It’s finally time to claim Kirsten Dunst as one of us — and not just because she whips up Tater Tots and Hamburger Helper in the highly anticipated new season of “Fargo,” premiering Oct. 12.
She may be a Jersey girl by birth, but the actress’ maternal grandmother was raised as the youngest of 10 children on a spacious farm in Cambridge, Minn. Dunst paid her respects in 1998 while visiting Minnesota to play a sunny beauty queen in the film comedy “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” lingering at the Lutheran church where her now-departed loved one used to sing in the choir.
Her boyfriend of more than three years, actor Garrett Hedlund, grew up in Roseau, Minn., which Men’s Journal once named the friendliest city in America.
But it’s her choice of roles that most reveals her Minnesota tendencies. While the 33-year-old actress may be best known for smooching an upside-down webslinger or flipping for football teams, the actress has always carved out time to play passive-aggressive characters who are more complex than their fresh-scrubbed looks might indicate.
“Most people probably know me from ‘Spider-Man’ or ‘Bring It On’ and that’s it, but I’ve been doing independent films for a long time,” said Dunst, whose credits include “Marie Antoinette,” “The Virgin Suicides” and “Melancholia.” “I can do a comedy and have fun, or I can tackle a role that really inspires me and allows me to emotionally pour my heart out. As I get older, it’s more important to explore areas I haven’t tapped into yet.”
Her latest role certainly fits that bill. In “Fargo” (9 p.m. Mondays, FX) she plays Peggy Blomquist, a small-town beautician with Hollywood dreams, trapped in a bland marriage to a gullible butcher along the Minnesota-South Dakota border in 1979 — three decades before the events of the show’s premiere season.
When she accidentally runs over a murderer outside a diner in Luverne, Minn., she swallows any sense of guilt and tries to use the incident as an excuse to escape to California, where she imagines both her big-city ambitions and French-influenced wardrobe will blend right in.
Dunst said the role posed a number of new challenges, from memorizing the singsong, rapid-fire dialogue to adjusting to a parade of different bosses.
“One day I worked with three different directors on three different episodes,” said Dunst by phone, after returning from a decompression vacation in Jamaica. “That was the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s just not what I’m used to.”
The shooting of 10 episodes in tax-break-friendly Calgary, Alberta, which once again fills in for the Upper Midwest, may be completed, but the pressure cooker is still on high.
“Fargo,” which earned an Emmy last year for outstanding miniseries, must now do without unshakable performances from Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman. Not that the latest cast — which includes Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson and Jean Smart — is full of unknowns.
But “Fargo” runs the risk of being unable to live up to high expectations, a fate suffered this summer by the second season of “True Detective.”
Dunst doesn’t seem bothered. In fact, she still doesn’t totally believe the show will make it to the screen.
“Even when I’ve done my best work, I’m convinced that it’s never going to be seen,” she said. “Maybe it’s a protective mechanism.”
Spoken like a true Minnesotan.