Disney World’s central Florida location serves as a symbol for the characters in Showtime’s new dark comedy “On Becoming a God in Central Florida.”
The park is proof of how man’s ingenuity can turn a swamp into a gold mine and is embodied in the show’s working-class Americans looking for get-rich-quick schemes — and going broke in the process.
“Everyone on the show wants something more for their life and there’s no way they can get that working for minimum wage in 1992,” says showrunner Esta Spaulding. “That’s when … the working class couldn’t earn a living [to] sustain and feed their families.”
The show’s swampy “Orlando-adjacent” locale is home to insurance salesman Travis Stubbs (Alexander Skarsgard, nearly unrecognizable under a brown mullet), his wife, Krystal (Kirsten Dunst) and their infant daughter, Destiny. Travis is itching to quit his job to become a recruiter for FAM (Founders American Merchandise), a multibillion-dollar, Amway-like corporation that sells everything from disinfectant and body lotion to cheese puffs. Krystal warns Travis against putting their life savings and equity into FAM’s coffers.
“Krystal’s always known that there’s something fishy with FAM,” Dunst, 37, tells The Post. “It helped get her husband sober, so she’s going with it for now.”
Circumstances force Krystal to throw her fate to the FAM winds while still working at a nearby water park called Rebel Rapids. In the series, co-creator Robert Funke —a former “Mad Men” researcher — and his partner, Matt Lutsky, explore how many Americans fell victim to pyramid schemes in the 1990s. “Krystal’s a woman without an education who has a minimum-wage job in a water park,” says Funke. “There’s not a lot of options available to her.”
The series features Ted Levine as Obie Garbeau II, FAM’s creepy ringmaster, and Theodore Pellerin as Cody, a rising star in the FAM power structure. Funke and Lutsky wrote the pilot script — their first — five years ago and didn’t write Episode 2 until executive producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov became actively engaged. “It was very hurry up and wait until last summer,” says Lutsky.
Getting Skarsgard was a boon for the series, since the actor reveals a gleeful comic side seldom seen in his other roles. “Thank God for Kirsten because that’s who got [Skarsgard] in the door,” Funke says. “He set a tone for the rest of the production. Whatever was the most fun, the most joyful, the most diving in, head-first way to do the scene, that was the way Alex was going to do it. And he helped everyone else open up.”
For her part, Dunst says that she watched episodes of “Honey Boo Boo” to put her in the right frame of mind. “You know what I mean?” she asks. “Just to get a little more free in that way. There’s so much rage within Krystal that I feel like I don’t always get to express in characters. You just kind of put everything you have into [the part] and be the most emotionally vulnerable you can so you connect with your audience.”
Krystal’s grim financial prospects eventually force her to drink some of the Kool Aid and get her revenge. “She’ll do anything for her daughter and can’t survive on minimum wage so she’s forced to participate in FAM,” says Dunst.
“I thought the subject matter was so unique; it’s about the falsehood of the American Dream. I think it’s fun to see a character fight for what she believes is right and take down the man.”