Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan.

By David Hochman

Editor's Note: This interview took place in February, before COVID-19 took hold in the United States.

On Becoming A God In Central Florida will return for Season 2 on SHOWTIME. Catch up on the SHOWTIME and SHOWTIME ANYTIME® apps, as well as via SHOWTIME On Demand.

Kirsten Dunst smiling on the cover of a magazine.

Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan/Art Partner.

Kirsten Dunst sounds remarkably upbeat for a woman whose day job revolves around a multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme. "It's freeing for me to awaken some of those darker elements within," she says, and clearly it's working. Dunst's new SHOWTIME dark comedy, On Becoming A God In Central Florida, is heading into Season 2 with the sort of wild-eyed devotion you'd find among recruits of the show's cult-like Founders American Merchandise company.

Set in the acid-wash '90s on the scrappier side of Orlando, the series centers on waterpark employee Krystal Stubbs, a single mom out for revenge on a get-rich-never racket that brought her family to ruin. FAM bills itself as a ticket to the American Dream but consumes its desperate sales drones, sometimes literally. (Krystal's brainwashed husband—played by Alexander Skarsgård—gets chomped by an alligator in the pilot episode; that's not really a spoiler.) Now Krystal is working her way "upline," in FAM-speak, to outscam the scammers from the inside and provide for her daughter, Destinee, at any cost.

A closeup black and white photo of Kirsten Dunst's eyes.

"I think TV is probably where the freshest ideas are right now." — Kirsten Dunst

Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan/Art Partner.

Dunst, 38, is an executive producer on the show (along with George Clooney and others), but it is her "life-giving performance," as The Wall Street Journal called it, that makes On Becoming A God her star vehicle. Rocking adult braces, teased hair, and a spray tan, Dunst goes all-in, whether she is teaching splashersize water aerobics classes at Rebel Rapids to her FAM acolytes or skinning an alligator like a champ. Watch Krystal for a few minutes and you, too, will be buying whatever the former Miss All-Terrain Vehicle pageant winner is selling. As FAM's villainous founder, Obie Garbeau II (played with Colonel Sanders–level charisma by Ted Levine), says on his motivational cassettes: "Go-getters go get."

The series was a pet project of Dunst's for several years, bouncing from AMC to YouTube Premium before SHOWTIME gave it a home. Patience paid off. Dunst earned a Golden Globe nomination for the role this year and is enjoying what the media like to call "a moment," complete with a gleaming new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In the midst of everything, she gave birth in 2018 to her first child, son Ennis, with her fiancé, actor Jesse Plemons.

Dunst chuckles at the idea of her "resurgence as a pop culture icon," as Vogue dubbed it. "People are going, 'Hey, where's she been?' or 'Oh, wow, she's good in this new show,'" she says. "But I'm, like, 'Wait a minute, I've been here the whole time.' It shows you that people really watch television more than a lot of the quirky movies I've been in."

Dunst made her big screen debut at age 6 in Woody Allen's New York Stories, and at 12 was cast from among 5,000 hopefuls to play a child bloodsucker in Interview with the Vampire. She went on to eternal cool-kid status with films such as The Virgin Suicides, Bring It On, and Marie Antoinette and had probably her biggest hit playing Mary Jane Watson in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. In 2017, Dunst won a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance in Hidden Figures.

After a season finale with more twists and turns than a slide at Krystal Stubbs' water park, Dunst spoke to Watch about On Becoming A God's return, being a new mom, and pulling off the ultimate success feat: making a pyramid scheme work in her favor.

Kirsten Dunst smiles with eyes close into strong sun.

[Krystal] is a very forceful woman. When you're in touch with your power, you can make anything happen. That's very therapeutic for me, even by extension." — Kirsten Dunst

Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan/Art Partner.

It took more than three years for On Becoming a God to find its place on television. You must feel like the queen of the Sunshine State as the series heads into Season 2.

Oh, it was definitely a long road, but it's worked out great. I almost walked away a couple times, but I kept coming back because I loved the world of the show. I loved the writing. I love dark comedies. I love satire, and I knew I would have a great time playing Krystal. I've been offered TV shows before, but the characters were always too depressing. Krystal is so much fun. You get the good, the bad, and the ugly with her, and she's eccentric enough and out-there enough to keep things light. The woman has no shame.

What are you learning about yourself from her?

Honestly, it's like therapy for me, playing Krystal. She lets it all hang out. She's not afraid of her rage. She'll scream and cry and tell you to *%^* off. Like when she's screaming at that alligator after her husband got killed, or when she has to tell off Cody [Théodore Pellerin, Krystal's FAM higher-up]. Her life is messed up, but there's something very healthy about the way she expresses herself. She's a very forceful woman. When you're in touch with your power, you can make anything happen. That's very therapeutic for me, even by extension.

Still image of Kirsten Dunst teaching a water aerobics class.

Kirsten Dunst as Krystal Stubbs teaching splashersize water aerobics classes at Rebel Rapids.

Photo Credit: Patti Perret/Sony/SHOWTIME.

How does Krystal's Sony Walkman–era wardrobe get you into character?

We wanted to stay true to the period, so we asked Stacey Battat [a costume designer who works with Sofia Coppola, Dunst's frequent collaborator] to create something that felt authentic and not forced or self-consciously cool. Krystal doesn't have a lot of money, so she's wearing denim; she's wearing thrift shop clothing. In the beginning she had braces and the period hair, and I couldn't stop giggling whenever I looked at myself in the mirror. She has zero vanity, and the wardrobe reflects that. I couldn't believe it at first. Now I just say, "Oh, that's just Krystal."

What does your son think of seeing his mom like that?

Ennis is still too young to notice, but we did have a situation with him and Krystal's makeup.

What happened?

My mother-in-law was with us on location in New Orleans, taking care of him. She texted to say, "Hey, I think Ennis is getting a little reddish-brown hair in the back." Jesse and I figured out it was Krystal's spray tan. Every time I get home from work, there's spray tan all over me. You can't really wash the stuff off completely, and it turned Ennis into sort of a redhead for a minute.

Being a mom must make it easier playing a mom.

Oh, God, yes. More than anything, this show is about a mother's survival instincts. Krystal is a working-class woman all alone with a child. It's one of the hardest positions ever, trying to keep her house in order when she has no one. Our situations are obviously completely different, but I know what it means to want to protect and care for your baby, and how that comes before anything.

Is it hard finding balance between parenting and your relationship and your busy work life?

I'll be honest, it's been exhausting. I'd just had a baby when production began, and I was literally crying to my friends that I hadn't recovered enough to be the lead of a show. But what I like about playing Krystal is that she's so fed up and exhausted herself that I'm allowed to let that stuff creep into the character. Not wanting to be in a situation. Being a little cranky. It's all great for the role. The other good thing in general about being an actor—and the hard thing, too—is that you have chunks of time when you're not working. We ended the show in February of 2019, and I didn't start work again until January 2020. So I got to be home doing all the amazing things you do as a mom, like laundry. Then we all went to New Zealand together to film Jane Campion's new movie, The Power of the Dog, which Jesse is in, too.

Still image of Kirsten Dunst and Theodore Pellerin accepting an award on stage.

Kirsten Dunst as Krystal Stubbs and Theodore Pellerin as Cody in On Being A God In Central Florida.

Photo Credit: Patti Perret/Sony/SHOWTIME.

Did you see any Hobbits?

No, but it's definitely a world apart from our usual life in L.A., where we might go to Griffith Park and visit a horse. I worked with Sam Neill on the movie Wimbledon, and he has a vineyard where we're staying. There are all kinds of animals around. Ennis is learning what pigs say and what cows say and all the names of everything—although he calls tractors "yai-yos." I realized it's because we always sing "Old MacDonald," and he associates tractors with ee-i-ee-yai-yo.

That's hilarious. Speaking of the animal kingdom, is it true you nixed a scene on your show because the script called for you to dance with a snake?

Oh, yeah. "The sexy snake dance." I was like, um, that's not gonna happen. I'm terrified of snakes! I read the scene and said, "We'll have to use a rubber one or bring in a double, because otherwise I'm out." But I think everyone pretended they didn't hear me, because the director goes, "It's not going to look good without a real snake." Thankfully, Robert [Funke, the co-creator] came up with the alternate idea of Krystal dancing alone with life-size puppets, which ended up being way more nuanced and sad. We've seen plenty of women snake dancers. Trust me, I'm never going to be as good as Britney or Salma Hayek.

Kirsten Dunst wearing a plaid blazer with ornamental metal spikes.

"More than anything, this show is about a mother's survival instincts. It's one of the hardest positions ever, trying to keep her house in order when she has no one." — Kirsten Dunst

Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan/Art Partner.

Meanwhile, you had no problem killing the [fake] gator that ate your husband.

That was all about handling the gun properly. We did it all in one long shot, basically, and you want to make it smooth and look like you know what you're doing. I had weapons training, and a scene like that becomes a dance where you're moving to the rhythm of the "pop pop pop." You don't want it to be rushed. You want to create tension. You want to make it look like that alligator has nothing on you.

Before TV, you had a long and illustrious film career. But do you find it odd, or maybe even a little insulting, that Jumanji, Spider-Man, and Little Women were all remade after you starred in versions of them?

Not at all. I feel like there are no new ideas, honestly. People love a sure thing in Hollywood. Hey, can we make more money out of this? Great. Let's do it again. I think TV is probably where the freshest ideas are right now.

What are you watching?

Well, me, I'm watching a lot of zone-out television. That's all I want after a long day. This show called Love Is Blind on Netflix is addictive. I'm someone who watches The Bachelor and those weird TLC shows like 90 Day Fiancé. That therapy show on Netflix. I like watching real people. It helps me find good character moments to incorporate.

Do you have any hobbies?

I've been learning to play the piano for The Power of the Dog, and I really enjoy it. But mostly I'm doing whatever my kid wants to do. He loves trucks. I know more about excavators and heavy machinery than I ever thought possible. We also watch a lot of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

Black and white image of Kirsten Dunst smiling slyly at the camera.

"I'm terrified of snakes! I read the scene and said 'We'll have to use a rubber one or bring in a double, because otherwise I'm out." — Kirsten Dunst

Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan/Art Partner.

What can you say about Season 2 of On Becoming A God In Central Florida? Where is Krystal headed?

You've got to keep her in fighting mode. She's still out for justice, even if she's tangled up in FAM and falling over to the darker side of things. It's definitely going to be a push and pull with her and Obie, and with doing the right thing and feeling tempted to get rich. When you reach the top level, it makes an impact on you. Krystal could easily fall in love with power in a way that could be detrimental.

I won't give too much away, but the plan is to have a family member introduced this season, which will be a fun role. I imagine it could cause some complications—not that anything's going to stand in the way of Krystal getting what she wants.

On Becoming A God In Central Florida will return for Season 2 on SHOWTIME. Catch up on the SHOWTIME and SHOWTIME ANYTIME® apps, as well as via SHOWTIME On Demand.

The Path To God

Kirsten Dunst looks back on some of her most iconic roles.

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994)

Still image of Kirsten Dunst as a very young child in period clothing from Interview With The Vampire.

Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994).

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers/Getty Images.

​"I was such a self-assured little thing. I can now step back and be impressed that an 11-year-old child did that. The capability that I had at that age or that any good young actor has, it's awe inspiring."

THE VIRGIN  SUICIDES (1999)

Still image of a teenage Kirsten Dunst and castmates from the movie The Virgin Suicides.

Leslie Hayman, Kirsten Dunst, A.J. Cook, and Chelse Swain in The Virgin Suicides (1999).

Photo Credit: Paramount Classics/Everett Collection.

"It was the first time I was seen as a woman rather than a kid, and to be in that position under a female director, Sofia, it was like kismet. She helped me transition to become an adult."

BRING IT ON (2000)

Kirsten Dunst in her cheerleader clothing from the movie Bring It On.

Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On (2000).

Photo Credit: Universal/ Everett Collection.

"It's the movie people quote to me the most. I'll hear 'Brr! It's cold in here,' or 'I got the door, Tor,' or 'spirit fingers.' It's one of those movies, and I'm so proud of it."

SPIDER-MAN (2002–2007)

Kirsten Dunst kisses an upside down Spider-Man in the rain.

Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man (2002).

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

"Things got really big. I saw the world on these giant press tours, places I'd never thought I'd see. But what I remember was the group of actors—Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, James Franco. They all kept this giant story emotionally grounded, almost like in an independent film, which is hard to do when you're standing in front of a green screen all day."

FARGO (TV SERIES, 2015)

Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemmons inside a grocery store from the tv show Fargo.

Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist and Jesse Plemons as Ed Blumquist in Fargo, Season 2.

Photo Credit: Chris Large/FX/Everett Collection.

"The entire role, for me, was about the musicality of that particular accent. I had done a more cartoonish version of it in Drop Dead Gorgeous. The way someone speaks contains the poetry of who they are. As an actor, that's often how I find my way into the character."

HIDDEN  FIGURES (2016)

Kirsten Dunst and her fellow castmates after winning a Screen Actors Guild Award.

Kirsten Dunst and Hidden Figures co-stars Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, and Janelle Monáe at the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Photo Credit: Dan MacMedan/Getty Images.

"The story was so incredible, and I was thrilled to be part of it. It's one of those movies that almost goes beyond acting. You're really bringing a piece of history to people, and that made it incredibly special."

On Becoming A God In Central Florida will return for Season 2 on SHOWTIME. Catch up on the SHOWTIME and SHOWTIME ANYTIME® apps, as well as via SHOWTIME On Demand.

Photography by Alasdair McLellan.

Watch interviewed the award-winning actor and star of hit SHOWTIME series On Becoming A God In Central Florida for our May-June 2020 issue. Get a sneak peak and don't miss our cover story and interview with Kirsten Dunst—on newsstands May 19!

On Becoming A God In Central Florida will return for Season 2 on SHOWTIME. Catch up on the SHOWTIME and SHOWTIME ANYTIME® apps, as well as via SHOWTIME On Demand.

Creative Inspiration

Black and white portrait of Kirsten Dunst's eyes.

Photography by Alasdair McLellan.

"I think TV is probably where the freshest ideas are right now." — Kirsten Dunst

Whatever It Takes

Black and white portrait of Kirsten Dunst.

Photography by Alasdair McLellan.

"More than anything, this show is about a mother's survival instincts. It's one of the hardest positions ever, trying to keep her house in order when she has no one." — Kirsten Dunst

Powerful Woman

Black and white portrait of Kirsten Dunst in denim jacket.

Photography by Alasdair McLellan.

"[Krystal] is a very forceful woman. When you're in touch with your power, you can make anything happen. That's very therapeutic for me, even by extension." — Kirsten Dunst

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On Becoming A God In Central Florida will return for Season 2 on SHOWTIME. Catch up on the SHOWTIME and SHOWTIME ANYTIME® apps, as well as via SHOWTIME On Demand.

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