Sterlin Harjo and the “Reservation Dogs” Cast Talk About the Heart and Humor of Season 2

“I thought people would like it, but it sort of struck a chord that I didn't know would strike,” revealed Reservation Dogs co-creator and showrunner Sterlin Harjo during a TCA press conference. Season 2 of the Peabody Award-winning series from FX launched today on Hulu and the team is still reeling from the whirlwind success of the show’s launch. “All Indigenous people get to really be proud and see something very truthful about themselves on screen that also is funny, which is also very truthful to our lives. It struck a chord with even non-Natives. The level of love that has come back in return from creating this show, and it was made with love, so it was like this boomerang that was sent out to the universe, and it's been coming back to us, and I’m just very grateful.”

(Ryan RedCorn/FX)

(Ryan RedCorn/FX)

Devery Jacobs stars as Elora Danan, but this season she also joins the creative team as a writer. “I have been writing since 2016,” the multi-hyphenate talent shared. “It's been such an awesome experience and is one that I'll treasure forever. And to have my first name be included as a writer was important to me. Mainly as an actor and somebody who takes on different personalities, I'm a creative who helps the other person's vision and to the filmmaker's vision. And when I'm able to contribute my voice as a filmmaker, and writer in this case, to be able to use my name, Kawennáhere, which is my first name. It's the name that my family all calls me. And to be able to do that just meant that for me it's signifying that it's leaving a piece of my heart and who I am in the work that I'm creating.”

(Ryan RedCorn/FX)

(Ryan RedCorn/FX)

The cast of Reservation Dogs have each brought something unique to their role, with Paulina Alexis revealing how she helped take Willie Jack from the script to the screen. “When you go to a rez [aka, reservation], you'll see a Bear; you'll see an Elora; you'll see a Cheese, and you'll see a Willie Jack,” Paulina explained. “I knew when we were creating this character, I was like, ‘Yeah, she's got to be the bro with the braids and the hat.’ Because that's me. My hair was long; I'd always have a braid and a hat. Although there was a script, Sterlin did give me a lot of freedom to improv, and say whatever I want, when I wanted to say it. So pretty much anything that she would say that was improv, is like something I would say in real life. That's why when we would do it, the least we would rehearse, it would be better, so I could get it in naturally.”

(Ryan RedCorn/FX)

(Ryan RedCorn/FX)

“They've been so helpful and they're my family now,” added Lane Factor, who kickstarted his acting career in the role of Cheese. Somewhat mirroring their on-screen counterparts, the cast discussed the sense of community that can be felt on a reservation. “I live just outside of the city,” Lane shared about his upbringing. “I live in between the city and a completely rural area. I'm right in the middle of that. That's where I've been all my life, and I still live at home, but I think at some point I might have to go somewhere else, which I wouldn't like to. In this line of work, you've got to move around a bit.” Similar to the way Cheese contemplated leaving the reservation at in Season 1, a similar journey may be experienced by the actor who portrays him.

(Ryan RedCorn/FX)

(Ryan RedCorn/FX)

“I'm grateful that because of this show, it opened up more doors for opportunities for me to express myself in different areas,” shared D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, who plays Bear. “It made me realize that I have values now that I follow by when I want to join an Indigenous-led set now. Before it wasn't really like that, because we never were here, you know. So now that we are, it's changed how I'm going to step into filmmaking, especially Indigenous content.”

While Reservation Dogs has universal appeal, Sterlin Harjo didn’t shy away from elements that are included specifically for an indigenous audience, such as blurring out the eyes of owls. “I don't explain that stuff, but if you're Native, you know what that is, and you know why it's blurred out,” Sterlin shared. “I think that non-Natives recognize through the show's DNA that it's truthful and they also aren't used to the world, so they lean in a little bit more to it. But there's so many Easter eggs for Native audiences in the show…I think that the Spirit character helped bridge the gap between Native and non-Native audiences. Through that spirit character, he's almost the guide, the Spirit guide, if you will, of the humor of the show. So, he takes in someone that's not used to our humor and really makes it sort of digestible and familiar. At a certain point, everybody's really responding to the heart of the show, and I think that's across the board. You can have a comedy. You can have comedy dramas. There's no cynicism when it comes to this show. It's made with love, and I think there is a heart that runs through this show that I think all audiences respond to.”

(Ryan RedCorn/FX)

(Ryan RedCorn/FX)

If you have yet to experience the heart and humor of Reservation Dogs, you can catch up with the first season on Hulu. Returning fans can dive right into the double-episode Season 2 premiere, now streaming. New episodes will be available to stream on Wednesdays.

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