"I wasn't in the mind frame for television," admits Kirsten Dunst, recalling the run-up to a fateful meeting in 2014.
"It was the first time that four agents from my agency sat down with me and said, 'You need to take a serious look at this.'" This, of course, was Fargo, FX's freshly imagined TV take on Ethan and Joel Coen's 1996 classic film.
A survey of the show's first season and the first two scripts of season two did the trick. "I knew that I was going to go on a great journey," she says. "It's shot beautifully, so well written, perfectly cast. I was joining something that was already good."
As Peggy Blumquist, the Podunk hairstylist with Hollywood dreams whose should've-been-routine traffic mishap sets a gang war in motion, Dunst is by turns manic, tragic and bewitching.
"I knew that whatever happened to her, she was going to be fun to play," Dunst says. "Also a lot of work, because of that delicate balance of comedy and drama, reality and her delusions."
Is Peggy a victim or a criminal? Dreamer or sociopath? "To her, her choices make sense," the actress explains. "She has aspirations, and you can't really fault her for that."
But Peggy has been traumatized, Dunst reveals. In a flashback written for the series but never filmed, Peggy's sweetheart is headed for Vietnam.
Before shipping out, he asks his buddy, Ed (Jesse Plemons) — ultimately, Peggy's consolation-prize husband — to take care of her. "I really wish we'd shot that scene," she reflects.
That tiny regret aside, Dunst — who made her feature debut at six, in Woody Allen's New York Stories, and has starred as Peter Parker's girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson, in three Spider-Man films — would be happy to play hooky from the multiplex for another TV adventure.
"Everything in the theaters is kids' movies nowadays," she says. "Television is like film for adults. People actually see it."