**Spoilers ahead for the season one finale of On Becoming a God in Central Florida.**
Krystal Stubbs, a recently widowed mother working at a water park, has a lot to handle — and by the end of the first season of On Becoming a God in Central Florida, she’s added kidnapping, blackmail, and accessory to murder to the list. But she’s triumphant. She took on Obie Garbeau II (Ted Levine), the leader of the pervasive multilevel marketing scam that left her broke and killed her husband, and finally got a water park of her own. She’s found stability, even if that means working with a company she knows is ruining lives everyday.
Kirsten Dunst plays Krystal with a calm demeanor but a searing bite — you never know if Krystal is going to hug someone or cut them. That Southern hospitality sometimes comes off like a two-faced cheerleader or a determined pageant queen (future on-air anchor), but Dunst never looked to her past roles for inspiration. “She was a beauty contestant, Krystal, so there’s definitely that in there,” the actress told Vulture, but “it’s just something that’s part of my taste and wheelhouse of things I’m drawn to.”
With season two officially renewed at Showtime, Dunst is taking a break, “just being a mom” to her son, Ennis, and getting ready to shoot Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog alongside Benedict Cumberbatch. Then, she’ll be back to reckon with Obie Garbeau. After a finale with more twists than the tallest water slide at the best water park near Disney World, Dunst talked to Vulture about Krystal Stubbs’s transformation from victim to scammer.
Congrats on season two of On Becoming a God! What was it about Krystal Stubbs that had you sticking by the show over three years and two network changes?
I know. [Laughs.] I mean, I almost walked away a couple times. I was like, This is … What’s gonna happen with this show? But then I was like, It’s a good role and I have fun playing it. She was just such a dynamic character and I love satire. I love dark comedies. It was just perfectly weird enough that I knew I would have a good time. I knew I wasn’t going to be, like, crying in every scene or stuff like that. You know, it’s not like a heavy show in that sense. I appreciated that.
She gets into some pretty heavy stuff toward the end. Why do you think that she decides to blackmail Obie Garbeau in the finale rather than push forward without FAM? Up until that point it makes sense that she’s taking all those risks to protect her daughter, Destiny, but suddenly she’s taking this risk to get rich. She’s betting bigger.
Well, she needs that water park. She doesn’t have any other choice, really. Cody [Théodore Pellerin] doesn’t have any money. His mother’s cutting him off. She could sell her house and figure out a way to, you know, find another job or move to another state. She does say that stuff with Cody, but there’s just an opportunity to actually do something with her life, and I think that beauty contestant part of her, that dancer part of her, that performer, she’s liking that attention, you know? The Splashercise thing is something that she really believes in. Yes, she wants to make money, but she’s found something that’s really something of her own and that people are really responding to that she created. So, I think it’s her own pride, as well, of accomplishing this thing that she’s come up with that’s really driving her. And Obie’s that person that could be blackmailed.
Do you think that there was a possibility that she could’ve just been like I want the money and not have to collaborate with FAM?
Yeah, I know what you mean about the Give me money and I’m out. I think she wants to build an empire. Without it, she’s gotta pay for this whole thing. She’s gonna use FAM until she doesn’t need FAM anymore and do her own thing. That’s what I think.
Krystal’s such an independent thinker and that’s why when her relationship with Cody takes this turn sort of in the middle of the season, it sort of energizes the story and makes it so that you never know what’s going to happen next. Like, my jaw drops just thinking about how her relationship with Cody turns into this sexual degradation …
I know, it’s so weird. It makes me so uncomfortable!
Well, ’cause I have to slap him in the face. It’s just like, so not my vibe. I don’t know, I just was very abusive to Theo and he’d always be like, “Uhh, can you hit me harder? It’s fine.” I was like, “Okay …” [Laughs.]
What do you think about the way that sexual relationship affects Krystal?
I think it’s just that she has power over this little boy that’s doing whatever she wants, that arouses her, but also she laughs in his face. So, for her, I think he’s amusing. And also, she needs help wherever she can get it, you know?
At the end of the season, when they become partners in crime, do you think that being with him is still just out of necessity?
I think that he’s attached to the Garbeau world. He’s been attached and I think he’s her ally at that point. She doesn’t have anyone and he’s willing to help her and take care of her baby with her. It’s hard to be a single mom. But then again, that could switch in an episode, too.
We learn about her in pieces throughout the season, and it looks like next season we’ll find out a lot more about her family, but do you have your own Krystal Stubbs origin story?
I do think that she comes from a poor family in the swamps of Florida. I imagine she comes from a family of addiction and poverty and that she was a survivalist who had to fend for herself since the beginning, which is why she’s so angry and has this chip on her shoulder, doesn’t trust people. And there’s another thing that I think will happen in season two but I can’t talk about it yet.
I can’t believe I just found out today that you have a tiny cameo on your fiancé Jesse Plemons’s Black Mirror episode.
It’s not a cameo. It’s literally … I was an extra one day. I was like, “I’ll do background!” And I just walked through.
Are we going to find out that you lurked in the background of El Camino?
Sadly, nope, I have not. I wasn’t even on that set ever. That was all Jesse.
On a scale from “you knew the entire plot” to “you caught Jesse sneaking off to New Mexico,” what was the level of secrecy you guys had to maintain?
I mean, I knew he was doing the movie. No one talked about it. Even at the premiere, Jesse didn’t say he was in the movie. He was just like, “Oh, I’m excited to see it.” And when people asked him about it, he was like, “Oh, yeah, I look forward to seeing it.” Like, he wasn’t in it. He’s like, “I’ve never got to lie like that.” It was so fun.
Generally, looking forward, what kind of roles are interesting to you?
I’ve always been more director-driven. For me, it’s just working with people that I’d love to work with in my life like that. I don’t really care what part. I would like to do a musical, though, one day. That’d be fun.
What’s your favorite musical that you’d love to remake?
Well, Les Mis is my favorite, but they already did that remake. I don’t know, maybe an original. Like I know Charlie Kaufman wrote an original musical that never got made. So, something interesting like that would be really cool.
What was it like playing Krystal, who has a newborn baby, and then also coming home and being with your baby?
That actually helped me a lot because I knew things I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t had a child. It’s like, handing the baby an empty paper-towel roll and they’ll be entertained. I wouldn’t have necessarily known that had I not had a child. I think I would’ve been a little more like, “Oh, is this okay? Is she okay?” I would’ve been more ginger with the baby, but because I have one I’m like, “Oh, they’re safe. They’re safe, just hold ’em.”
There are all these little times when Krystal’s just like, “Here, Destiny, play with this phone.” Were those improvisations on your part?
Yeah, of course, yeah, yeah, yeah. Like [in episode two], the idea to go to Buzz’s and borrow an ATV from him was an idea of mine to have my kid play with my keys and I see the keychain. So, I was like, “How are we gonna sell this?” It’s so stupid, like I’m not gonna look at my keychain, like, Oh, yeah. Look at my keys in the bank. So, I gave it to the kid to play with and then I could see it from there. You just gotta interact with the baby.
Raising Arizona was kind of my inspiration for how to interact with the baby, too. They use that baby for such comedy in that movie and I think it’s so good when they do, so anytime we had an opportunity, I was like “We gotta use this baby.”