Jana Schmieding: Writer, Podcaster Actor, Comedian

• Lead character in TV sitcom, Rutherford Falls • Host for Women of Size

Miniconjou and Sicangu Lakota actor, writer and comedian Jana Schmieding is known primarily for her work in the Rutherford Falls sitcom where she plays Reagan, the lead character. She shares little about her family or early life, but states that she was born and grew up in a small Oregon town with her older sister, Kristen, and raised "fairly traditionally in the Lakota ways."

Jana studied theater arts at the University of Oregon and earned her master's degree from Mercy College in New York. Afterward, she relocated to New York City in pursuit of an acting career and taught middle and high school for ten years. Meanwhile, in the evenings, Schmieding performed improvisations-improv is a form of live theater in which characters, plot, and dialogue of a story are made up in the moment-for Magnet Theater.

Part of the increasing visibility of Indigenous people in television, in 2016, Schmieding moved to Los Angeles where she worked for a nonprofit educational organization. But still nurturing her dream of a career in television, she decided to transition from acting to writing. She also hosted Women of Size (2017–2019), a podcast in which she and her guests shared their experiences with discrimination based on body size.

After focusing on writing for three years, Schmieding was hired as one of twelve script writers for Rutherford Falls. She also landed the lead role in the production, which is owned by NBCUniversal's new streaming service.

The story takes place in a small New York town, the Indian reservation that borders it, and the relationships between its characters.

The show's executive producer and co-creator, Sierra Teller Ornelas, Navajo Nation, a former guest on Schmieding's Women of Size, recruited Jana, and on August 10, 2020, Schmieding learned that, in addition to being one of the 12 writers, she would also co-star in the series.

Saloni Gajjar, freelance and staff writer for The A.V. Club, calls Schmieding a "breakout Performer," while Jen Chaney of Vulture refers to Jana as "a natural."

Award-winning associate editor at Indian Country Today, and also a film critic, Vincent Schilling (aka Native Nerd), calls Rutherford Falls "The best thing I have ever seen on TV."

Schmieding also plays a cameo role in the comedy series, Reservation Dogs, a Hulu company owned by Walt Disney and Comcast. The series boasts of being written, directed by, and starring Indigenous people. Created by Native American Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, the sitcom is based on Harjo's own life on a reservation.

Highly impressed again, Vincent Schilling-himself an Akwesasne Mohawk-says that the storyline about a group of "rez" kids who cannot wait to leave the reservation, "is so authentic, it's as if they walked out there, threw a camera on a tripod, and said, 'Go.'"

As Jana Schmieding's dream of a career in television soars, she, among many other Indigenous actors, is no doubt ecstatic that Native Americans are finally being presented in modern day situations, instead of forever type-cast in "Old West" scenarios.


Indian Country Today, Jana Schmieding: representation in TV (updated August 24, 2021)

#Native Nerd Review of Rutherford Falls

Pop Culture Happy Hour webpage, Rutherford Falls finds a Historic Mix of Comedy and Representation

SmartBiography webpage, Jana Schmieding

Wikipedia, Jana Schmieding

KB Schaller is the International Book Award-winning author of 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World, Women's Issues Category. Whatsoever the Sacrifice, her latest work, and other KB Schaller books are available through amazon.com and other booksellers.