“Krystal is a fiery human being,” Dunst explains. “She does not care what people think of her and she will get what she wants. She’s a ball-buster, that’s for sure. She takes a lot of energy to play.”
Dunst is one of four executive producers (including George Clooney) of the series that was created by newcomers Robert Funke and Matt Lutsky, with Esta Spalding (Masters of Sex) as showrunner.
“The central characters are very grounded and desperate and everything is very real, but there’s also a weirdness to it that I gravitate towards,” she says. “Also, it’s humour. I like that it delves into a lot of dark places and it’s not a very straightforward show.”
Darkness seeps from the corners of the sun-drenched setting. Scenes of private misery take place at the waterslide park where Krystal works. Behind the front door of her neat, white house is a barely furnished interior. Destitution is a pay check away. It’s no surprise that this is where purveyors of an impossible American Dream come knocking.
“In the States [pyramid selling] was something that used to happen more so in the ’90s because people couldn’t survive on the minimum wage – not that they can now,” she says.
A supporter of Barack Obama and John Kerry, and director and narrator of Why Tuesday, a documentary about the American voting system, Dunst says Americans are in the mood for change.
“People can’t wait to get this government out of office,” she says.
On Becoming a God in Central Florida is far from a morality tale. Nor is it a romance. Dunst wanted to be “an actual active character”. The measures to which Krystal goes to stay afloat take her into chilling, and, at times, hilarious territory. In one memorable scene she resurrects her beauty pageant days with a truly bizarre dance routine.
“It was originally going to be a snake dance and I told the creators I am not going to dance with a snake. I’m terrified of snakes. I wouldn’t even touch a snake, let alone put it on my shoulders and dance with it. So they came up with this idea. I loved it,” she says.
No stranger to television work, having dipped in and out of the small screen throughout her career, most notably with a stint on ER in the late 1990s, Dunst is thrilled that changes in the way audiences consume drama delivers independent works to a wider audience.
“People watch indie on Netflix that they would never go see in a theatre. They’re exposed to art in a way that they wouldn’t necessarily be. Television pays as well. Indie is such a gamble, financially. So to have the security of being on a show that you love doing and also being able to do films and not worry about finances, that’s the best scenario.”
Bridget McManus is a television writer and critic for Green Guide. She was deputy editor of Green Guide from 2006 to 2010 and now also writes features and interviews for Life & Style in The Saturday Age and M magazine in The Sunday Age.