‘Rutherford Falls’ Star Jesse Leigh on Bobbie’s Season 2 Mayoral Run
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 2 of Rutherford Falls.]
Rutherford Falls is back and electing a new mayor, but not without a few laughs along the way. On the ballot is Jesse Leigh‘s Bobbie Yang.
As the assistant to Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms), Bobbie’s loyalties were proven in Season 1, but in Season 2, they’re taking charge of their own future by running for office which has been left vacant by Deidre (Dana L. Wilson). With the support of Nathan and Terry Thomas (Michael Greyes), Bobbie works on connecting with the community around them in unique ways, like through creative makeup tutorials.
The effort pays off by the time Season 2 comes to its conclusion and we’re catching up with Leigh who is opening up about non-binary and LGBTQ+ representation through Bobbie’s story, the creative collaboration with creators Sierra Teller Ornelas, Helms, and Mike Schur, along with much more.
Bobbie has a big arc this season running for mayor of Rutherford Falls. What were you most excited about when it came to tackling the storyline?
Jesse Leigh: Before we started production of Season 2, I got drinks with our showrunner, Sierra Teller Ornelas. And she asked me if I wanted to know Bobbie’s storyline. And I said, “Yes, of course. I’m waiting eagerly.” She told me that Bobbie Yang would be running for mayor of Rutherford Falls. And I wasn’t expecting that. Heading into production, I knew that Bobbie would have much bigger shoes to fill and that they would just have a bigger part of the season overall.
Going into filming, I had a lot of scenes with Terry Thomas, played by Michael Greyeyes. His character is very sharp and bold, similar to Bobbie, but in a different style. So it was really fun to play opposite Michael because we had this really fun mentor, mentee dynamic happening in preparation for the big debate scenes.
Bobbie is very forgiving of Nathan for abandoning them at the beginning of the season but gets ruthless when necessary during the mayoral race. What was it like to explore that juxtaposition?
I think displaying those different sides of Bobbie Yang is helpful for the audience and also really helpful for me because I get to see where different strengths and weaknesses are. That moment when Bobbie and Nathan reconnect, it’s a very vulnerable moment for Bobbie because they work together every day at the heritage museum. And for Nathan to get up and leave like that, without saying goodbye hit a soft spot for Bobbie. Nathan was this father figure. So to see Bobbie be vulnerable in that moment and then swing back into their normal sharp self just gives this character so much more to go. I was happy I got to have that sort of sentimental moment with Nathan.
Running for mayor wasn’t initially Bobbie’s idea and Terry really pushes them in their campaign after Nathan declines to run. Is there any part of Bobbie that feels used?
I think at the beginning when the opportunity is presented, Bobbie is so used to being Nathan’s biggest cheerleader. So of course, they want Nathan to run for mayor and make a big comeback and be well respected in the town. But Bobbie and Nathan and Terry figure out that’s not the best move. So the opportunity is then passed to Bobbie.
Bobbie being Bobbie, they can’t say no to an opportunity like this. They are there to represent a younger generation and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. And I think Bobbie just sees this as an opportunity to raise awareness, but to also have a fresh perspective in their local government.
Speaking of that awareness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-binary character run for office onscreen. What did it mean to tell that story this season?
It’s so important, especially given the state that we are in now. I think it calls attention to a larger issue in today’s society, how transgender adults and kids are treated in either school systems or facilities run by the state. As far as Bobbie running for mayor, I think it’s just so essential to see this onscreen and to have people of diverse backgrounds in both local and major political offices. So we can have an accurate representation of the country.
Bobbie runs against Feather Day, played by Kaniehtiio Horn. What was it like going toe-to-toe with her?
This is my first time meeting [Kaniehtiio] and seeing her work. So it was very special. She’s such an amazing actor and she’s very stern and almost intimidating in the way she plays Feather Day. It’s fun to see a character’s strengths and weaknesses. And to see Bobby under pressure and crumbling a little is so much fun to play. We didn’t see that much in Season 1. So to show that in Season 2 just leaves more room for when Bobbie finds success. One of my favorite episodes is when we head to the firehouse and we have our debate scenes there and we try to persuade the firemen and families to vote for us. And playing opposite Feather in the firehouse was definitely heated.
In their final debate, Bobbie defends their campaign by throwing Terry under the metaphorical bus by revealing that his and Feather Day’s kids vandalized the statue in town. Was that the move that ultimately got Bobbie elected or do you think it was their community outreach?
I would say it definitely plays a part in Bobbie’s win. I’d say if anything, it definitely pushes Bobbie to work even harder. But at the end of the day, I think Bobbie has so much success because they appeal to such a large audience and they use their makeup tutorial to connect with constituents and potential voters. And you would think that these makeup tutorials would gain a younger audience, but Bobbie uses them to reach an older audience.
What was it like collaborating with Ed, Sierra, and Mike on Bobbie’s storyline this season? Did you get any input on their journey?
I was adamant that Bobbie Yang should have they/them pronouns. Because prior to Rutherford Falls, I had never read a script that referred to a character as they/them. And I feel like it’s so common these days, especially in younger generations and LGBTQ spaces that a character isn’t just referred to he/him or her/she. Ed and Sierra and Mike are just so collaborative and are open ears to things like that. It’s so great to work with them. Not just because of the pronouns, but they’re so collaborative when it comes to jokes, Bobbie’s fashion, and how they present themselves.
Now that Bobbie is mayor, what would you like to see them do next in Rutherford Falls?
I would love for Bobbie to have non-binary restrooms in every establishment in Rutherford Falls. I also think it would be so much fun to see Bobbie graduate from high school and be on their own, making decisions for themselves, but also for the younger generations coming up after them and also to explore the two-spirit community. Myself, Jesse, I’ve looked into and researched the two-spirit Native community, but I think there’s definitely more room for them on television.
Rutherford Falls, Season 2, Streaming now, Peacock