As a child actor turned Hollywood star, Kirsten Dunst has done her share of soul-searching. So to play Peggy Blumquist, a beautician on the road to self-actualization who veers off course after committing a hit-and-run in FX’s “Fargo,” she turned inward.
“I work a lot with what I’m dreaming, so for me it’s kind of like making a little witch’s brew of stuff,” Ms. Dunst said of creating her character for the anthology’s second chapter. “The writing is so good, but to make a very full person takes a lot of self-exploration.”
In turn, Peggy — Ms. Dunst’s first recurring television role since playing the runaway Charlie Chiemingo on “ER” nearly 20 years ago — rewarded her with her first Emmy nomination, for outstanding lead actress in a limited series. The 68th Emmy Awards will be on Sept. 18.
In a recent phone conversation from Los Angeles, Ms. Dunst talked about the role that was meant to be, the expectations of Hollywood and where she thinks Peggy might have ended up. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Congratulations on your nomination.
Thank you. It’s a tough category. I feel like there are so many great actresses and it’s an honor, but I wish they would just nominate and no one had to win. You know what I mean? Comparison is just the thief of joy.
In some strange way, the role of Peggy seems a natural for you.
It doesn’t happen very often like this, but [the writer and showrunner] Noah [Hawley] and I had our meeting, and as I left his office I was like, “I think that this is mine.” And on the way home I called my agent, and my manager called me, and they were like, “It’s yours.”
What do you think Noah saw in you?
I said something about style, like “a little goes a long way,” and he was like, “Oh, that’s Peggy for me.” And also my roots. My grandma, who has passed now, was from Minnesota. She didn’t really have an accent but she had a Midwestern quality about her, and she grew up on a farm. So it’s in my wheelhouse.
To quite a few viewers, Peggy was at once lovable and terrible. How did you see her?
Now that it’s over and edited and I saw the show, I think that she’s someone that just lives totally on her own planet. She probably should be on some meds. She’s a victim of the time and she’s trying to break boundaries, and I think she thinks she’s invincible.
A small-town woman trying to get out, or just plain unstable?
I think this situation of hitting the guy sends her over the edge. Because she’s just about to enter this precipice of going to Lifespring and doing all these things for herself, and then this happens and totally derails her plan. But she thinks she can still get away with it all — and she is getting away with it for a while, so I think it’s kind of a weird high. She just keeps looking forward and doesn’t see things very rationally.
In the final episode, Peggy speaks of her desire to choose her own path and not be defined by someone else’s expectations. Was there anything that resonated with your situation in Hollywood? You’ve said in the past that what people expect of actors is totally ridiculous.
I definitely put my own frustrations into what Peggy was saying. I don’t have a hard time with [expectations], I think, because I’ve been working for so long in this industry. But people put on different personas, and I could never do that, like on talk shows or in life or in meetings. I just have to be myself. I can’t fake it. But I do think that people want you to be a lot of different things as a female actress, and it’s up to you to navigate that and take care of yourself and not try to please.
Your coming movies include “The Beguiled,” your third film with Sofia Coppola, and “Woodshock,” written and directed by Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the designers behind Rodarte. What’s it like working with such close friends?
Now she’s a friend, but Sofia was always like an older sister to me — someone who I always looked up to. It’s so nice when you find a director that you’re their actress, and to work with your friends is always the best. Laura and Kate I met because I was the first actress to wear their clothing, and eventually we got to know each other. We’re very similar in our family values and living in Los Angeles in the Valley, and they’re very unique, fun women and soul mates of mine. You can create better things together when you know each other.
You know Peggy as well as anyone. What do you imagine she’s up to these days?
Maybe Peggy escaped, again, and lives off the grid in El Paso.
Kathryn Shattuck, The New York Times