The Verge: Aubrey Plaza

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Ever seen a striking new actor and wondered, "Who's that?" Now you'll know before you even have to ask. Welcome to The Verge, Movieline's weekly interview with up-and-comers on the verge of a serious career boost.

As the deeply disinterested intern April in the Amy Poehler sitcom Parks and Recreation, Aubrey Plaza may be the lone newcomer in a cast of comedic heavy-hitters, but she's got a slate of upcoming projects that's guaranteed to up her profile. In addition to her scene-stealing Parks role, Plaza nabbed the part of Seth Rogen's love interest in Judd Apatow's summer dramedy Funny People, and her presence in Edgar Wright's rising-star-filled Scott Pilgrim vs. the World anoints her as one to watch. Plaza spoke to us about the unconventional way she won two of her biggest roles, and gave us the skinny on one increasingly skinny costar.

How did you end up in Parks and Recreation?

Allison Jones cast the show and casts Judd's movies, and she had just cast me in Funny People. And the way that [producers Greg Daniels and Mike Schur cast Parks] is that they met with potential actors before they even started writing the script. So Allison set me up on a meeting with them because she thought they might be interested in writing a character for me, even though I thought it was a just general meeting. So we sat down in July and didn't even talk about the show specifically, and then after that meeting, they had written me into the show -- and I didn't find out until Thanksgiving!

So you didn't pitch them a character? They just wrote one for you?

I didn't pitch them anything, no. I don't know if you've seen the Jeannie Tate videos, but they had seen that and they were big fans of it, and I think they saw the character I was playing in Jeannie Tate and thought they might make something like that for their show. I think they'd had an idea of having a different kind of intern character, but after they met with me they kind of wrote it for me in my voice.

How did you feel about the leak of the Parks focus group results?

That was kind of a bummer, because the version of the show that those guys saw was really premature. I think everyone in the industry knows that pilots don't generally test very well, and I think that whoever leaked that online was kind of mean-spirited. It was unwarranted, but it didn't really bother me that much because a lot of the things that came out of that testing were things we had already been working on anyway.

You play Seth Rogen's love interest, Daisy, in Funny People. Obviously, the burning question America needs to know is, what weight was Seth Rogen at in this movie?

[laughs] I know that he looked super-different than he did in Knocked Up and Observe and Report, but I haven't heard people talking about it. Is that what everyone's talking about?

He had to lose a lot of weight for his upcoming action role in The Green Hornet, and it's all anybody is asking him about when he does press.

Right, because he looks like a totally different guy. Well, when we were shooting, that was the first time I'd ever met him. I don't know what weight he was at, but I'd say that he looked very good. [laughs] I didn't have a problem having a crush on him on-camera.

Tell me about your character.

Daisy is an up-and-coming stand-up comedian, just like Seth and Jonah Hill's characters. Originally, they wanted to cast an actual stand-up comedian, and I ended up doing stand-up for the first time at an open mic and I taped myself and sent a link on YouTube to the casting director and that kind of got me the part. So after they saw me attempt to do it and not totally fail, and they knew that I was motivated to try it, they gave me a chance.

Did you take part in the secret stand-up shows before shooting?

Yeah, when I flew out to LA to do pre-production, they had me do stand-up with the entire cast, and that was the first time I'd ever really done it. And in the movie, Daisy is doing it for the first time as well. She's in that time of her life where she's just starting out, so it was very easy to get into that character. But you know, even when we were shooting and I was doing stand-up in the fake comedy clubs they'd built on the soundstage, the extras that were sitting there are an actual audience and I was still trying to make them laugh. I think that's what Judd liked about it, that I was so like the character. He wants real people.

He's been criticized at times for not really "getting" female characters.

I think he understands female characters. I think the cool thing about Daisy in this film is that he wanted Daisy to be more than just a love interest. He didn't want me to just be the girl that the boy has a crush on; he wanted me to find my own voice and be just as weird and crazy as the guys. The way that Judd works a lot of the time is that we'll be shooting a scene and we'll be improvising, and he's really big in giving us ideas in the moment, like shouting out and pitching us jokes. I think a lot of those jokes are pitched to the guys, but I found that when I was shooting with Jonah and Seth, a lot of those were jokes that anyone could say, and he was like, "Aubrey, why don't you say it?" So it was pretty cool. He definitely let me be weird and funny.

And you also have Scott Pilgrim vs. the World coming up, with Michael Cera. Your character, Julie Powers, could be described as "difficult"...

Julie Powers is a crazy bitch! She has a big chip on her shoulder. She's a supporting character who pops up a couple times in the film and is confrontational toward Michael Cera's character. Every time I'm on-screen, I yell at him.

Aubrey, I'd like to walk you through a couple of the IMDb topics created in your name and give you a chance to respond. You ready?

Ready!

This first one is from "Fish_Flake1209," and it says, "This girl's name sounds like a shopping mall. I could imagine the place I go to drop off my dry cleaning to be located in Aubrey Plaza." I'm sure that's a new thing for you to have heard, that the name "Plaza" could evoke images of a shopping mall.

[laughs] I've heard that all my life. All I can say is that I think it makes sense for me. I think I'm more than a person and I compare myself to a shopping center every day of my life.

This next one is from "the--legend," who wants to know, "Is Aubrey Plaza dating Andy Samberg?"

I am not dating Andy Samberg! Andy is a good friend of mine, but I'm not dating him. I think he has a girlfriend? Or, at least, he did have a girlfriend.

Fuck "the--legend" for spreading those rumors.

[laughs]

The last one is from "eyes-wide-open," and it says, "I was in a show with her!! It was called 'The Bo Peep Case.' I was nine and she was 16 I believe. She's amazing and very funny. I love you Aubrey!!! Congrats on everything. R.I.P Heath Ledger 1979-2008."

What? [laughing] Oh my God, "The Bo Peep Case" is haunting me.

What is "The Bo Peep Case"?

"The Bo Peep Case"! That was totally real, and I played the evil villain. It was this one-act play in my hometown at the Wilmington Drama League Community Theater, and I think that girl's name was Lucy. I feel like I remember her. She was maybe playing, like, a little newsboy. Or a chicken. Wow. That play was full of Oscar-worthy performances.

Sounds like Lucy is a big fan of yours, but still very broken up about Heath Ledger.

I know. I am, too. ♦



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