Aug. 18-- LOS ANGELES-Whether she's playing a beauty pageant hopeful in "Drop Dead Gorgeous" or the love interest for a web-spinning superhero in "Spider-Man," Kirsten Dunst uses what she calls "a witches brew" for playing the character. This includes a pinch of what she will do with the character and a dash of what she won't do.
Dunst whipped up another batch of acting elements for her work as a water park employee with big dreams in "On Becoming a God in Central Florida." The Showtime series, slated to debut Aug. 25, has Dunst playing Krystal Stubbs, a wife and mother who will not be denied her part of the American Dream. That journey has her conning and scheming her way up the ranks of Founders American Merchandise-the multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme that drove her family to ruin in the first place.
She found her inspiration for creating the character in the movies and music of the '90s, plus watching episodes of "Honey Boo Boo" to help her balance the deep-rooted anger Stubbs is feeling.
"There's so much rage within Krystal that I feel like I don't necessarily always get to express in characters, but that I think us as woman have a deep threshold. So I feel like a lot of things I could let out, and having just had a child and all of it," Dunst says. "I was so tired and we worked so hard, but I was like Krystal's working so hard. She's so tired.
"You just kind of put everything you have into it and be the most emotionally vulnerable you can so that you connect with your audience and each other while working."
Dunst, who is also an executive producer on the series, had some very specific ideas in regards to her character from her overly tanned look to having Stubbs be a mother. The excessive tan was to make Stubbs look like she had worked so much in the sun that her face was showing the signs of too much exposure. Keeping that look meant getting a spray tan every week, a process that was tough because Dunst couldn't touch her own children after a day of filming.
She was insistent on Stubbs having to deal with a baby because she liked the way the infant in "Raising Arizona" was such a big part of the story. Working with a baby is not easy as there are always time restrictions on how much they can be in front of the cameras, but Dunst was willing to deal with those limitations because having the infant added another layer of comedy.
She didn't feel the same way when one of the episodes called for her to dance with a real snake.
"I hate snakes. I couldn't even move like this holding a snake. I just would be petrified. So I was, like, 'You gotta get a rubber snake. This ain't happening.' And then the director of Episode 2 (Jeremy Podeswa) was, like, 'I can't shoot you basically holding a rubber snake. This is never going to work,'" Dunst said.
The solution was to get rid of the snake and have Dunst's character do a dance with two life-sized puppets attached to her on sticks. Not only did the change eliminate Dunst having to deal with a snake, but during the rehearsals with the puppets Dunst became very emotional when she realized if someone was forced to do something so strange in real life, it means that the person is trying desperately hard just to improve their life even a small bit.
This is not the first time Dunst has played a character looking to find a way to improve their life. She starred in "Drop Dead Gorgeous" in 1999, a mockumentary where her character saw a beauty pageant as her salvation. Dunst sees the focus on success as being similar between the projects, but says her role in "On Becoming a God in Central Florida" is a lot more burned out and cynical.
Dunst has played a variety of roles since landing her first professional job at age 7. Her film credits include "The Bonfire of the Vanities," "Jumanji," "Wag the Dog," "Bring It On" and "The Beguiled" while the New Jersey native's TV work includes "ER," "Fargo" and "The Siege at Ruby Ridge." Picking roles has been a simple process, even if getting the project made was a lot more complicated.
"Mostly, I always looked for director or things that I would want to see, basically, or characters I'd like to play. And I have to say this material was just so special to me. It's been three years now, and we've really had a little bit of a roller coaster of how this show actually got made to now being at Showtime," Dunst says. "We worked hard. There were so many times where I was like I don't know if I can do this. I just had a baby. And we all did it.
"So it was a lot of hard work, but I knew reading that first episode I was like this is one of the best things I've read. So I guess to me it's half intuition of what I want to play and then also what I'd like to see personally."
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