The Version Interview... Kirsten Dunst on Fargo Season 2.
Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire, Spider-Man, Melancholia) and Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) star in Fargo season 2; Set in 1979, 30 years previous to the events of the first series. Dunst plays Peggy Blomquist, a small town beautician with big city dreams who is trying to figure out who she really is and what she really wants as she struggles with traditional societal expectations. Her husband Ed, played by Plemons, a butcher's assistant who wants to be supportive of his wife’s self-discovery, even if he doesn’t quite understand it.
What was it that attracted you to doing Fargo?
The first season was done so well. And it was shot so beautifully. I knew that I was going in to something of which I could be confident of the quality. Also, the role was just fantastic. I only got to read two episodes before signing up for the series, but I knew that the trajectory of Peggy’s story was really something exciting. I knew that there was a lot in store for this character, and that she was very unique.
Explain a little bit about Peggy Blomquist. What’s she like?
She’s kind of stuck. In reality, she’s quite delusional about what she hopes to accomplish. What happens in the first episode, though, kind of spins her off a little bit. She really wants this other life that she’s read about in magazines – her dream is to move to Los Angeles and become a celebrity hairdresser. But she’s stuck in Laverne, Minnesota. She’s with a lovely man who wants to have kids, but she’s just not committed to that yet herself. She lives for her magazines where she reads about this other life she wants. She’s a little bit of a nut, in reality, and sort of living in two worlds.
You’re part Swedish yourself. Do you feel an affinity to Peggy through that? Is it part of your heritage?
Not to Peggy! She is a woman unto herself! But I will say that I’m very familiar with the whole Lutheran Minnesota vibe. I grew up with my grandmother – she lived with us – and she had grown up the youngest of 10 children on a farm in Minnesota. My grandmother didn’t really have the Minnesota accent, though. Maybe it just worked out of her over time. But she had a real Midwestern mentality. So I understand the mentality, but not so much Peggy.
Did you re-watch the series, or the original film, when you were cast, or do you steer clear of stuff like that so you’re coming with a fresh perspective?
I didn’t re-watch the TV programme because I’d seen it pretty recently. But I hadn’t seen the film in a very long time so I did re-watch that – just to have it back in my wheelhouse. It was more to get to grips with that “Minnesota Nice” veneer, that sense of nervousness of doing something wrong. After that, I just worked on the character.
The accent and mannerisms of the Minnesota region are very distinctive. Did you struggle to master them, or did it come quite easily to you?
This was a pretty hard role to play. And I worked with a dialect coach on the accent. Because it’s set in the 70s, the clothing always helps you get into the part. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but it was one of the hardest roles I’ve ever played, for some reason. Peggy has a lot to say, always – she’s very high energy. I remember one day I did six pages of dialogue, just me! So it was a lot, and it had to be done pretty quickly and efficiently.
The landscape and the bleakness of the area are very central to the feel of the drama. Have you spent time in that part of the US?
Yeah, I have. Not where our story takes place, but I’ve spent time in Minnesota. And I’ve spent time in remote communities and all of that, so I was familiar with that feeling of having your one street where everything’s on it, and then everyone lives 20 minutes away in farm houses that are miles apart from each other.
How would you take to life if you had to up sticks and move to rural Minnesota?
It would depend who was with me. I guess if my family and friends were there, and I had a community, I’d be fine. I’ve done the city life. As long as there was an airport that wasn’t too far away, I’d be okay, I think.
So what you’re basically saying is you’ll happily live somewhere cold and remote as long as you can fly to somewhere hot very quickly?
How did you get on with the cold during filming?
We shot in Calgary, and for some reason it was unseasonably warm during the shoot, so we lucked out. They were freezing on the last season so I was prepared – I had my Canada Goose clothing and stuff. Luckily for me, too, a lot of my scenes are inside. In fact it was a problem it was so warm – we needed more snow! They’d shovel some in or we’d have to shoot in a different area.
The series is set in the late 70s, and features Molly Solverson’s dad Lou. Is it fair to call this a prequel?
Yeah, it is. I think it’s such a different universe to the first series. There are things that keep it Fargo – the way it’s shot and the music and all that – but it definitely feels like its own, weird universe.
Did you get into the whole 70s aspect of this, with the clothes and the music?
Yeah. Noah actually put together a playlist for us, which was great. It was all over the map, and included stuff like Kraftwerk. As for the clothes – I wanted people to giggle at Peggy a little bit when they saw her. She wants to live in a different place, so I wanted her to wear a beret. And when she does bad things, I wanted her to wear little white bunny ear-muffs, so there was an innocence there. Her fashion is pretty funny – you’ll chuckle at her when you see certain outfits she puts together.
Does she wear fashions that aren’t really the norm in Minnesota?
Yes, definitely. She’s the kind that would sew herself a certain outfit and then find the best coat she can, and accessorise it all. She’s definitely that kind of girl. She lives through her magazines.
Is it fair to say that 1970s fashions are probably hitting rural Minnesota about now anyway?
[Laughs] I’ve been to rural Minnesota, and I feel like it’s definitely the denim capital of the world. What do they call it? The Canadian tuxedo!
Events take place during Ronald Reagan’s first presidential campaign. I understand that the character of Reagan makes an appearance in the series.
Yes. I don’t have any scenes with him, but yes, he is in it. Bruce Campbell plays Reagan.
The show’s got a great cast, not least among whom is Ted Danson. Have you guys worked together before?
I knew Ted because his wife, Mary Steenburgen, is with my manager. So I would see Ted a lot. And he was one of my favourite people to work with on the show. I’m so happy we had scenes together. He’s so lovely – just the kindest man, really funny. You want him to be your dad or your husband.
Jesse Plemons plays your dutiful, loving husband. What was it like working with him?
We became fast friends, too. We were in pretty much every scene together, and we have very similar approaches to acting. So it was really easy for both of us, and we also really enjoyed working with each other. He’s such a cool dude and we’d hang out all the time off set. He’s like a real friend of mine today – it wasn’t just a ‘set’ friendship. We really got along very well.
How long did the shoot take?
Almost five months. It was a really long shoot, especially being in Calgary, because it was winter and so you didn’t necessarily want to be outside that much. I’d never seen Friday Night Lights [starring Plemons] so I binge-watched that, which I adored. And I’d hang out with Jesse and order food in. It was very mellow when we had time off. I went once to Banff with my brother, and we went dog-sledding, but other than that we stayed in our little apartment complex.
So did you make Jesse watch Friday Night Lights all over again?
No, but I got all the gossip because of it – all the behind the scenes stuff. Whenever I wanted to talk about somebody, he could tell me all about them – it was great! That’s the best way anybody could watch Friday Night Lights. I know who was dating who and everything!
Does it feel different, working on a TV show as opposed to a movie?
Very, because you have multiple directors, and you get new scripts that you’ve never seen before, so you really have to be confident in how you work on your character. It definitely felt like I’d done ten supporting roles in ten different movies at the end of the shoot. It was the most work I’d ever done on a character.
Lastly, it seems like a lot of Hollywood actors are turning to TV shows these days. Is there more kudos doing TV now than there used to be?
I just think people are watching television more. They’re more excited about watching a television show than they are about watching films. It feels almost more special right now to be on an exciting television show. And it’s longer, and people follow it with you. The only movies that people seem to go and watch now are big event films or animations, for the most part. And movies are so expensive to go to now. If you get tickets and food for your kids, it’s a lot of money.
So in spite of the hard work and the long shoot, if the right role came up for you on TV again, you’d do it?
I would! I’m not in a position right now where I want to dedicate myself to a long-running series, but I would do another mini-series or a movie for television. I’d be open to television again, for sure.
Fargo is on Channel 4 this October.