You’re used to seeing Aubrey Plaza do comedy with a straight face, but are you ready for her to add some quirky twists to a dramatic role?
The “Parks and Recreation” star offers a fresh twist on her trademark comedy persona in “Safety Not Guaranteed,” bringing a taste of the snarky, sarcastic, eye-rolling style she’s perfected, but then filling in the lines to create a more nuanced character. Playing a young magazine intern who accompanies a reporter (“New Girls’” Jake Johnson) on assignment to investigate a man who’s taken out a classified ad seeking a companion to join him on a time-traveling mission, Plaza demonstrates a depth and romantic appeal only hinted at in her sitcom stints.
Plaza filled PopcornBiz in on the “serious” new phase of her career – but not without a little snark and sarcasm, too.
It was interesting to see how the filmmakers used your distinctive Aubrey-ness in this film, and then also kind of flipped it on its head. How did you approach that, because you've spent a lot of time building that comedy persona?
"Safety not Guaranteed"
Well, that's one thing that I really liked about the script. I want to do movies where I'm doing different parts and surprising audiences and kind of showing them all the different kinds of things that I can do, but when people are used to seeing you in a certain way, especially on a TV show because you're in people's living rooms as this character and it's hard for people to take a risk on someone like that, say, 'Sure, she can play this character and have emotions and people are going to buy it.' But this script, in particular, I felt was like a really organic way for me to do it, to do both almost, in the beginning to be this character that people are almost used to seeing me as. It's a comfort zone kind of thing, but then I kind of slowly changed, and as an actor that's what I want to do. So it's almost like I kind of organically got to do that in a movie, and then now, hopefully, it'll allow me to break away from it completely.
Personally, do you feel more closely to the guarded and cynical side or to the more open and warm person?
I'm a total combination of both. I'm also a million other things that weren't even in there, but it's all coming from a real place, I think. I've only got myself to work with, and so I have to dig somewhere and get that stuff from somewhere. So both of them I connect to on a deep level.
Do you really want to get diverse in genres, like maybe be in the next 'Avengers' movie, something that far afield?
Sure, I'll do anything! I want to do it all. I just want to play really good characters. It doesn't matter if it's a horror movie or an action movie. I could be a fish in a Pixar movie. I don't care. I just want to do interesting things.
Given how successful your comedy persona has gone over, do people want to treat you like your character?
In life? I think so. I think it's funny because sometimes I feel like people are intimidated by me for that reason, and they think that I'm going to be mean or something. So it's kind of fun for me. I don't have a problem with it. I kind of embrace it. It's more interesting than if I was just kind of like everyone else or something.
Did you have a crystal clear moment in your career where you recognized a voice you found that you realized was really you and something you could build off of?
I wasn't thinking, 'Oh, people think that I'm this thing. I have to keep this going.' It was just kind of that those were the parts that I was offered and that I took. I don't know if that answers the question, but also I think I did have moments when I was doing stand-up a couple of years ago for 'Funny People,' when I did kind of have to very quickly create a persona because that's half the challenge of being a stand-up, having good material, but also creating a persona onstage that people respond to. I did have to do that in a really quick time because I'd never done stand-up before. I'm sure that because I hadn't done it before and I was so scared and awkward about it, like, that somehow was infused to my delivery or something. So, it did kind of happen in that way, too.
Do you have another outside-of-the-box gig coming up, something you've already booked that's, again, a departure from what you've done a lot of?
Well, the movie that I have coming out next year on Valentine's Day... and I think it'll maybe be called 'The To Do List.' That character is a total departure, and I'm so psyched about that movie. I'm so excited for it. I play this really Type-A valedictorian that's not sarcastic or weird or depressed. She's kind of a dork, but in a very upbeat way. She's almost obnoxious or something, but she's really different from any characters I've played before, really sincere. There's no sense of irony in anything that I'm saying or doing. And the movie is about her graduating from high school and realizing that she needs to lose her virginity before college and she makes a list of all the sexual things that she needs to learn how to do. She treats it like homework and she's really good at homework and she becomes this kind of raging slut by accident. That was really, really fun for me to play because I totally went crazy with that character.
Do you find that a lot of your fans are sarcastic girls similar to the character you play on 'Parks and Rec'?
I think so. I think a lot of young people…I think maybe the sarcastic, awkward thing, it's really just insecurity. It's an insecurity thing that maybe a lot of high school kids relate to, because everyone feels insecure in their own way. So I'm kind of the face of that or something. I'm not the popular cheerleader, which people want to be like, but I'm the girl that people probably are like because they're not comfortable in their own skin. I'm pretty good at playing that because I'm not comfortable in my own skin, so I get a lot of fans like that.
Do you have an idea of what you'd like to be given to do as your character on the show in the next season?
I would love a baby, but we'll see if that happens. I don't know. It's almost so obvious that I don't know if they'll do it. I've tried for it. Last season, every time I had a talking head, where we're just talking right to the camera, I would always say my lines and then I would also add in, 'Also, I'm pregnant.' They'd be like, 'Cut. You're not pregnant. That's not in the script. No one has told you that you can be pregnant yet.' I'm like, 'Please, please, please, I want to be pregnant.' Maybe because I want it so bad it won't happen, but I would love for that to happen.
What kind of mom would she make?
I know, right? Then Andy as the dad. I don't know what's going to happen. I know that April is probably going to have to take on some major responsibilities now that Leslie is out of the Parks Department. I'm sure that's going to be interesting, to see her kind of take over.
Who are your role models professionally, someone who's career you'd like to channel or be in that zone?
So many people. Growing up I always loved Adam Sandler and his career was something that I said 'I'd love to do something like that,' be this famous comedian on 'Saturday Night Live' and then do my own movies that were my sense of humor and then branch out and do some dramatic parts. People like that I'm drawn to, people that are constantly surprising you. Tina Fey is a big one for me, and Amy Poehler of course. Tina especially because she's generating her own material which is something that I want to do and will do, just in terms of writing her own stuff and writing and producing. It's people like that that I really like, but then I straight up love Meryl Streep and just really good actors. I'm so into that.