'On Becoming a God in Central Florida' marks the actress' latest unorthodox role in her eclectic filmography.
Credit: Liz Von Hoene /SHOWTIME

EW is committed to giving our subscribers more entertainment news and access whenever we can, so we’re expanding our Must List Picks online! You can check out past picks or subscribe to the Entertainment Weekly newsletter to get all of our recommendations sent directly to your inbox. This week we’re totally bugging out about Showtime’s ‘90s-set On Becoming a God in Central Florida (premiering Aug. 25 at 10 p.m.). Read on to see what Kirsten Dunst told EW about her crazy new series — and her offbeat career.

Kirsten Dunst connects while driving through “the worst pocket” of cell reception in California. She shares your prayer that we get through this. “We are, together,” she coos reassuringly. Minutes later, she cuts out. Behold the continued queen of the unexpected.

It’s probably easy to trust her because, as an acting veteran at 37, Dunst has self-made a career of subverting expectations and surprising audiences, expertly balancing untraditional turns in offbeat dramas (a rebel royal in Marie-Antoinette) and art-house gems (a bride whose depression wills the apocalypse in Melancholia) with big-budget blockbusters (minimizing damsel Mary Jane’s distress in three Spider-Man films), often more enticed by the vision fueling a particular project than its scale.

“When I make something, I feel like no one’s ever going to see it,” Dunst says of her approach to the craft. “I feel like I do it for myself.”

Most likely, however, it feels especially right trusting her because she seamlessly overcomes the seemingly insurmountable in her newest endeavor. Dunst’s instincts have now guided her to the realm of television, where she’ll continue her singular streak producing and starring in Showtime’s dark comedy On Becoming a God in Central Florida (premiering Aug. 25 at 10 p.m.) as Krystal Stubbs, an Orlando-adjacent waterpark employee (with a wardrobe best described as “Lisa Frank dabbling in textiles”) forced into conning her way up the ranks of a pyramid scheme (one that ensnares her zany, workaholic husband, played by Alexander Skarsgård) in the wake of a personal tragedy tied to the illicit operation.

“She’s cutthroat, but with a heart of gold,” says Dunst, who lends her cool, inviting calmness to Krystal’s vengeful rage — even as her mama-bear survivalist tactics grow increasingly bonkers. Within two episodes of the ’90s-set series, a wailing Krystal fires a shotgun into a swamp of alligators, later skinning the beasts and hand-harvesting the meat to feed her young. “It’s about a mother trying to make it work!” Dunst chirps. “I get to put things that are ugly in front of myself into my roles. I can express my rage through Krystal. It ends up almost being therapeutic in a way. For me, I could play Krystal because I understand her, but also I get to release those things as well.”

For the producer and star, making things work meant anchoring herself to the series through multiple network handoffs — first at AMC, then YouTube, then Showtime, at one point with The Favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos attached to helm. Dunst confesses that, after giving birth to her first child in May 2018, she considered leaving the project. Still, despite the shakeups and personal developments, “I couldn’t let this character go,” says Dunst, savoring Krystal’s agency amid other offers the actress has received to play helpless thirtysomethings.

“I read other shows before that I could’ve done, but this was just so different,” she adds. “I don’t have to be crying about some man or what the man did to me. It doesn’t matter. This is Krystal’s show and it’s not about that, which most female roles kind of still are…. This is the age range where it’s easier to find good material in television. That’s where the best work is for me and what I’m interested in doing.”

On Becoming A God in Central Florida
Credit: Illustration by Germån Gonzalez for EW

Krystal marks the latest benchmark in Dunst’s mission to resist the Hollywood-blonde stereotypes. She values complex renegades, which drew her to the new “creative freedom” of TV to perform juicy roles (like in her Golden Globe-nominated turn on 2015’s Fargo) she rarely sees in film. “I wanted to be more of an artist in my acting, instead of making tons of money being a star of every big whatever.”

Like, she references, her string of studio rom-coms in the late aughts. “Post-Spider-Man it was like, I could definitely go down this romantic comedy route. Those were really popular then, too, but it just was like, ugh, no thank you,” she recalls. “It wasn’t for me. I hated that kind of acting. It was so hard for me to do. Thank God Sofia Coppola would sweep me away to do a Marie-Antoinette in between.”

So, what’s next? On her previously announced directorial debut — an adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s beloved novel The Bell Jar — Dunst says the film isn’t happening, at least with her in the director’s chair.

“I never owned [the rights], so it went away for me. It went to other hands. That ship sunk, too,” she confirms. Instead, Florida could be a hit, or Dunst may focus on producing more projects to allow extra time with her infant son, Ennis, with partner and Fargo costar Jesse Plemons. “This is the first year I’ve been a mom. Directing a film and having a baby…that’s two years of your life, directing, editing, and promoting all of it. Maybe when I’m older I’ll want to again. Right now, I have zero interest in committing myself to that.” (Cornerstone Films did not immediately respond to EW’s request for clarification on The Bell Jar‘s status).

In other words, Dunst’s plan isn’t entirely clear — and it never has been. Whether weird or wonderful, all we know is we’re going to get through it together.

Related content:

On Becoming a God in Central Florida
  • TV Show