Parks and Recreation will venture outside of Pawnee this season, with some of the characters setting up shop in the nation’s capital.
In the season four finale, Ben (Adam Scott) accepted a job offer in Washington, D.C., and when season five premieres on Thursday, Ben and April (Aubrey Plaza) will be working together in D.C.
The show’s new setting offers the actors an opportunity to rub shoulders with some real-life politicians. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, will cameo as themselves in the upcoming season.
“I think they are used to kind of having a poker face and keeping close to the vest, so acting comes really naturally to them. They were really good,” Scott tells The Hollywood Reporter about working with the politicans. “[Barbara Boxer] and Olympia Snowe were both really sweet. They were really nice.”
Though no other political guest stars have been announced yet, the two actors do have their own wish lists. While Scott jokingly says that Abraham Lincoln would be his dream guest star, both he and Plaza name a couple of living politicians who they would love to work with.
“Hillary Clinton. And Bill Clinton. I want to meet them,” Plaza tells THR.
“I think Hillary would be the ultimate for Leslie,” adds Scott, referring to Amy Poehler’s character, Ben’s politically-obsessed girlfriend.
Ben and April’s move to D.C. also throws some challenges into their relationships with Leslie and Andy (Chris Pratt), respectively. While Plaza describes Andy and April to be “still very much in love and married,” Scott notes that the long-distance element added into both couples’ relationships will provide some obstacles. Leslie and Andy will be visiting their significant others in D.C. in the upcoming season, though Scott warns that Leslie may not have the easiest time fitting in.
“You would think [D.C.] would be Disneyland for [Leslie]. She comes here with a proposal for Pawnee, and she kind of feels very, very small when she comes. She’s in the middle of the machine of Washington, D.C., and sees April and I kind of thriving here and really being among the power players. It’s a really interesting contrast to being a big fish in a small pond in Pawnee,” Scott says.
The new setting will see Ben and April interacting with each other more than previous seasons. In terms of the characters’ dynamic working together in the upcoming season, Scott teases that “April pretty much makes Ben’s job much more difficult than it needs to be.”
Parks and Recreation returns Thursday, Sept. 20, at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.
On “Parks and Recreation,” Aubrey Plaza plays April Ludgate-Dwyer, the laconic, snarky former intern who hides her big heart and acute intelligence very well. “Parks” returns for its fifth season this Thursday, and the 28-year-old actress spoke with us about her “weird person” persona, April and her husband Andy’s sexual connection, and her love of magic.
How is it being back on “Parks”?
It’s been going well. It’s been a really different vibe for the first couple of episodes because April and Ben are in D.C., and I’ve been stuck with Adam Scott all day long, which is truly a nightmare. A living nightmare. It’s different, but I’m getting used to it. Thanks for asking.
You guys did some scenes with real politicians, like John McCain and Nancy Pelosi. How was that?
It was really hot. And fun. I got to meet Sen. Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe. They were very nice to me, but I kind of stayed away from all the politicians. I can’t say I follow politics extremely closely, but I’m definitely aware of what’s going on in the world. It’s like a weird parallel universe, the politician world and the actor world. There are a lot of similarities, actually. D.C. feels like a big set or something. I can’t explain it, but it didn’t feel completely unfamiliar.
Well, you’re all public figures; you have people come up to you who know things about you.
Yeah. I think both the senators and the cast have that similar experience. So when we meet each other it’s like we’re telling each other that we both understand how that feels. So we’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s nice to meet you.” But it was really cool to meet them. It’s funny because when you’re on a show like “Parks and Rec” there’s so much pretend politics, pretend congressmen and city councilmen. And when you meet a real-life person, you’re like, “Oh, wow, they’re actually making a difference. Actually doing stuff. That’s kind of cool.” They meet me, and they’re like, “Oh, she’s actually just … a weird person.”
It seems like in some interviews, you do maybe try to come across as the “weird person.”
I’m assuming you’re talking about talk shows and stuff like that? I can’t deny that I’m like April. She’s like me. I helped create that character, and I’m me, so of course there are a lot of similarities between us. But April is like an exaggerated version of part of myself. And when I’m in interview situations, on camera, I’m just so terrified and so insecure and I try to build a wall around myself to protect myself. It’s more of a coping mechanism than anything, but I do find it more fun to mess with people than to just tell people about what I did over the summer. Why should anyone care, anyway?
It’s always interesting to me how actors can be really shy, but totally unembarrassable when playing other people.
I’m like the most “embarrassed as myself” person I know. I’m like that person who hates going to magic shows — and I love magic, I love wizards — but going to a show where there is any possibility of audience participation is a nightmare for me. I’m like that person in the very, very back who, when they put the light on somebody in the audience, I’m hiding because I’m embarrassed.
I like that you go to magic shows often enough that you know where you like to sit.
Yeah, I go to magic shows all the time because I like to torture myself. I go and then I cry. And I enter in the back and hope to God that no one picks me.
Did you do magic when you were little?
No. Not really. I never had a magician mentor. But my mom, when she was younger, she was a magician’s assistant for a while. And I always thought that was pretty cool.
Did she do the get-sawed-in-half trick?
Yeah, she got cut in half.
That’s awesome! Are there pictures of that?
No! I think there’s like one picture of it, and you can’t even see anything. I’m so mad. I always just want her to get more pictures. My mom has really weird things in her past that sometimes come up. She’s very quiet about it, and then randomly she’s like, “I was cut in half when I was your age.” And I’m like, “What?” She’s like, “I was a magician’s assistant for a month.” And I’m like, “OK, I had no idea. You’re the weirdest person I’ve ever met.”
You were in a movie this past summer [“Safety Not Guaranteed”]. Is it nice to work on projects other than “Parks”?
I love being on “Parks,” and I hope “Parks” lasts forever. We were joking yesterday at this Google Talk thing, and someone made a joke about the show being on for 15 more years and Amy was like, “I hope to God that we’re on for 15 years.” And we all feel that way. I never want it to end. But at the same time, there’s so much other stuff I want to do. And doing movies is so much fun for me because I can totally get out of the April zone and do other stuff, learn and grow in other ways. So there’s pros and cons to everything, but I’m so happy to be on the show. I never want it to end.
You have a bunch of movies coming out in the next year, right?
I did five movies in a row last hiatus, and they’re all coming out now. The movie that is coming out on Valentine’s Day — “The To Do List” — that’s my big movie that I’m gearing up for. I have some other supporting parts coming up, but my next leading part is on Valentine’s Day.
So when you’re on hiatus you try to work as much as possible?
Yeah. I get really weird when I’m not working. I have to keep working.
What happens when you’re not working?
My brain short-circuits and I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know why, I just need to always be working on something. But this hiatus, I have to say, I actually did take a little bit of time to myself and tried to do normal things like not do anything for a day.
Does it make you anxious to be on vacation?
I’m totally an anxious mess all the time. There’s a constant dialogue going on in my brain, and it’s just reminding me of all the failures that I have had, and all of the things I need to do, and all of the things I’m not doing good enough. Work is great for me because it focuses all of my weird energy into something that has an immediate purpose, so I think that’s why I like it. But that’s something I’ll get better with over time. I have no perspective on myself. In my head, I’m 17 years old and I have done nothing in my life. I forget that I’m on TV. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that. This is a really strange job, to always be feeling like you never know if the show is going to get canceled, or if you’re not going to get another movie, or if people aren’t going to like you anymore. It’s a really fucked-up job, not a good job for people who have brains like mine. But now it’s too late for that, so I’ve got to just figure it out.
But there is some part of you that knows it’s actually all going really well?
I am just a worrier. I get it from my mom. I worry constantly about everything, but I’m capable of feeling like everything is OK. I feel like this is therapy now.
Sorry. I’ll change the subject. I was going to try to ask this more politely, but I don’t really know how, so … how much do Andy and April like having sex with each other? Is that what’s underpinning their relationship?
That is one of the things, yes. We have discussed that and we try to make that obvious on the show, that they’re very physically attracted to each other. And they have a weird kind of sexual thing going. But, I think that’s just one thing.
Do you feel like April is the grown-up in that relationship?
I think that sometimes does become the dynamic. But I think that they complement each other really well. April does wear the pants in the relationship, but — at the same time — Andy is this big bear that can scoop her up and protect her, and that is also grown up. So I think it works both ways, and that’s why they’re really perfect for each other. Because April can be big in the relationship, but then she can also be really small with him. And he can take the reins, too. Even though he’s not the brightest guy, from a Neanderthal perspective he’s a “man’s man.” And I think that as a human being, April is smart enough to realize that he’s a good partner for her and he will provide for her in the most basic sense.
April’s intelligence and competence have both been coming through more and more.
Yeah. I think that was always the idea with her. Or that was always the idea in my head: You have a girl who is working for a place that she doesn’t even give a shit about, doesn’t care about anything, but underneath that she’s actually really intelligent and can get the job done probably better than anyone else. But she was hiding behind a mask of not caring. But now it’s kind of coming out. As the show’s gone on you’ve seen her grow up in that 19-to-25 range, which I think all girls go through. And I think that’s a really important time for girls to come out of college and become adults, and you’re watching her do that on the show.
Do you feel like by the end she’ll have ambitions that she’s willing to state publicly? Or do you think she’s always going to be a little bit too much of a hater?
I don’t know. I have no idea what will happen, but my hope is that she will have some ambitions but still hold on to her April-ness, but she’ll be channeling her energy into something really cool.
April has an a unique relationship with the camera. All the characters look at it, but the camera is sort of the only person she tells the truth to. She’ll make sweet faces to it sometimes, and have reactions just for it. Is that intentional?
I don’t think it’s a conscious thing that anyone’s doing. It’s not like, “OK, let’s keep up this April-camera relationship.” But I think that because it has happened over the years, it’s something that we continue to do. It is kind of cool that she has this weird, unspoken connection straight down the barrel of the lens. But it’s not something we’ve discussed where we’re like, “And the camera guy, eventually you’re going to know that he’s April’s brother” or something weird like that. But, I don’t know, maybe that would be cool if like April was behind the documentary the whole time and no one knew.
I read an interview a while ago now, I think with John Krasinski [of “The Office”], where he talked about how it was really hard to stop looking directly at the camera once he had gotten in the habit.
Totally, totally. I forget what the first movie I did after I shot season two of “Parks and Rec” was, but I was looking right at the camera. It was a really serious film, and I was just looking straight down the lens. Like a child. It was embarrassing. You just get used to it. It’s weird to be in a situation where you’re acting, and you can totally do whatever you want. There’s no limitations. You can look at the camera and break the fourth wall. It’s really freeing, but it definitely makes other projects different. You have to rein it in.
Do you watch other shows?
Yeah, I do! I watch TV. I watch a lot of reality TV. I watch a lot of cooking shows. I watch really bad TV and I watch really good TV. I just watched the full season of “Girls” on my iPad recently, I just finished it. I’m so late to the party, but I always watch things way later than everyone else does. I watch “Bad Girls Club,” which is the most entertaining show I’ve ever seen in my life. And I love Louis C.K.’s show. There are too many shows, I can’t keep up with them all. But I’m trying really hard.
Is it different watching TV now that you’re on TV?
Yeah, a little bit. It’s almost like I would rather not watch a comedy. I used to be such a huge fan of “The Office” and “30 Rock,” and I still am, but I tend to not watch those shows as much because … I don’t know why. You watch shows that are similar to yours and you just think about work. So I watch “Bad Girls Club” and I just turn my brain off because I’d rather not think when I’m watching TV. But that being said, I love shows that make me think.
Do you spend a lot of time on the Internet? There’s so much “Parks” stuff out there.
I think a lot of the cast is the same in that we’re not totally every night going through all the blogs and seeking out what everyone’s saying, but every now and then Amy will mass mail all of us a funny drawing someone did that she found online. Or like a funny mashup video on YouTube that fans have done. We definitely all appreciate all the fan culture. If there’s something out there that’s getting a lot of attention, we’ll probably end up seeing it eventually. But the Internet is kind of scary. There’s so many positive things out there, especially for the show. But I get a little nervous going online and seeing things and checking things out because the Internet is also negative. And I just kind of have to be careful and not get distracted by that, and focus on what’s important.
Do people approach you on the street? I could imagine that people wouldn’t bother April that much.
It doesn’t happen that often, but I’ve had some interesting interactions. I was in the airport a week or two ago and this little girl, who is like 10 years old, came up to me. And she looked like she was about to cry. And I was like, “Are you OK?” And she was like shaking like, “Um, um, um … are you April?” And I said, “Yes, I am.” And then she started crying. I mean, she broke down in tears. And I thought something was wrong. I thought she was scared of me or thought I was going to be mean to her, and I was like, “I’m really nice. Everything’s OK. I’m nice.” I was like, “Here, take my hat” and was giving her things out of my purse because I didn’t know what to do because I’m not used to that happening. It was a moment where I was like, “Oh, little girls know who I am.” But she was definitely afraid of me. I think sometimes people think that I’m going to not be nice or something.
Did one of her parents surface to explain what was happening?
Yeah, her dad came up behind her and was like, “She’s a really big fan of the show. She loves you. In the car on the way here she was doing her April impression.” And I’m just like, in my head, thinking, “What is a 10-year-old’s impression of April?” I cannot even imagine what that is. But whatever it is, it’s awesome.
Aubrey Plaza Goes from Deadpan to Drama With Safety Not Guaranteed
Filed Under: Interviews • Posted on June 25th, 2012 by admin • Comments Off
Aubrey Plaza is taking the summer off from the Pawnee Parks Department to go back in time. In the sci-fi dramedy Safety Not Guaranteed — expanding to new cities this weekend — she keeps her signature scowl (mostly) in check, playing the polar opposite of her Parks and Rec counterpart. As a Seattle Magazine intern, Darius Britt not only takes initiative, but also takes other people’s shit — with half the snark.
Given that this is her first foray into a leading dramatic role, it helped that the character was crafted specifically for her by writer Derek Connolly, much like her Parks character April, whom she helped brainstorm with co-creator Greg Daniels during her audition. But Plaza couldn’t help but be skeptical when she first received the script.
“I was very excited, but I was afraid that it was going to be bad!” she said with a laugh. “I hadn’t done very many things up until then, but I was very flattered. And I read it and I liked it, which made it even more awesome.”
In addition to her crafted character, it was the movie magic that drew her to the script. “There’s something about the movie that feels very familiar; it has this sort of magical quality that I think Back to the Future and those movies in the ’80s did,” Plaza said. “But it’s also very unique and different — it’s about time travel, but it’s more about the relationships and the characters within.”
In the film, Plaza trades April’s dismissive intern duties for a gritty internship-turned-investigative-reporting gig, diving into the thick of it with her subject, a would-be time traveler named Kenneth (Mark Duplass), with whom she forms more than just camaraderie.
But Plaza is quick to point out the unconventional differences — this isn’t a romantic comedy. “Love stories tend to have stereotypical characters that can fit into boxes, but in this movie, you can’t really place any of the characters,” Plaza said. “They’re all very three-dimensional and feel fully realized to me; they feel like real people. It’s like these two people who both have baggage and a lot of history fall in love and have a connection in a world that makes that difficult to find.”
And when it comes to her leading man, she couldn’t have hoped for a better partner in crime. “I think Mark and I just instantly had a connection. You can’t really predict how two people are going to interact on a screen or plan chemistry — it just happens,” she said. “There’s a realness to our getting to know each other and the trust-building dynamic, and that element helped me the most.”
As the movie progressed, Darius underwent quite a transformation, one that Plaza links with the pair’s budding romance. “For me, it’s the love story of it all. I don’t think I was ever able to map it out in a logical way, but I always felt every scene was a step toward the end transformation that is fueled by falling in love with Kenneth.”
While Plaza notes that she’s never dealt with a traumatic family tragedy like the one that drives her character, she connects with Darius on another level. “I relate to the idea of meeting someone that really changes you, because I feel like there are many people in my life that have opened me up in different ways, so that really resonated with me.”
And when it came to putting this character together, Plaza (who recently received the Young Hollywood Award for Breakthrough Performance of the Year; see below) brought aspects of her own personality to the role. “I obviously bring all of my insecurities along with me to any role that I tackle,” Plaza said with a laugh. “There are always parts of me that come out in the characters that I play — it’s the only thing I have to work with and to draw off of.”
Even though she is mostly known for her icy stares and sarcastic snark, Plaza hopes Safety will be the first of many dramatic roles. “This movie will definitely be a step — I hope — to be considered as a dramatic actor, or at least an actor that can do lots of different things,” she said. That was always my hope, from when I was a kid.”
With a character so specific and distinguishable as April Ludgate-Dwyer, breaking away from her deadpan roots to dramatic film won’t be an easy path — but Plaza is prepared.
“I like challenges, so maybe in the long run it’s actually a good thing because it makes me work a little bit harder,” Plaza said. “And maybe it surprises people a little bit more; if they think of me as April and then I come out and I do something totally different, it’s more interesting than if they knew I could do it all along,” she added with a laugh.
With her career rapidly rising — including five movies due out in the next year, one of which is the leading “Tracy Flick-esque” role in the star-studded sexcapade comedy The To Do List — Plaza does have her reservations. “I feel like I’m peaking now — maybe I should just call it and quit!” she exclaimed with a laugh.
For now, Plaza is dreaming about her own time travels, bringing along Bill Murray and her band of ‘actor-y misfit friends’ — which includes Alia Shawkat, Michael Angarano, Mae Whitman, Michael Cera, Sarah Ramos, and Jake Johnson.
“We would be like The Avengers and all have special powers and go back to the ’60s or the ’40s and just hang out,” she said with a laugh. “Just drink and smoke and be awesome.”
Filed Under: Interviews • Posted on June 21st, 2012 by admin • Comments Off
Given that she’s known for playing sarcastic, dry-humored April Ludgate on Parks & Recreation as well as other deadpan rolls in Judd Apatow’s Funny People and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, viewers might be surprised to watch Aubrey Plaza shed a few tears in her latest film, Safety Not Guaranteed. The flick, which opened last Friday, sees the actress as a magazine intern who assists a reporter (PAPER’s 2012 Beautiful Person Jake Johnson) with tracking down — or stalking — an eccentric man in Seattle (Mark Duplass) who’s posted a classified ad looking for a companion with whom to time-travel. Here, we chat with Plaza about the film, her character’s future on Parks and Rec and some great advice Amy Poehler once gave her.
So you just got back from Romania where you were shooting a movie?
Yeah, I just got back a couple of days ago.
How was it?
It was great but it was a really short trip. I was there for almost a week. Even though I’m a small part in that movie [The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman], it was a really cool experience. I shot with Shia LaBeouf. I think he’s an amazing actor.
Have you seen the new music video from Sigur Rós where Shia goes full-frontal?
Only in my dreams have I seen that. No, I haven’t seen it yet but he told me about it.
Would you ever do an artsy music video? Or, for that matter, would you do nudity on-camera? You haven’t had to do that yet, if I’m not mistaken?
No, no. I’ve been in my underwear and I’ve done one scene where my bathing suit top supposedly flies off and I’m topless but you only see me from behind so no, I haven’t been blessed with a naked part yet. It’s hard to say though. I don’t have any rules about anything so it’s more like, “if it happens, it happens.” I’m definitely the first one to say that I have no idea what will happen or what I will do next. So…maybe.
Let’s talk about Safety Not Guaranteed, which came out last week. How did the role come about?
The writer, Derek Connolly, actually wrote the script with me in mind, hoping that I would like it. He told me that he saw Funny People and he was inspired specifically by that performance. When I got the script, I really liked it so I immediately told them I wanted to do it, which is not how it always happens because scripts are not usually good…a lot of them are not good.
And it’s not everyday that a writer writes a part specifically for an actor.
Totally. I was so flattered. That said, I did have an immense feeling of pressure about living up to his expectations of what he thought I was going to do because I basically went up to Seattle to shoot the movie and no one had seen me read it or do anything. I did a lot of work [beforehand] because I felt like I had to prove myself.
One of the central storylines in the movie is about how you and your colleagues stalk Mark Duplass’ character. Have you ever stalked anybody?
I have to be honest and say that I think in high school, my two friends and I stalked the principal a couple of times. We followed her home and sat in the car outside of her house. Really unexciting. It was the most boring stakeout in the world. Nothing happened at all. I think we ate McDonald’s in the car.
Have you ever stalked a romantic interest?
No. Boring answer.
A lot of people have been talking about the fact that Safety Not Guaranteed shows a character with a broader emotional spectrum than some of the other parts you’re known for playing — these droll, sarcastic, dry-humored roles. How similar or different do you think you are to your deadpan counterparts?
I can be very sarcastic and dry. Actually, when I was in Romania, one of my scene partners was this British actor and he couldn’t believe how dry I was. He was like [does British accent], “You’re so dry!” And that was just me, not in character. But I think when I’m up against a floppy-haired, quirky, happy British person, I must seem dryer than normal. I am sarcastic and whatever but that’s one part of me and some people don’t even see that side of me at all. Other than that, my sense of humor is the same. I’ve only done one character up until now where her sense of humor was totally different from mine.
Which one was that?
The character I play in The To-Do List, which was called The Handjob at first. It’s a movie that hasn’t come out yet but will come out next year.
What can you tell us about it?
I play this character who basically is obsessed with homework and achievements and she takes the summer before college and makes a list of all the sexual things she needs to learn how to do with guys so she’s prepared for college because she’s been told that she will be unprepared if she doesn’t figure all that stuff out first. She treats it like a homework assignment but accidentally becomes a raging slut because she’s really…good at homework. That character’s not like me at all. She takes everything literally and is very earnest. That was actually really fun to play because I’m not like that.
What were you like in high school?
In high school I was actually President of Student Council, president of a lot of things and always wanting to be in a leadership position. So I do have similarities with the character there, which is what I used in the movie. I was definitely involved in high school. I was popular but not in any cool way.
You were the “involved girl.”
I was friends with all the teachers. The teachers loved me.
Are you in touch with any of these teachers?
Yeah. I have one, my drama teacher, Mrs. Lynch, who I see every Christmas during the holidays. She’s very proud. She’s awesome. I did a lot of theater outside of school at the community theater so there are people there that I still keep in touch with. My dad is actually organizing a screening of Safety Not Guaranteed in July and we’re gonna throw a screening party fundraiser for the community theater that I used to perform at. So there you go. I’m still involved. I’m still trying to organize activities for everyone.
Switching gears a little, let’s talk about Parks & Recreation. What would you like to see happen to your character, April, next season?
I have no idea what’s going to happen. They haven’t told me anything. I know that Leslie Knope is going to be taking over City Council because she won the election. So that leaves a gaping hole in the Parks Department, and I have a feeling that April’s going to have to assume a lot of new responsibilities. I’m hoping so because I think it would be pretty hilarious if she ended up taking over the Parks Department after starting five years ago as a lowly intern who hated everyone. I think that might be the direction we’re heading but I have no idea for sure.
Have you been at all surprised by the reception the show has gotten over the years? It has such a rabid, cult following. Did you anticipate that?
No, I really didn’t. We’ve all felt like at any moment, the rug is gonna get pulled out from underneath us because our ratings aren’t spectacular like some shows. You always feel like you’re struggling but then recently in the past couple of years, out of nowhere, we realized that “Wait a minute, people are actually into this even though the numbers aren’t reflecting that.” That was a huge surprise to me. It’s really hard to have perspective on things that you do on-camera or whatever. But at the same time, I’m not surprised because I think our cast is really special and Amy [Poehler] especially sets the bar high and she’s so good and she’s such a good person. Everyone on the show loves each other and I think that’s palpable. People can actually tell when they watch it. It’s a good vibe.
Has Amy given you any notable advice, from one comedienne to another?
One time she told me to “smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.” I say that to myself every morning when I wake up.
A chat with Aubrey Plaza of ‘Parks and Recreation’
Filed Under: Interviews • Posted on June 19th, 2012 by admin • Comments Off
Aubrey Plaza has become Hollywood’s poster girl for sarcasm. Many of her roles — as Seth Rogen’s quirky girlfriend in “Funny People,” the obscenity-spewing Julie Powers in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and, most notably, the consistently dour April Ludgate on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” — have cemented her image as the 20-something woman most likely to say, “Whatever.”
But in the new indie film “Safety Not Guaranteed,” currently in theaters, Plaza branches out to play Darius, an intern at a Seattle magazine who bonds with a man (Mark Duplass) determined to travel back in time.
The 27-year-old Wilmington, Del., native recently did a bit of time-traveling with us during a telephone conversation in which she reminisced about summers at the Delmarva beaches, her obsession with Judy Garland and her recently established “unspoken connection” with Bill Murray.
QAs someone who grew up in Delaware , did you ever go to the Delaware beaches when you were a kid?
Plaza: Oh, yeah — I spent my summers there. I spent my summers at Rehoboth or Bethany Beach or Ocean City.
Did you rent a house when you would go?
Plaza: My parents would always rent a house. They would either rent a house a block from the beach or they would go on the bay side. Some years, we would stay on the bay side and go crabbing and do all that kind of stuff. And then as I got older, senior week started happening. And then you’d go to Dewey Beach and rent a house with your friends and try not to get arrested.
There’s a moment in “Safety Not Guaranteed” where your character asks another character what era he would visit if he could go back in time. What’s your answer to that?
Plaza: I, for the longest time, have been a crazy Judy Garland fan. I mean, I was obsessed with her growing up. It was unhealthy. The first thing I think about is going back in time to see her live or hang out with her or, I don’t know.
I would totally go back to the ’60s and see some of her crazy concerts at the Palladium or something, you know? I’m fascinated by that.
Did the Judy Garland thing start because you saw “The Wizard of Oz”?
Plaza: No, although I do love “The Wizard of Oz.” To be honest, I did this project in seventh grade, I think, where I had to . . . do a report on the ’60s, and I had to profile people that were alive or died during that decade. And I randomly chose Judy Garland because she died in 1969, so I did a whole thing on her. Then I started reading all of these different articles about her and doing all this Internet research about her. And I kept coming up with different explanations of her death, and it just really — I turned into Nancy Drew or something. I was like, “Some people say that she committed suicide. Some people say it was an accidental overdose. What was it? How did she die?”
I don’t know why, but I took that project on myself because I was so fascinated by her, and then I started listening to her music because of that, and then I started watching her movies. I remember seeing “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “A Star is Born” and just feeling completely in love with her and feeling like she was just the most amazing performer that’s ever existed. It all spun from a homework project. So something valuable came out of homework.
I read a piece about you in New York Magazine in which you talked about a film [A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swann III] you just shot with Bill Murray. You said you developed a friendship on-set. I found that interesting because he seems like he would be intimidating.
Plaza: Yeah, he’s one of the most intimidating people I’ve ever met. I suspect that maybe — I’m not on that level of intimidating . . . but some people, I feel, are afraid of me sometimes. I connected with him in that way a little bit.
We had an unspoken kind of connection, I feel. If I can speak for him. Which I can’t.
You just did.
Plaza: Yeah. I don’t know. The first time I saw him, I was in the trailer, and I was just looking in the mirror. . . .
He walked in and looked at me in the mirror, and I looked at him in the mirror, and we just kind of had a stare-off. We didn’t say anything to each other.
He kind of looked me up and down, and I looked him up and down. He kind of nodded and then walked away. And I was like, well, that’s it. We’re best friends now.
He’s one of my heroes. Just being around him for even a minute was really special to me.
Cardio Bums Out Aubrey Plaza, But Nespresso Makes It Okay
Filed Under: Interviews • Posted on June 19th, 2012 by admin • Comments Off
Aubrey Plaza plays the eternally sullen (and eternally awesome) April Ludgate on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. She’s also the star of Safety Not Guaranteed, a feature-length time travel dramedy that premiered last week (and that’s getting great reviews). Here’s a look at her food-related life.
I’m the worst person to ask about a morning routine. I’m all over the place. If I’m working, I get up around 6 AM sometimes. If I’m not working, I sleep as late as I can. I’d say 11 AM, on average.
My brain does not work until I have at least two or three shots of espresso from my Nespresso machine, with the little pods. It’s pretty great. I usually make a double–sometimes triple–almond milk latte.
I like breakfast, but I really like brunch. I’m not the best at allowing myself enough time for it, though, so usually I have a pretty rushed almond milk latte, an apple, a handful of almonds, and maybe some Greek yogurt. But if I’m really on it, I’ll wake up and have a latte and make myself some toast with almond butter or Nutella and an apple. And if I’m really ambitious, I’ll have an egg. Hopefully someday, I’ll have a fully realized poached egg with f**in’, kale salad, who knows.
Also in the mornings, I stare at myself in the mirror for a while and say, just to myself, “don’t f**k this up.” Mostly when I’m not even working–when I have one of those days where I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m really good with structure, but when I have no structure, I’m all over the place. I’m lucky if I don’t spend the entire day watching Bravo and staring at the wall.
I do a lot of stretches, though, and a lot of yoga. Ever see that Ingmar Bergman movie, Scenes from a Marriage? You know how in the morning, they get up and do the weird Swedish stretches? I like to think that they’re Swedish, anyway. I kind of do that, and I kind of improvise. Cardio bums me out, but I love yoga. I love anything that’s really calming. I think I hold a lot of tension in my body.
When I decide to cook dinner, there’s an anxiety buildup that goes on for two days in advance. Even a simple dinner–just the idea of shopping, cleaning up while you go along. I get really mean. I should maybe pop some pills.
I’ve recently been interested in trying to cook Puerto Rican food, so I’ve been grilling my grandparents about their recipes. I want to learn how to make it when I’m still young, so I’m not like middle-aged and still don’t know how to make good rice and beans.
Working on a TV show is pretty great for food, because they get to know what you like and what your dietary needs and concerns are. The food on the set of Parks and Rec is always awesome: there’s a lot of almond butter and apple snacks. Carey, our craft guy, makes us awesome healthy food, this prairie chicken salad that’s really great, deviled eggs that are amazing–just little snacky foods. Sometimes we have oats-encrusted chicken wings.
Nick Offerman eats exactly like Ron Swanson. He’s always introducing me to new cocktails. For his birthday party, he had a bartender in his kitchen making amazing cocktails. I had a Penicillin.
But everyone on the show is really into food. Chris Pratt and Nick want to eat all the time, Aziz is the ultimate foodie, and Rashida and Amy and I are all into food. Food is not the focus on movie sets, though, especially the indie movies I’ve been working on. Getting the shots going is the focus. When I made a movie last summer–the name isn’t even decided yet–we were in such a time crunch to shoot scenes that I just forgot to eat half the time. So we had to do one of those food delivery services. It’s like a robot that comes off a truck and shoves food in your mouth, basically.
I have to say, though: I hate bananas, I hate popcorn, I hate chips, I hate hard pretzels. I don’t like hard bread, either–I have a hard time eating sandwiches when the bread is really hard. Crunchy and mushy are two textures I just can’t stand.
Aubrey Plaza has earned a following for playing sardonic city hall assistant April Ludgate on “Parks and Recreation,” but she hopes her first leading film role, in the Sundance hit “Safety Not Guaranteed,” which is now playing in limited release, will be a great leap forward.
“I was looking to do something that allowed me to break out of the sarcastic, deadpan comfort zone,” she explains over iced tea and chicken fingers at the Hotel Amarano in Burbank, Calif., after filming a spot on “The Tonight Show.” It also didn’t hurt that writer Derek Connolly penned the part of Darius — a magazine intern who answers an oddball man’s ad for a time travel partner — for Plaza after seeing her in Judd Apatow’s “Funny People.”
“No one’s ever done that for me before, and he created characters who felt like real people,” she says. “You can’t really place Darius and Kenneth [Mark Duplass] into stereotypes like the dork falling for the popular girl. They’re just people who have issues who fall in love.”
The next 12 months should bode well for the 27-year-old Delaware native, who filmed five films back-to-back last year.
“At the end of it, I got pneumonia, actually. I worked myself until I was hospitalized, which is how I like to do it. I like to just blow it out until I’m almost dead,” she says with that trademark deader-than-deadpan delivery.
She also has the lead in the comedy “The To Do List,” due next year, in which a Type-A overachiever attempts to cross everything off her sexual checklist before heading to college.
“It’s very dirty,” says Plaza of the movie, which also stars Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rachel Bilson and Alia Shawkat. “I’m awkward enough as it is, and I haven’t done a lot of sex scenes, but in this movie, I really get it all out,” she laughs.
Also in the pipeline are the high school reunion comedy “Ten Year” with Channing Tatum, Justin Long, Kate Mara, Ari Graynor and Rosario Dawson, and “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III,” in which she plays the assistant to Charlie Sheen’s man with a midlife crisis.
She’s also at work on a number of scripts which she might like to direct someday (she studied writing and directing at New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts), and heads to Romania this month to film “The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman,” with Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood.
When she’s not working, Plaza makes her home in Los Feliz, Calif., where she hosts the occasional viewing party for Food Network’s “Sweet Genius.” But her guilty pleasure is Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club.”
Says Plaza, “They get a bunch of them in one house, and the only rule is they can’t punch each other in the face. There’s no prize, it’s just who can be the ringleader. It’s pretty brilliant.”
Filed Under: Interviews • Posted on June 13th, 2012 by admin • Comments Off
Aubrey Plaza isn’t used to leading roles. Sure, she has a decent part on the NBC ensemble sitcom Parks and Recreation, but when she appears in films, it’s usually in small supporting roles. So her experience as the lead in Safety Not Guaranteed, the quirky romantic dramedy that opens in San Diego on Friday, June 15, was very different from what she’s used to.
“It’s terrifying,” she tells CityBeat. “It’s something that I wanted for as long as I can remember, so it was also amazing, but I was so scared. I’m used to getting in there, doing a couple of scenes and getting out. I was always conscious of wanting to have a real, honest transformation from the beginning to the end, which I think is your job as a lead.”
Plaza is front and center in Safety Not Guaranteed, in which she plays Darius, an awkward young Seattle 20-something who lives with her dad (Jeff Garlin) in the wake of her mother’s death and is trying to determine what to do with her life. She’s interning at Seattle magazine, and it’s there that she ends up driving with another intern, Arnau (Karan Soni), and a pompous writer, Jeff (Jake M. Johnson), to a small town to do a story on the guy who posted a classified advertisement looking for a partner with whom to go back in time. There are no guarantees when it comes to time travel, apparently, ergo the film’s title.
Yes, it’s awkward and strange, but the movie is pretty charming, too, and it’s about more than just a guy who thinks he’s working on a time machine. The guy is Kenneth, played by Mark Duplass, best known for his mumblecore work and the cable show The League. Duplass and his brother Jay are executive producers on the film, and their involvement was one of the deciding factors in getting financing. Plaza says that until they came on board, the film was in limbo, which was too bad, because she was dying to do it.
“The writer, Derek Connelley, wrote it with me in mind. That’s how I came to it,” she says. “No one had ever done that for me before. I was really flattered. He had seen me in Funny People and used that performance as inspiration for the character. I read it and immediately said that I wanted to do it.”
The movie is sweet, and often very funny, and for Plaza, the work was completely different than what she’s used to at her day job.
“It’s fun and satisfying in different ways,” she says. “When you’re doing a movie, it ends—you know, it starts and it ends. You have to give it all you’ve got in this window of time and try to bring real life to it in that particular time in that character’s life.” On her TV show, she says, she knows her character April Ludgate so well that the writers can throw anything at her and she can respond without a problem. But film is different. “You don’t have as much time in a movie,” she says. “Everyone’s different, but for me, I feel that I have to do a lot of work before I show up to shoot it. It’s a little less spontaneous. You have to be prepared and really know what you’re doing and where you’re going at every moment.”
In some ways, the time travel in the film is really a metaphor for the parts of our lives we wish had turned out differently. Every character wishes he or she could get a do-over for parts of their past, which isn’t so different from real life. But the movie doesn’t hit the audience over the head with that idea. It has some sci-fi undertones, but, mostly, Safety Not Guaranteed is a showcase for Plaza and her deadpan style of comedy. As she says, “In this one, you’re kind of stuck with me.”
Filed Under: Interviews • Posted on June 12th, 2012 by admin • Comments Off
Name five actresses you assume participated in sports and other activities in high school, including being president of the student council. Aubrey Plaza’s not on that list, is she?
Despite the 27-year-old’s remarkably convincing, deadpan disregard for productivity in NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” Plaza says in high school she was like Tracy Flick in “Election.”
“I was very Type-A,” says the Delaware native, who now lives in LA “near that grocery store.” Her senior year superlative? “Most Likely to Become President and Make Fun of Myself on ‘Saturday Night Live.’”
Plaza displays more determination and passion in her first big-screen starring role, “Safety Not Guaranteed,” opening Friday. She plays Darius, a Seattle Magazine intern who takes charge investigating an ad posted by a man (Mark Duplass) looking for someone to accompany him on a time-travel expedition.
After seeing Plaza’s dry, breakout turn in “Funny People,” Derek Connolly wrote “Safety Not Guaranteed” for her, creating the story from a real mid-1990s magazine ad. In “Safety” she’s funny as always, with extra helpings of subtle perception for both romance and lingering heartache.
Soon to be seen with Bill Murray and Charlie Sheen in “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” and starring in the sex comedy “The To-Do List” (with Andy Samberg, Donald Glover, Bill Hader and Rachel Bilson), Plaza’s career is undeniably heating up. Right now, though, she’s shivering. “I keep asking them to make it warmer but they don’t know how,” says Plaza from a “very cold” conference room in Beverly Hills. “I’m freezing my ass off, and I’m just eating an entire bowl of grapes.”
When you meet fans do you sense that they expect to see in you the characters they see on screen? Gerard Butler told me fans ask him to kick them. Do fans want you to snap at them?
Yeah. I feel like people approach me with this attitude of, “Oh, this girl’s going to be a bitch to me.” Or, “She’s going to be super sarcastic” or, “She’s not even going to care” and I think it’s kind of funny. And sometimes I do kind of give that back, but it depends on what mood I’m in.
Has there been one interaction that stuck with you?
One time a little girl came up to me—I forget where I was—and she kind of just stared at me and I was like, “Hi,” and I leaned down and started talking to her and she was like, “You’re not mean!” And I was like, “No, I’m nice.” [Laughs.] And she was little, so it was funny to have a little person whittle you down to one word: “You’re not mean.”
And all just from saying hi.
Yeah. [Laughs.] She didn’t think I would even say hi to her.
You could have picked her up and thrown her over a fence.
That’s true. I could have. And I wanted to.
All interviews about you acknowledge if you’re actually like the characters you play. Why do you think that is? Stories about Kristen Stewart don’t talk about if she’s actually torn between vampires and werewolves.
I don’t know. Maybe the positive way for me to think about it is maybe I’m so convincing as these characters that people just assume that that’s me. But I’m really not sure. I think also the way that I came into the professional way of acting was through “Funny People.” Judd Apatow took a risk on me and put me in that movie, and when you’re an unknown actor and you all of a sudden are starring in a major studio film and you’re playing a character like Daisy where I was this standup comedian—I was sarcastic or whatever—once you create this, that’s what people think that you are. I only furthered that by doing other parts that were similar. I think people just see a couple things that you do and then just think that that’s you. I think the same thing happens all the time. I think it happened with Michael Cera, who’s a very close friend of mine, who did a couple movies and people just assume that that’s how he is in real life, but he’s not like that at all.
You talked about this dramatic part being scary for you. What was scary, and what did you learn?
It was terrifying because I usually play small, supporting roles in movies where I come in for a couple days and try to be funny and make people laugh, and then I leave but I don’t have the weight of the film on my shoulders. Having that challenge was scary but awesome, and it’s been my dream since I was a kid to be a lead in a movie so I loved every second of it. I worked really hard on the script months before we shot. I was just focused on always being aware of what emotional moments [Darius] was going through in each scene and having that track and having her transformation feel organic and real and come full circle. I wanted that really badly. But it was scary … I felt like it was a good, organic way to show people that I can do more instead of just coming full on to a movie where I was just totally different. Which I would love to do, but unfortunately it’s hard to get producers to take a risk on you when they’re so used to seeing you a certain way.
The title “Safety Not Guaranteed” is a disclaimer of sorts. If all people had to have a disclaimer, what would be yours?
Oh my God. “Objects in the Mirror Are Closer—Larger Than They Appear.”
Are people frequently surprised you’re as close to them as you are?
Yes. People turn around and I’m right there, and they’re like, “Whoa! What the [bleep]? I thought you were over there.”
You suddenly have access to time travel. What would you need to bring with?
[Bleep.] I don’t know. Maybe some apples, some snacks, ’cause you never know what kind of food you’re going to run into; my iPhone and also a large cell tower and the technology for the Internet. I could just carry that around in my backpack. I don’t know. I’m terrible at time traveling.
What happened the last time?
I couldn’t even tell you. I’d have to jump forward and backward to figure it out.
I love April and Andy’s relationship on “Parks and Recreation.” What would it be like if they had a child, and how likely is that to happen?
I want a child so badly on that show. Every episode I did last season I would do a talking head and talk into the camera and say my lines and then I would always add, “And also, I’m pregnant.” And then they’d be like, “Cut. Do not say that. That’s not in the script. You’re not pregnant.” And I wanted it so bad and they have not given it to me. And I fear that I want it so bad that it will never happen. But I think April and Andy would be the most amazingly terrible but awesome parents in the world. I hope to God that they impregnate me with a TV baby but we’ll see.
What would that kid be like?
The most ADD nuisance in the world, just all over the place but then maybe also very mellow. It would be a very weird combination of crying and hiding and being crazy and not crazy.
Did you ever hear from Sarah Silverman about your impression of her?
No, I mean, we’re like friends. That was so long ago. When I made that video it was just solely for my audition for “SNL.” It was never meant to elicit any reactions for anyone. It was more just a work thing that I was doing that somehow, because of the nature of the Internet got—at the time that I posted that video I was an unknown actor just trying to do anything. So I think that changed, turned into this other thing, but Sarah and I are totally friends. It was never a weird thing at all.
I was just curious if she said anything in support, or if she’s ever impersonated you.
She did punch me in the face once. Is that what you want to hear?
On Chicago: “Chicago reminds me of comedy and Second City and all of the greats that came out of that. That’s really what Chicago means to me. I’ve never spent a lot of time there. I’ve only been there for one night. One time I drove across the country with my ex-boyfriend and he told me to meet him in Chicago and we’d start the drive in the morning, so I flew there and then we spent one night in Chicago. I didn’t even know where we were. Some place called Old Town maybe? And we went to Second City and we left, but I hear it’s great.” On major news/changes involving every NBC comedy except “Parks and Recreation”: “I just feel very lucky. I feel lucky to be on that show. I’ve always felt lucky to be on that show. I think everyone on that show we never feel like, ‘We’ve made it! We’re going to be on forever!’ We always feel like at any moment the rug can be taken out from underneath us. So we had no idea what to expect with the pickups and all that. We’re just lucky to have another season to hang out and have fun and be those characters.” On her “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” co-star Bill Murray: “He’s just one of my heroes. So spending any time with him was intoxicating. I loved him so much. He’s the funniest man alive. That was just a really intense experience. I was hanging out with him and Charlie Sheen. What an interesting group of people.”
Guilty pleasure movie: “Oh God, I have so many of them. Do you mean, is it a bad movie I just can’t help but watch over and over again? I liked ‘Serial Mom.’ That movie’s so weird but I love it so much, and I could watch it over and over again.”