Rufus Carlin is played by actor Malcolm Barrett.
Rufus Carlin is a brilliant engineer and programmer sent with Lucy Preston and Wyatt Logan on their mission to prevent Garcia Flynn from damaging America's timeline. Rufus is introduced as the pilot of the time machine. He also helped Connor Mason and Anthony Bruhl build the ships.
Rufus grew up very poor on the west side of Chicago. Connor Mason met him at a science fair and was so impressed with his monorail project and his dedication to his family, that he decided to invest in his future. Later he comes to work for Mason. Anthony Bruhl, who built the Mothership and Lifeboat time machines for Mason Industries is a close friend and mentor to Rufus.
Rufus cares for Jiya, another programmer and tech at Mason Industries. He has a hard time taking action on this, though he is prompted to by Anthony and others.
When assigned to pilot the Lifeboat, Rufus is given a recorder by Connor Mason to record his fellow team mates, Lucy and Wyatt. When Rufus resists, Connor tells him he and his family may be in danger from a mysterious group called Rittenhouse. After coming back from the World Columbian Exposition, Rufus refuses to work for Rittenhouse any longer.
In the US at the end of the Civil War, Rufus meets newly freed men who fought on the side of the Union. He and Wyatt argue with Lucy about allowing Lincoln to be killed, since that will destroy so many lives. Posing as a sergeant, Rufus saves Vice President Andrew Johnson. (“The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln”)
At the Sands Casino, Rufus sees Anthony Bruhl and tries to rescue him from Flynn. He learns that Anthony has not been abducted, but is working with Garcia Flynn.
Rufus meets one of his scientific heroes, Wernher von Braun, after the team "rescues" von Braun from both the Germans, the Russians and Flynn. He asks von Braun if he thinks about the destructive consequences of his life's work, since helping with the time machine has caused Rufus so much guilt. Von Braun says no, and challenges Carlin--if he had thought about the consequences while they were building it, it never would have been completed.
Rufus saves the Time Team from being stranded in the French and Indian war. First by saving the lives of Wyatt and Lucy when they are captured by the Shawnee chieftainess Nonhelema. Then by crafting a capacitor at a forge at a French outpost they break into. He uses "The Protocol," and buries a message for Mason Industries to dig up in 2016. The message is damaged and only Jiya is able to decode its meaning. She helps him pilot back to present day by catching the Lifeboat like the Death Star did with the Millennium Falcon.
While facing possible death in 1754, Rufus wishes he had told Jiya how he feels. When the come back to present day Jiya kisses Rufus.
Rufus and Lucy help the legendary mathematician Katherine Johnson save the moon launch by cracking the first computer virus, of course introduced by Garcia Flynn. Rufus kills Jay, one of Flynn's men, in self defense.
Rufus is in a relationship with Jiya.
He is often not enthusiastic about traveling back in time as a black man, as he has to succumb to racism.
Only Rufus, Anthony Bruhl, and Emma Whitmore know how to pilot the time machine. Jiya is being trained how to pilot the time machine.
His name appears to be a nod to the late George Carlin, who played 'Rufus' in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, a movie about time travel.