Aubrey Plaza, who stars as Amy Poheler's bratty and slothful intern April on the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation, breaks onto the big screen with a role in Judd Apatow's Funny People, set to be released July 31. I got a chance to speak to the half Puerto Rican, half Irish actress and discovered that she doesn't fit into any one mold. All her life, Plaza, 24, has been one of the guys—the ultimate guy's girl. And now, she's the girl among the guys in Apatow's highly anticipated comedy, which also stars Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen. Take the time to get to know Plaza, a woman who is redefining what it means to be a Latina comedienne.
I can't wait to see Funny People! Who do you play in the film?
I play Daisy, a young stand-up comedienne who's just moved to L.A. and is new to the area. She moves into the same building as Seth Rogen's character, Ira, and Seth's character lives with two other guys and they're all young, up-and-coming comedians. She makes friends with them and gets in with their circle, but she causes a problem between the guys because Ira really likes her, but she goes out with Jason [Schwartzman's character].
What's Daisy like?
She's a lot like me: really weird and sarcastic. She's also the girl amongst the guys, which I find is usually the case with comedy. The comedy world is very male-dominated.
Speaking of being one of the guys, what was it like working with almost an entirely male cast that includes Adam Sandler, Eric Bana, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman?
I have to say, it felt very familiar to me! It was a lot like hanging out with my friends at the Upright Citizens Brigade [an improv school in NYC] because most of them are guys. I'm kind of used to being around lots of guys. I think that's why it worked so well! Seth and I played well together, and I wasn't just the girlfriend—I got to be one of the guys!
But that's the story of your life, right? You've always been just one of the guys!
I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. It's funny, I went to an all-girls high school pretty much from fourth grade until I graduated from high school. In high school, we had a brother school, and it always ended up being me and a bunch of guys. I needed to get away from girls after being with them for eight years!
Then you joined the ultimate boy's club: film school.
At NYU, my major was directing and writing for film, and there were lots of guys!
So what was it like working with Judd Apatow?
Judd is really into improvising and coming up with different things to say in every take. Improv is something I've been doing for a while now. I kept up with them, and I brought something to the table! I wrote all my standup material for the film too.
Still, you almost didn't get the part in Funny People, right?
I auditioned for the movie last spring on tape, and the tape was sent to Judd of me doing scenes from the movie. That went over really well. I got a call back where Judd brought me in to read with Seth Rogen and that also went really well. But in August, they still hadn't made a decision, and the casting director said their only problem with me was that they wanted to cast a comedienne in the film—Judd wanted someone who did standup. So I asked, "What if I tried to do it?" I booked myself in this really small show in Queens, and I had my friends tape it. I put it on YouTube, sent it to the casting director and two days later, they offered me the part. That was the first time I ever did standup—when I was taping it to send it to Judd. Two weeks later, they flew me out to film the movie.
Is it true Funny People got you your gig on Parks and Recreation?
Allison Jones, the same casting director who hired me in Funny People, cast Parks and Recreation. When I was in L.A. over the summer, she had me meet Greg Daniels, the creator of the show. It wasn't an audition. I had no idea they were thinking of me for the show. She thought they would really like me, and it went really well. They had decided to write me into the show based on that conversation. I found out I had been cast around Thanksgiving, and it was a really big shock to me.
By the way, your impression of Sarah Silverman is dead-on! [See video below.] I don't think anyone on earth can do it the way you did it.
That was my audition tape for SNL! I put my Sarah Silverman imitation up on Youtube because I was trying to audition.
Had you always wanted to be on Saturday Night Live?
That has been my dream since I was a kid: to be on SNL. When I was a kid, I was a big SNL nerd, and I was probably too young to watch it.
How did the audition go?
I sent them a DVD and got positive feedback. But then I got offered Funny People, and had to go shoot it for four months. So that ended me pursuing that. At this point, I don't think it would make sense for me to be on SNL, because I got cast on a TV show and I don't think I'll be able to do it. SNL is great for people that haven't done anything else before, because you get to know them on SNL, and then they do movies and stuff. I'm doing it the backwards way. Now I have a new dream: to host SNL.
You're also in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World opposite Juno's Michael Cera. Who do you play in that movie?
I play Julie Powers, a kind of crazy bitch. She's this really bitchy coffee shop barista/record store employee who is the girlfriend of Steven Stills, the lead singer. She is downright mean. The movie is mostly guys and most of my scenes are with Michael Cera. It's a supporting role.
Check out Aubrey Plaza doing Sarah Silverman for her SNL audition: