Nobody does “jaded twentysomething” better than Aubrey Plaza. The 27-year-old NYU- and UCB-trained actress has mastered the art of the dry wit and judging stare.
And that's not just on the small screen.
Best known for playing human eye roll April Ludgate on NBC's Parks and Recreation, Plaza's deadpan humor has cracked up audiences in such films as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Funny People. It also has made her the poster child for Gen-Y apathy. (Although she cares, really she does — in fact, she was nice enough not to cancel a phone interview despite being bedridden in a New York hotel room with food poisoning.)
Plaza stresses that she doesn't write the dialogue for most of her roles, although her Parks and Rec character was something of a collaborative effort. The part was written specifically for her after she made a strong impression on the show's co-creator, Michael Schur, and because the cast will occasionally improvise, she's had some impact on plot lines.
She understands that it can be hard for fans to separate the actress from the characters. Not only do her roles have a “feeling of realness,” but, she admits, they represent her actual persona: “There's always a part of me that's like that character, because I'm me.
“There's a kind of self-deprecating thing to a lot of the characters that I've played so far,” she adds. “I think if I played the characters as just sarcastic or mean, I don't think people would care as much. I think maybe a lot of the characters that I've been lucky to play are really three-dimensional, too, so they're funny because they're acting like they don't care, but really they do care.”
Intentionally or not, some of this radiates off the screen. Plaza tweets under the handle @evilhag, where she takes on haters, ponders why John Goodman appeared in her dreams and responds to a marriage proposal with “Fine.” She garnered a good deal of Internet buzz when a video was released of her onstage doing an impression of Sarah Silverman (“Hey guys, I'm Sarah Silverman and I just pooped … out a Jewish person”); more recently, she showed off her wickedly intense smile in the video for “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” the new single from former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman, now Father John Misty.
Born in Wilmington, Del., Plaza currently lives in Los Feliz, despite her claims that she never thought she'd ever call Los Angeles home. For that matter, she says, she “never thought I'd be on a TV show, to be honest.”
This summer, in the movie Safety Not Guaranteed, Plaza plays a magazine intern helping New Girl's Jake Johnson research a man looking for a partner to join him in a time-traveling expedition. Her character is emotionally damaged with a heart of gold. And yes, she can cut you with her stare.