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.