It’s a fittingly fun and campy approach for a dark comedy about a minimum-wage water park employee who gets involved in a billion-dollar pyramid scheme which makes it all the more surprising that getting the series to air was one of the most challenging endeavours of Dunst’s career.
“It was three years of craziness and one thing after the other,” the 37-year-old tells Glamour of getting On Becoming a God in Central Florida to screen. (It premieres Sunday, August 25, at 10 p.m. ET.) But whatever the obstacles – and there were many – Dunst couldn’t let it go. “I was like, ‘No, it’s too good.’”
The one-hour series has certainly had a journey: It bounced around three different networks, was navigated by a rotating door of producers, and lost an advocate when a TV executive who was fighting for the project passed away.
Then, in the midst of all this chaos, Dunst found out she was expecting her first child with husband Jesse Plemons. After she gave birth to her son, Ennis (now 16 months), Dunst doubted that she’d even have the energy to do the series. That is, if it ever came to fruition. “I was like, ‘There’s no way I can go do a TV show,'” she says. “‘How can I do anything else but be a mom?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this anymore.’”
In fact, she says she was so physically drained in the months following Ennis’s birth that she felt like she could barely hold a conversation, let alone be a series lead. “I was like, ‘I don’t even have time to take showers anymore, so how am I going to function on a set?’”
However, the show eventually came together and Dunst decided it was too good a role to pass up. And so she leaned on her producing partners. “Everyone goes back to work, and I realised that sometimes it’s just starting something for you to realise that you can do it,” she says. “But it’s scary until you actually start.”
Dunst credits her mother-in-law and close friends for helping with child care while she was working long hours on set. “You manage it, and people step in and help you. It’s just so important to ask for that help.”
Dunst had a support system behind the scenes, but that wasn’t the case for her character, Krystal, a woman who is mostly on her own with a young daughter. Dunst wanted to show the difficulties of being a working parent, which is why she wanted to have a child in as many scenes as possible. “Unless the next-door neighbour is watching her or she gets some kind of help, Krystal would always have a baby with her,” she explains. “That’s just her reality, and she’s doing everything she can to survive.” When long working hours on set prevented a real-life baby from being available, Dunst relied on a doll or the presence of a stroller.
Now, that the series premiered on Sunday, August 25, Dunst is glad she didn’t pass on the opportunity. “I feel like playing Krystal allowed me to let a lot of that rage out that we don’t usually get to express in our everyday lives,” she explains. “It was a very cathartic experience to play someone that didn’t care that much about what others think. The older you get, the less you worry about what everybody else is doing.”