'Fargo' Star Kirsten Dunst: Peggy's "Mental Illness" Is Manifesting

"She can't let anything stop her" from her search for a better life, Dunst tells THR.
Courtesy of FX

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode two of Fargo's second season.]

Two episodes into season two of Fargo, it's not yet clear just how the disparate threads of the story will connect. The investigation into the Waffle Hut massacre has just begun; the Kansas City mafia is in the early stages of its takeover attempt; and no one, save for Peggy (Kirsten Dunst) and Ed Blumquist (Jesse Plemons), knows where Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin) is, or that he's dead.

One thing that is clear? Peggy did react the way most people would have to hitting Rye with a car. It's that reaction, which Dunst describes as one of "shock," that has put Peggy and Ed in the middle of a brewing mob war. Of course, having Ed grind up the body at the butcher shop -- in a shot reminiscent of the movie Fargo's wood-chipper scene -- and having her co-worker discover her inexplicable theft of toilet paper from the salon where she works don't help.

Here, Dunst talks with THR about Peggy's mental state, a piece of backstory audiences will never see, the rigors of filming a series -- and the toilet paper.

After Peggy hits Rye, does she just go on autopilot, or is her decision to drive home a calculated one?

In my mind it's like, one way is the hospital, one way is the police station -- what do I do? I think she goes, "I've got to go home and think about what I should do." She's so in shock that I think she just doesn't know what to do. So I think in her mind she thinks, "I'm just gonna go home and think about it, and then I'll decide." 

But I think Peggy is someone -- we had a scene that got cut, we never actually filmed it, where Peggy's saying goodbye to her fiancé who's going to Vietnam. They're in the butcher shop, and he's friends with Ed and is like, "If anything happens to me, take care of her for me." She lost someone who was probably the love of her life, then she married Ed because yes, they were friends, and out of love...but more like a family and a friendship. Her mental illness comes out -- there are little clues in the first episode. She's hoarding all these magazines and things like that. There are subtle things that I think will show themselves throughout the next episodes.

But another thing is, she's so desperate to go to this Life Spring seminar. She thinks it's going to be the key to change her entire life. Then this gets in the way. She can't let anything stop her.

That's interesting about the unfilmed scene. In the first episode, it seems more like they're a couple who maybe are just in a rut.

In her mind, she's putting things on hold to get to her ultimate dreams. To me she's someone who lives in her fantasy mind, through her magazines and things like that.

Do you think she's unhappy? She doesn't act that way, but there's a sense that she knows something more might be out there.

I don't know if she's happy. I just think that's the only way she knows how to be in that town and that environment. You just pick up your chin and keep going -- it's a facade, I think.

Is her stealing toilet paper from the salon part and parcel of all that?

I think that's just one example of things to come.... She's repressing things and it's coming out in this hoarding kind of way. But she's also a really bad liar. She has sociopathic tendencies.

Did you follow the other storylines in the show while you were filming, or did you just stick to Peggy and Ed's situation?

I made the decision not to read everyone else's things in the beginning until things start to come together. Because Peggy's so in her own world, I didn't want to be influenced by anything else that was happening in the story. So I just would read things that were happening with Ed and Peg. She's so tunnel-visioned about her goals and what needs to happen that I didn't want to think about the whole show. It makes it more fun for me now, because I can watch and enjoy it myself and not know what everyone's going to say.

So far, it feels like Ed is along for this ride with Peggy whether he likes it or not. Does that dynamic change as the season goes on?

I do think it's a love story at the end of the day -- what you'll do for another person under any circumstance. There is a real love there, and maybe [their predicament is] her fault, but that's the type of man he is. I almost think that during this process, they become closer in a way. They do.

What was the appeal for you about getting to spend time with a character for longer than just a two-hour feature film?

These days television is just so wonderful, and this show, the last season was shot so well and so well acted and well written. It was just a no-brainer to me. And you know, you work so hard on these independent films, and some people see them when they're being heralded and things. But even so, the amount of people who watch television and care about TV is so much more these days than people going to see a film, I think. People like to be with a story for a long time, and this show is such quality. I had only received two episodes before I met with Noah [Hawley] to talk about it. But it was such a crazy character and one of the best female roles I had read in a long time.

Other than the time commitment, what was different about this experience than shooting a feature?

The way I prepare, it's easier to do a film, because you know where you're going and you know what you're going to do for the next few months. But with this, you get new episodes every few weeks -- you have no idea what you're saying [laughs], so preparing for it, the process I do, I feel like by the end of it I would've done like five supporting roles in different movies.... In that sense it's a lot more work. And it moves at a faster pace -- it's not like you have monologues that you know about and can memorize weeks before. It's like, "Oh -- I didn't know I had a six-page scene." [laughs] That's a lot. It's things like that. I was so grateful in certain episodes where Peggy just kept her mouth shut a little bit.

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