. It’s like, “Don’t you want to be better now? Don’t you want to get better? Don’t you want to move your C-plus to an A-minus? You can’t do that if you ignore all the stuff you got wrong.”

Geri Cole: And also, the thing that drives me crazy is those things still happened. Even if you didn’t do them, they still-

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Exactly.

Geri Cole: You understand that they happened.

Mike Schur: They happened. Yeah. Yes.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: And you’re probably wearing a Redskins jersey. You’re also probably doing stuff right now. I don’t know. I also think, too, though, the other flip side of that coin is also I feel like most people want to believe they’re good guys. Everyone wants to believe that, in the movie, they’d be the person who’d help, and no one can really notice that blind spot of, “Oh, I actually probably would’ve made some poor decisions. I actually probably would’ve fed into my ego or fed into my own insecurities and made bad decisions.” We all want to believe we’re the hero, and that’s so much of this show. Nathan isn’t the only one with blind spots. Not to say everyone on the show is equal, but everyone on the show has a blind spot in terms of what they’re willing to do and what they’re willing to be motivated by. And I also think that that was an important conversation for us to have, because it wasn’t like, “Okay, here are the good people and here are the bad people.” It’s messy. It’s complicated.

Mike Schur: Everybody wants to believe that he or she would be Mark Wahlberg stopping the 9/11 terrorism plane. It’s such a perfect fantasy that he laid out for everyone. Yeah, that’s how everyone wants to feel. “I would’ve just told those slave owners, ‘This is wrong.'” But it’s like, “Come on man.”

Geri Cole: What are you doing now? That’s probably what you would’ve done.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Right.

Geri Cole: That makes me think of two followup questions. One is, I want to talk a little bit about the Ron Swanson character, because I feel like he falls into this conservative guy. How do you make him funny? In this day and age, how do you make it okay and fun to play with this? Actually, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about that type of character, crafting someone who holds these conservative values, you could argue conservative values, and making it funny.

Mike Schur: Ron on Parks and Rec came out of my personal frustration with people in contemporary America who call themselves libertarians, because the people who call themselves libertarians, like Rand Paul for example, or most Republican politicians from Texas, Ted Cruz I think refers to himself as a libertarian occasionally, they’re not actually libertarians. They’re just really, really virulent Republicans. An actual libertarian, for example, would have no problem with gay marriage. They would be, in fact, in favor of gay marriage. In fact, what they would say is, “The government has no business telling anybody who they can marry or not marry, or date or not date, or whatever.” You cannot call yourself a libertarian if you’re anti-gay marriage, right?

Ron came out of this belief that there is some sort of value in a libertarian worldview if it’s authentic. It’s a legitimate worldview if it’s authentic. And what authentic means is Ron literally kills his own food, and lives off the grid, and wants everybody to stay out of everybody else’s business, and is totally fine with gay marriage and thinks to believe otherwise is absurd, and just has a complete and unfettered belief in his own liberty. I don’t agree with that point of view. I think that’s often the point of view of people who are just really rich and don’t want to pay taxes.

But I was like, “Well what would an authentic 19th-century libertarian look like?” If you create that character, suddenly, that character can hold a lot of opinions about things. Ron hated the government to the point where he wanted to get rid of traffic lights and stop signs, because he thought the government had no business telling drivers when they should stop or go. It creates comedy, certainly, but it also, I thought, was… He was the kind of person, when he had those beliefs, who was consistent.

The thing that gets me personally more than anything else in politicians is hypocrisy. I think hypocrisy is just about the least noble stance or, I don’t know what you’d call it, action you can have as a politician. You cannot say one thing and privately do another thing, and everyone who called him or herself a libertarian is doing it constantly. That’s where that came from. We needed that character. And Leslie Knope, who fell to the left of Bernie Sanders probably, or Elizabeth Warren, on the political scale. We needed those two people to be friends and to have a mutual respect for each other. And the way you do that is you create a character who has a deep and abiding belief in individual liberty, and thus finds her political stances repulsive, but takes a great amount of almost pride in how strong a person she is and how tough she is and how much she fights for what she believes in. That’s the really fun part about creating TV shows, is you start from these purely theoretical places and you say, “Well, this character is going to have this kind of personality, and this character’s going to have this kind of personality,” and then you cast Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler, and the two of them are just magically wonderful and have incredible friend chemistry.

The same thing happened on Rutherford Falls, I think. Ed was already obviously locked in, and Reagan was completely theoretical as a creature on Earth. And then we found Jana, because she was writing on the show. We did a bunch of chemistry tests, and Jana had essentially no acting experience. She was brand new to the world of acting, and God, you would never know it. You watch that show and you’re like, “Oh, this woman has been a professional actor for 15 years, because look how natural she is and look how easily…” Ed Helms is a first-class comedian and actor. He is as good as it gets on the screen. He’s incredibly funny, he’s lightning quick, he improvises, he handles very emotional turns like a true pro, and Jana is right with him in every scene. It’s really amazing. Anyone with less natural ability, I think, gets acted right off the stage when she’s with Ed.

It’s an interesting comparison, because when we found Nick for Parks and Rec, he was 40 or something. I remember saying to Allison Jones, our casting director, who also cast Rutherford, I remember I was like, “How is this guy 40 and he’s not famous? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s absurd.” And of course, he had been acting forever. He was a stage actor. He had done tons of different stuff. But it was mind-blowing to me that he wasn’t famous and well-known, and now, I feel the same way about Jana. I don’t know how old Jana is. I ain’t going to ask. That’s not nice. Not nice to ask people how old they are. But however old she is, it’s absurd that she’s not famous by now.

Geri Cole: Guys, I agree. [crosstalk 00:39:48].

Mike Schur: She and Nick, she’s a very good analog for Nick, I think, because she just came out of nowhere and is the lead in this show and is remarkably self-possessed and funny and holds her own in every scene she’s in.

Geri Cole: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, I’m a longtime Jana Schmieding fan, just from seeing her do improv in New York, so I’m not surprised that she is doing a fantastic job. But yeah, it seems like this is her first opportunity and knocked it right on out the park.

Mike Schur: Yeah.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: That’s what so crazy. She obviously studied acting in college, and like you said, performed at UCB for many years and did standup and was a podcaster. But if there hadn’t been a role for a Native woman, I don’t know what would’ve happened to Jana, and that is fucking terrible. Sorry to curse.

Geri Cole: You can curse. That’s fine.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: We talk about this all the time about Rutherford. We didn’t get to make this show because we were the best; we got to make the show because we got picked. This is a long time coming. Charlie Hill should’ve had a show in the ’80s. There were many talented Native people who were before me who should’ve had their shot and didn’t get it. The success that we’re feeling is so overwhelming, but for me personally, it’s also very bittersweet, because you know that we could’ve done this many years ago.

Mike Schur: Nick, just to follow through on this analogy, because now I’m obsessed with the idea that Nick and Jana are analogs. Nick’s story is, and I’m sure I’ll get some of the details wrong, but Nick had a long and winding road to get to Parks and Rec. He was cast in at least a couple pilots and then fired after the table read because the people who were running the show or the network or whoever thought he was, and this is his words, too weird. And then he was cast in a movie. Nick in real life loves giant, old, wooden sailing ships, 19th century sailing ships with big masts-

Geri Cole: That’s perfect.

Mike Schur: … like Master and Commander style.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Love.

Mike Schur: Of course he does. And he was cast in a movie to play the second lead to Morgan Freeman, who was going to be playing the captain of one of those ships. They were two weeks away from filming. Remember that crazy thing that happened where Morgan Freeman got into a car accident with his granddaughter or something?

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Granddaughter.

Geri Cole: Oh, yeah. And it was weird. Something was weird about it.

Mike Schur: Something weird, something something. I don’t remember it well enough to even speculate as to what it was. But that movie got scuttled. There were like, “Oh, we’re not doing this movie anymore.” Every time it happened to him, that he got close, he just was like, “Okay. I’ll just go back to making wood in my wood shop, and I’ll just keep my head down, and the right thing will come along.”

And I think about it all the time, because just like Sierra just said, there are these incredibly talented people out there milling around who have never gotten their shot, whether it’s because they are very particular sorts of performers like Nick is, whether it’s because they’re Native American women like Jana is who have never gotten their shot. It gives you chills to think about wasted talent. And when that talent is being wasted, or at least is not being given its shot, that’s just the luck of the draw in some cases, but you don’t want it to be because people are being systematically kept out of the power structure. That’s the part that makes you sad, is when it’s because there’s just either a marginalization or just an access point has been cut off.

That’s when you’re like, “Oh my God. Jana Schmieding is walking around New York City, and everyone who knows her knows that she’s hilarious.” I’ve heard from a number of people since we cast her, who were like, “Oh my God, I love her. I saw her in New York and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” People knew that she was talented and funny and great, and the access point was cut off because there wasn’t the right role for her, there wasn’t the right show for her. It freaks you out. It makes you not be able to sleep at night sometimes when you think, “What else are we missing out there?”

Hollywood is such a dice roll. It’s such a craps roll. Things work or don’t work, people get their shots or don’t. That’s what you’re signing up for. What you shouldn’t be forced to sign up for is that plus a systematic denial of your ability to roll the dice. You might roll snake eyes when you get shot, but everyone should be allowed to roll the dice.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: I went to a SAG event. It was a Native American SAG committee. This woman, who’s an incredible actress, I don’t know if I should name her, but she told a story about, in the ’80s, when that movie Hook came out, Steven Spielberg’s Hook, that there was a role for Tiger Lily. There was a role that they had written for her, and they offered it to Lisa Bonet. Lisa Bonet was like, “I’m not Native American, and I have friends who are. I can’t accept this role.”

Mike Schur: Good for her.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: I think they offered it to Cree Summer, who also said the same thing. She was like, “I am not Native. I’m Black. I can’t take this role.” I think it was her, but it was a different actress. And then they just cut the role. Basically, they were like-

Geri Cole: Those two. Those were the two.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Yeah. They were like, “Well, we’ll never find a Native American who is at that level, so we’ll just delete the role,” so they deleted it. That movie could’ve launched someone. That movie could’ve made someone’s whole life. The idea that the solution for them was just to cut it, it is one of those things where it does keep you up at night. It makes me want to make seven more Native TV shows-

Geri Cole: Please do.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: … and just keep making stuff. People are there. It happens all the time. I remember on Superstore, Nico Santos, who played Mateo, is Filipino, and any time we’d have a casting call for someone to play his cousin, there would just be 20 hilarious Filipino actors, and we were like, “Someone needs to make Filipino sitcom, because these people are here.” And it is this crazy thing where the abundance that everyone tells you, the system tells you doesn’t exist, and you’re like, “But I’m seeing it here.” It’s very strange.

Geri Cole: That brings me to a question that I love to ask everyone who comes on the podcast, which is the idea of success, because I feel like success rarely looks like what you think it’s going to look like. You guys have obviously had a tremendous success. I guess I wonder what does success feel like to you now? What did it used to feel like or look like to you? And what do you think it will look like for you in the future?

Mike Schur: Very good question. I would say that, when I started doing this, which is, oh boy, 17 years ago, success was very clear, because everyone worked on a network show. And your episode would air, and the next morning at 6:00, you’d get an email from your agent that said, “You got a 2.7 in the Nielsen overnights or whatever, and they were hoping for a 2.5, so good work.” It was this mathematical thing that was thumbs up or thumbs down. That was micro success. And then macro success was, does the show you’re working on get another season? It was very coarse. It was a coarse measurement.

That whole system has gone haywire. Network shows are falling fast in terms of just the number of them. Everyone works for streamers now, and the streamers don’t give you any information about how many people are watching your show. They claim, “That’s for our benefit.” It’s definitely not. It’s only for their benefit. It’s a very weird system, right? It’s completely different from when I started.

I think now what I would say is, to me, success is simply, did you have an idea that you thought was worth investigating? Did you execute it in a way that you feel is good and solid? Is your show saying something about the world that we live in? Look. Not every show has to be running straight at some enormous societal ill, right? Not every show has to be about racism or third-gen feminism or Native American history or whatever. But I do think that you have to have a point. You have to be saying something about something, even if it’s in a small way or a niche way. Did you have an idea you thought was good? Did you get to execute it mostly the way you wanted to execute it? And at the end of the day, when you look at it, when you’re sound-mixing or it’s actually airing, do you think, “Yes, we told that story correctly”? I kind of think that’s the only way to do it now, because nobody knows anything about who’s watching what or where or how or why. To me, success has gone from quantifiable to more emotional or something.

When I watch Rutherford Falls episodes, I’m like, “You know what? We did a good job here. This is a good story, and it’s told well, and it’s funny, and it’s saying something about the world we live in.” And that’s all you could ever hope for. Everything else, audience reaction being positive, critical reaction being positive, that’s all secondary. If that happens, great. That’s wonderful. If people say they like the show, if your friends say they like the show, that’s a huge bonus, but I honestly think that, at this point, success means you personally feel like you did a good job in executing your idea, which is maybe a cop-out answer. I don’t know. What do you say, Sierra?

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Money.

Geri Cole: Fair. Fair.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: I’m on a come-up, Mike. It’s money, it’s access, and it’s people dressing up as your characters for Halloween. To me, that’s the tryptic of what feels the best. I feel like the money at least gets you the access. I feel like working on the show, it was like flying first class. There was just so much access to people at the top of their game, people who found solutions. It’s just an upper echelon of access that I’ve never experienced that was phenomenal. And then I think, also, people knowing your worth, and unfortunately, not to take from Terry Thomas, a lot of that is money. At least at the level that I’m right now and trying to do what I’m trying to do for me and for my family and just for everybody.

And then I think there’s nothing better. I remember we met on Halloween to talk about the show, and there were all these Amy Santiagos and all of these Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and you were like, “Look at this. This is amazing.” And we’re looking at Twitter, and I was like, “That’s the freaking dream.” I remember seeing people dressed up as Amy on Superstore and a bunch of Superstore costumes, and it was the coolest thing ever. I am dreaming of… T&R is this grocery store on the border on my nation. A lot of Navajos shop there. They have a costume contest, and every year, they’ll have people dress little kids. It’s a kids’ costume contest, and they’ll dress like the kids from Smoke Signals or all these different costumes. If there’s a Terry and Reagan, I’m going to lose my mind. I’ve done it, I can leave the business. That’s all I’ve ever wanted is someone at T&R to dress up like one of the characters I made. To me, that’s what it is. Three. But I hope to be at a place where I can have the more personal success.

And I will say, too, I can’t get enough of… It’s like a fire hose. You can’t drink from a fire hose. It’s been overwhelming, just the love from Indian country for this show. The people who work at museums, the nonbinary people, the zaftig women who are so excited that Reagan gets to kiss a hot boy and it’s not like part of the story is her size. There’s so many different people who’ve come and reached out and said, “Oh my God. This is amazing. I’ve never seen this before.” To me, that is an incredible feeling. I don’t know if that’s success, but it’s pretty good.

Mike Schur: That was a really efficient way to call me out on privilege, and I congratulate you.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: No. I didn’t mean to. I swear to God. But I was really thinking about it. I was like, “Oh, money.” And then I was like, “Oh, wait. No. He’s saying this really heartfelt thing, and now I feel like an asshole.”

Mike Schur: No, you’re right. Look. I also get a thrill when people dressed up like Janet from The Good Place for the first time on Halloween. I was like, “Ooh, that’s meaningful. That means something.” I think you’re 100% right. When I give my little monologue about having an idea and feeling like you executed properly, that’s because I’m allowed to have that measuring stick now at this point in my life. I think when I was exactly where you are, I would’ve been like, “Yeah, is my deal going to get re-upped? That’s how you measure success, because it means that you did something that made somebody money, and then they were like, ‘Hey we want to keep paying you to make more money for our company.'” That’s an utterly and completely legitimate way to gauge success in this dumb business that we’re in.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: I swear I didn’t say it to call you out. It’s just my honest answer.

Mike Schur: I know you didn’t intend to, but it also did, and it was excellent.

Geri Cole: Both are true. Both are valuable. There’s no right or wrong answers. And also, guys, I’m sorry. We got to wrap it up. I feel like I got to three… There are so many more questions I have.

Mike Schur: Give us one more. We got one more. You got one more question, Sierra?

Geri Cole: Okay. One more question.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Of course.

Geri Cole: Was there anything that you realized at the end of the season that you wish you knew at the top that you plan on taking with you into season two?

Mike Schur: You mean a specific idea?

Geri Cole: Oh, just anything that you’re like, “Oh, now that we’re at the end, wish I’d known that when we started.” And then, “Well, I guess we’ll know for season two.”

Mike Schur: I don’t know. I can’t think of anything.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Yeah.

Mike Schur: Can you?

Sierra Teller Ornelas: No. Being so aware that this was the first show, we left it all out on the field. I was like, “We’re doing a Native romance, we’re doing a Native This Is Us family episode, we’re doing a Native origin story, we’re doing Ed in a George Washington costume.” Jonathan Groff, who was one of my mentors and show-ran Happy Endings, he had this saying like, “Eat your big crabs first.” It was a saying his dad had told him of, “Don’t save your stories, don’t save your ideas. Just leave it all out on the field.” I’m more worried we have nothing for season two. Mike keeps saying we definitely do. But yeah, there’s regret in terms of COVID and things I wish we had done, for sure. You look at the mistakes of everything you make. But no, I was like, “Oh, I left it all out there.”

Mike Schur: Greg Daniels, who was my mentor and taught me how to write and do everything that I know how to do, the biggest fight that ever happened in The Office writers’ room was at the end of season two, because the story that we were telling was Jim was going to tell Pam that he loved her. Not only was he going to tell Pam that he loved her, but they were going to kiss. And the writers were in full rebellion, just absolute, “No, you cannot do this. You’re going to ruin the show. ‘I love you’? He’s going to say, ‘I love you’? That is the craziest shit we have ever heard. And she’s going to reject him and he’s going to go back into the room and kiss her? We’re doomed. If we do that, we are doomed.”

Greg is an incredible teacher and instructor and professor of writing, and he also is a pure full-throated contrarian. Sometimes, when we would fight him on something, we wouldn’t know whether he was just being a contrarian or whether he actually believed in the thing that he was fighting for. We absolute thought he was going to ruin the show. That was 100% what we thought. And we were like, “Hey, if you do this, the show’s over.” And he was like, “We’re doing it. And the reason we’re doing it is because we’re going to,” like you just said, Sierra, “we’re going to lay it out on the field. It will be awesome if we do this. It will be so shocking and so mind-blowing, and people won’t be able to believe that we did it. How are we going to get out of it? I don’t know. We’re smart. We’re good writers. We’ll have all summer. We’ll figure it out.” And we were like, “You’re blowing it, man. This is the end of the show.” And then of course, it’s the most famous episode in the history of the show-

Sierra Teller Ornelas: So good.

Mike Schur: … and one of the top 20 moments in the history of American comedy. I don’t want to betray anybody else in the writing staff’s position on this, but I will say for myself, I thought it was 100% a mistake and I thought we were completely ruining everything.

When we came up with the premise for the show, we had all the big, I would say, tent-pole moments that were locked in. If you go all the way back to the pitch, when we were pitching the show, we knew what the beginning of the show was, we knew what happened in the middle, and we knew the big twist to come at the end, which I won’t spoil if anybody hasn’t seen it. Those twists upend the show a lot. They change a lot of stuff. The entire premise of the show is completely different now going into a theoretical season two, which we don’t know whether we have yet, but it’s completely different.

Those words from Greg ring in my ears all the time of, “Do the best, juiciest, most interesting, craziest stories you can think of, and then get a bunch of smart people in a room and figure out how to dig yourself out of the hole.” And I think that’s a really good way to approach season one of anything, certainly, but also just episode by episode. Do the biggest stories you can that make sense, and then trust that you are good enough as a writing staff and as a creative unit to figure out how to escape the trap that you set for yourself.

Geri Cole: That’s fantastic.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: I’m so glad you asked one more question-

Geri Cole: I know, me too.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: … so I could hear the story. I feel like this is the best part of being a TV writer, is the hang and getting to hear these stories. That’s why I freaking love television so much, and I just love the story. I’m going to tell everyone this story today.

Geri Cole: I know, I can’t believe it.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: I have to get ready. It’s so great.

Geri Cole: I cannot believe it.

Mike Schur: I am not ashamed to say that I thought it was an enormous mistake.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: No, I would’ve thought that. Yes.

Mike Schur: And I’m also not ashamed to say that, when I saw it on TV, I was like, “Oh my God, this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad Greg didn’t listen to me.”

Geri Cole: Oh my God. Oh, that’s amazing.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: So good.

Geri Cole: Guys, thank you so much for making this show, for sharing your time today. I have all my fingers crossed for season two. I quite assume that you are getting one.

Mike Schur: We hope.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: We have not heard, so we’re hopeful.

Mike Schur: We don’t know.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Yeah.

Mike Schur: Yeah.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: I am a superstitious Navajo, so until it happens, we don’t know.

Geri Cole: Yes. I was also raised in superstition. Knock on all the wood.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Fingers crossed.

Geri Cole: Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you for taking the time.

Mike Schur: Thank you.

Sierra Teller Ornelas: Thank you for having us.

Geri Cole: That’s it for this episode. On Writing is a production of the Writer’s Guild of America, East. Tech production and original music is by Stockboy Creative. You can learn more about the Writer’s Guild of America, East, online at, and you can follow the Guild on social media @wgaeast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and rate us. I’m Geri Cole. Thank you for listening, and write on.


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