Kirsten Dunst has been acting in films since 1989. That is the majority of her 33 years on Earth. Her oeuvre spans blockbusters (Spider-Man), biographical pieces (Marie Antoinette), comedy (Bring It On), art-house (Melancholia), drama (Little Women), horror (Interview with the Vampire).
But this year, in a career first for Dunst, she joins the second season of Fargo as a lead cast member. Making a leap from the silver to the small screen is a transition many actors try, though Dunst hadn't anticipated the career move.
"My mind wasn't on the TV radar so much. I watch a lot of TV but I watch kind of silly TV. Then this role came up and that's when I watched the first season," says Dunst.
"I had friends who were such big fans of the show. As soon as I mentioned Fargo they were like, 'you have to do this, it's amazing', so I took it pretty seriously."
We meet Dunst on set on a wintry spring day in Calgary. It is the last week of filming for season two of the series, inspired by the 1996 Coen brothers' film of the same name. But although season one loosely followed the story of the film, this second instalment sends viewers back in time with just a trace of nostalgia.
Lou Solverson, whom fans will remember as lead character Molly's father in season one, is now the protagonist. It is 1979, a tumultuous period in American history. A number of cultural hinges accelerate the plot, including the Vietnam War, Ronald Reagan's presidency and the advancement of feminism.
Last year Fargo was heavily lauded for its talented cast, including Billy-Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, and this time the ensemble is just as impressive. Alongside Dunst is Ted Danson, Patrick Wilson (Angels in America), Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) and Jean Smart (24) rounding out the leads.
It has been an intense few months for Dunst, but although she is worn out from the hectic schedule of television, she is not lacking in enthusiasm for the show.
Her character, Peggy Blomquist, is ambitious, wanting to leave her small-town lifestyle and the beauty salon where she works.
"This has definitely been the hardest thing I've ever done," says Dunst. "We might have a week off some of our characters because it's an ensemble, but when you do work it's all your scenes in one week and Peggy talks a lot. She does not stop. So it's like I'm cramming for an exam every night, reading over the lines before I pass out."
Dunst has used her experience as a film actor in her approach to Peggy. "I guess the way I work, it feels like I've done 10 little movies as opposed to one movie," she says. "For each thing I do, I [use] dream work and I do a lot of stuff that is emotionally pretty draining."
What is dream work? It seems like the pinnacle of taking your work home with you. The character of Peggy influences Dunst's subconscious while she dreams, leading to quite intense nightmares. Then when she's on set, Dunst conjures those feelings from her dreams and uses them in her performance.
Far from being an airy-fairy tactic, it is a method that has caused Dunst a lot of angst, though she struggles to explain it fully.
"It's writing down your dreams and using it in a way to help you with your character," she says. "I think it grounds your character more than if you just learn your lines."
Those familiar with the tone of Fargo and the subject matter explored in the show will know there is, at times, gory and dark material. Using dream work in the show has left Dunst with strange nightmares and she admits she is exhausted from her dreams.
"I had one dream where part of it was this little baby pig being boiled. I'm telling you, it's not fun. It's not fun living in Peggy's mind. After I woke up I was like, 'I've got to become a vegetarian'."
Terrifying dreams aside, Dunst's time working on Fargo has been rewarding. "I knew this role was going to be something pretty special. I feel like it's the most interesting role I've ever played."
She is also looking forward to experiencing the more prolonged nature of television, beaming into people's living rooms for 10 weeks rather than the fleeting experience audiences have when watching a film. "I think it's going to be fun. I haven't experienced it yet so we'll see. I feel like if I'm out and people are like, 'I'm watching Fargo', I'll feel like, 'Oh, wow. I did this journey and now you're on my journey'."
• Season 2 of Fargo screens on SoHo Tuesdays 8.30pm from October 13, and on Neon from October 14.