Kirsten Dunst stars as Krystal Stubbs, a low-level employee who maneuvers her way into a multi-level marketing network on the Showtime series “On Becoming a God in Central Florida.” The role scored her a Golden Globe nomination earlier this year.
Dunst recently spoke with Gold Derby contributing writer Sam Eckmann about playing the different tones in “On Becoming a God,” where she sees the series going in future seasons and what it meant to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Watch the exclusive interview above and read the complete transcript below.
Gold Derby: The tone of the series is so exciting because I don’t think I’ve ever watched anything that feels like this one does. Kind of indescribable in a way. It’s absurd. It’s eccentric. There’s comedy. There’s drama. So I’m wondering for you, how does that tone affect your work as an actor? Is it difficult to match it?
Kirsten Dunst: I think that’s just life. So I think the absurd and the humor and the drama, those are usually my favorite kind of movies or television shows, because life isn’t just one thing. So I just liked that this world felt very real and surreal at the same time. I like those kind of elements mixed together and the absurdity of life. So that was what appealed to me about the original pilot and I knew that playing this character, I’d have a lot of fun things for myself to put out there into the world and express.
GD: And you’re also one of the executive producers of the show and I know it was gestating for a while because it began at AMC and then moved to YouTube before landing at Showtime. Have you ever been in a long project like that, when it’s taken a long time to get it on its feet?
KD: Kind of, yes, I’ve had things that haven’t come to fruition, and this one I just couldn’t let go. After a while, I got pregnant and I gave birth. I almost fell out of it and I remember the guys coming over, Robert [Funke] and Matt [Lutsky], the creators of the show and pitching the whole season to me and I remember getting goosebumps and I was like, “There’s something about this role I can’t let go.” And what’s so great is that all of Krystal’s frustrations and her anger, all these things, I really get to throw them all into the mix. There’s nothing repressed about her. So I can really feel everything that I want to (laughs).
GD: Yeah, she has this great infectious spirit that makes it really fun to watch her because she just doesn’t care what other people think of her, really. And you’ve had good experience in other roles where you’ve played someone very poised and put together. So what is the switch like for you to play someone who doesn’t have that kind of vanity?
KD: Doesn’t have a filter as well? (Laughs.) I think it’s a side of me. Expressing myself through Krystal was very freeing and I try and pick things that speak to me at the time and I think it’s good to get out your rage. Krystal definitely allowed me to do a lot of that. So at the end it felt like a cathartic experience, which I think that as an actor, that’s what I kind of search for now in some way to purge something of myself and make it relatable to other people, have those feelings be relatable.
GD: And one of my favorite aspects of her is that people underestimate her constantly throughout the series and they think she’s dumb. They think she’s not to be taken seriously, but Krystal outsmarts them at every turn. So was that a big draw to you, similar to the rage?
KD: Yeah, I mean, you don’t always take her seriously, though. It seems like she’s always trying to connive a new plan to get people to understand where she’s coming from. It’s an old-fashioned dynamic, too, between her and Obie. It reminds me of Dolly Parton and [Porter] Wagoner. It’s that dynamic where she still has to play sweet and do all this stuff. It’s a very old-fashioned dynamic. But it’s something that she’s just not taking seriously, partly because she’s a woman and also because of her education. And honestly, she’s just trying to survive for her child and make money any way she can to support her daughter and save her house.
GD: The pyramid scheme that she kind of gets involved with is called FAM and one of my favorite moments is when you take the stage and you think Krystal’s going to just demolish the whole thing and expose everyone. But she has this moment where the light bulb goes off and she pivots and says, “I’m gonna take this over for myself.” And that kind of gets her involved for the rest of the series, heavily steeped in that. So what makes her in that moment change and make the change, that split-second decision?
KD: I think she realizes that everyone’s with her and she has power. And I think that partly because of her beauty pageant days, and she has the stage presence and a command of being relatable, I think that she really comes into her own power with that and realizes, “Oh, I’m going to use this for all that I got.”
GD: Yeah, and speaking of power, one of the fun things about the show is there’s this really wild relationship that forms with your co-star, Theodore Pellerin as Cody, and it has this kind of like dominant/submissive act to it. Why does it reveal itself in that way?
KD: I think that she just finds a weird thing within him that she can kind of use him in this way and plays with him in that way because he’ll do anything for her and she needs whoever will help her on her side.
GD: The two of you are great to watch together and have this great chemistry. It’s really nice when a show can throw something kind of out of left field that you and unexpected and still have it grounded in the characters. What is it like working with him? Because you guys bounce great off each other.
KD: Well, I remember I auditioned with a couple of people to play Cody and Theo was just one of those actors that was just so game. He’s just someone that I’m attracted to in that way, acting wise. He’s so present with you and we will try anything together and he’s game for anything and that’s what makes acting and working with certain actors so exciting is because we just want it to feel most alive and real. And I remember there are times where I just hit him and he’s totally fine. I was like, “Are you OK with that?” “Yeah, I thought it was great. Hit me again if you want to.” I was like, “OK! You asked for it.” He’s like me. We’re game for anything.
GD: There’s a really interesting thing I thought where, as time goes on and Krystal gets more invested in FAM, in this pyramid scheme, at one point she releases all this frustration at Ernie and she kind of also has to use people along the way. Do you think she’s sort of in danger of becoming like Obie, becoming this villain she’s fighting against?
KD: I mean, of course, she becomes an anti-hero. Like, of course. I think that that’s definitely the trajectory we go on. After the second season, I think that definitely she will become what she hates and I think it’s going to be so fun to play (laughs). I think she’s going to become really power-hungry and really insane. I do. Because she’s going to be so angry at all the people that have held her back for so long. I think she’s going to have a major power trip.
GD: Yeah, it’s an interesting commentary there of how she kind of becomes what she’s fighting against, in a way, or at least could be.
KD: But you see that struggle always, too.
GD: Yes. You do, because she wants to do good. You mentioned before about her beauty pageant background and there is this incredible scene which I had to ask you about it, because I’m a huge fan of “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” which is one of the funniest movies of all time as far as I’m concerned. But she is trying to coach this girl for a beauty pageant. She’s dancing with these ridiculous puppets. Was any of that done as an homage or specifically trying to reference?
KD: No, it’s actually very weird where it came from because it was meant to be a snake dance, a kind of sexy snake dance. And I told the guys a good month or whenever I first read the second episode, I was like, “I am not dancing with a snake.”Also I always felt like it was a little cliche. We’ve seen it before. And then Robert just sent me this YouTube clip of this guy dancing with puppets and I was like, “What is this?” He’s like, “What if Krystal dances,” and I thought, “This is so cool and so weird,” and I was totally game. I thought it was such a great idea. The weirder, the better. It was so unexpected.
GD: Yeah, it fits the wild tone of the series, I think. And that film, “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” you have movies like that that have become cult classics, and “Marie Antoinette” was another one that sort of get this second life for them. People discover them. What is it like for you experiencing those films getting new life as it goes on with new viewers?
KD: Yeah, it’s weird and it’s cool. Now that I have perspective and I’m older, I’m like, “This is amazing.” But when you’re young and a film doesn’t do well, like “Marie Antoinette,” you’re like, “Oh, well, this is sad.” Here I am starring in this movie and it definitely got me down when I was younger, but now I kind of look back and I think, “Well, maybe we were ahead of the curve.” And that’s special that it’s regained an audience and got the respect it deserves and people appreciate it now. So I couldn’t be happier about it. I’ve always just followed my heart, though, and what I wanted to do work-wise, and even if it didn’t work out, I had a good experience. Sometimes it takes people time to discover things. The things that are easier are often forgotten.
GD: Yeah. Do you think, because you have a very long film career, but you’ve done a little bit more TV now recently, is there a difference for you in terms of what is more challenging? Is a show like “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” more challenging to you than a film schedule, or is it preferred?
KD: I think it’s way harder (laughs). The thing is, I work with someone so every new episode, it’s not like you get a script, you work on it, you go make it. It’s a new script every week and the way I prepare it just was more tiring, more work on my end. But at the end of the day, more people see television these days than they do film and it just feels more rewarding at the end of the day in this new kind of streaming world that we have. Elle [Fanning] is one of my friends, and I was telling her about TV, and after “The Great,” she’s so happy because people are actually watching her work. It’s hard when you’re doing these indies and not a lot of people are seeing them.
GD: Well, I think a lot of people see your work and that’s one reason why this year, long overdue if you ask me, you got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and I’ve seen a lot of videos of people at those ceremonies. And for some actors, it kind of seems like another thing. But you really seemed like it meant something and that it was an emotional moment for you. What does that mean to you to get that star?
KD: Well, first of all, Sofia [Coppola] and Jesse [Plemons] were my speakers. So it’s like basically having your family members. It just felt like a wedding or a funeral. It just felt like you wouldn’t have these people speak on your behalf if it wasn’t a very intimate situation. So, because I had people that are my family speak for me and my son was there, I don’t know, it just felt like part of history that I’ll always be a part of, which I don’t know, it’s so nice to be recognized in that way.
GD: And you got recognized early on in your career. I think you were age 12 when you scored your first major nomination at the Golden Globes with “Interview with the Vampire.” And then since then, you’ve gotten an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for “Fargo” and for “On Becoming a God” you were nominated at the Globes this past year. So I’m curious, when looking back, experiencing that kind of night as a kid to now, how do those two experiences compare?
KD: That’s a funny question because I remember doing “Jumanji” and we went to the Golden Globes, my mom and I, and everyone was like, “You’re gonna win, you’re gonna win.” You can’t tell a 13-year-old they’re gonna win when they’re not winning! I just remember crying on the lap. We were sitting with the group of people from “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and I just remember crying on one of their laps. My mom was like, “Hide your face.” I was just, like, crying. I was like 13 years old. And then the next time, “Fargo,” Lady Gaga won and then the next time, I just get so nervous. It terrifies me to speak in public. So I was almost relieved this year that we could just go have a drink. I was like, “OK, let’s go. We can drink now.” (Laughs.)
GD: Well, I hope you get the chance to speak in public at one of these shows soon, because it’s wonderful work in this series, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida.” So we’ll cross our fingers for you this season.
KD: Thank you.