Aubrey Plaza won’t let herself be reduced to a stereotype, which is to say the snarky snappy character she plays on Parks and Recreation. “I am not that person,” Plaza maintains in a phone interview with Free Press Houston. “I like to chill just like everyone else; I watch really bad reality television, eat chocolate chip cookies and play basketball. I get the stereotype comment because that’s what everybody in my neighborhood think when they meet me. But it doesn’t prevent me from showing what I can do.”
Plaza’s role in P&R was written specifically for her, just as was the role in the new film Safety Not Guaranteed. “[Writer] Derek Connelly wrote the script with me in mind,” Plaza relates. “He’d seen my small role in Funny People and said that that was what inspired him. The script itself was in various stages of development for the last couple of years with myself and Jake Johnson attached.”
Johnson plays a West Coast magazine editor who recruits a couple of interns (Plaza and Karan Soni) to help the publication track down the anonymous person who’s placed an ad looking for a time travel companion. Not oddly Safety Not Guaranteed revolves around an advertisement much like the early ‘70s De Palma film Get To Know Your Rabbit hinged on a newspaper ad that offered a life changing opportunity. In the case with Safety Not Guaranteed the meme was taken from a similar ad that was featured by Jay Leno on that show’s weird newspaper ad segment and that ran thus: “Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. … You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”
“The producers were having trouble completing financing when Mark Duplass joined the cast as well as became an executive producer,” Plaza adds. Duplass, part of the brother team along with his sibling Jay, is a go-to name when it comes to getting films made. Plaza’s other recent films include the recent Damsels in Distress and the upcoming A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, the latter film from Moonrise Kingdom co-scripter Roman Coppola. Plaza explains how on Damsels, where she plays Depressed Debbie, the writer/director Whit Stillman was very adamant about the delivery to the words in his script.
During Safety Not Guaranteed Plaza first meets Duplass after successful surveillance on the post office box leads her to his job at a supermarket. Plaza improved a moment where she takes a can of soup Duplass is stocking and puts it there without looking at the shelf. “That was a tough shot because we did it until I got it exactly in place with my hand behind my head while I was looking and speaking directly at Mark.”
Plaza worked with the comedy group The Upright Citizen’s Brigade at the start of her career. “You take their classes, I auditioned and was accepted.” Many of their skits can be found on line. Plaza laughs: “I owe my career to the internet in some ways.”
— Michael Bergeron