The rising comedic star talks about this new DVD, Parks and Recreation, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and more.
Around this time last year, I was reading up on Judd Apatow's new directorial effort, Funny People, since I was going to be visiting the set of the film. Among the huge names in the film was a newcomer named Aubrey Plaza, and, if the newcomers in Apatow's previous two films were any indication (See: Jonah Hill and Charlene Yi), I figured this young comedienne was surely on a pretty damn good path. Of course, that was before we knew her as the hilariously deadpan April Ludgate on the wonderful NBC comedy Parks and Recreation and the actress also has the highly-anticipated Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World coming up as well. I recently had the chance to speak with Aubrey Plaza for the new Funny People DVD and Blu-ray release on November 24, and here's what she had to say.
I was wondering how you first heard about Judd's script and how the whole casting process went about for you? Who was already attached when you first heard about the film?
Aubrey Plaza: Well, I didn't know much. I didn't read the script, I didn't really know anything about it. I knew it was Judd's movie and that Seth (Rogen) and Adam (Sandler) were going to be in it. That's kind of all I knew. Allison Jones cast the movie and I had met her, just kind of generally, a couple of months before. She told me then that she was on this movie, but she wasn't going to tell me what it was until later. I knew something was going on, but I wasn't sure what it was. I was in New York at that point and she had me put myself on tape. I just did the scenes and improvised with my friends and sent it to L.A., just hoping that they would actually watch it. I heard a couple of months later that Judd did watch it and he really liked it, so I came out to L.A. to have a callback and I read with Seth, in front of Judd. That was terrifying but it went really well. I hadn't heard anything for a month after that and I knew I did well but I wasn't really sure what the hold-up was, what they were looking for. I found out that they had really wanted to cast a stand-up comedian. At the time I wasn't doing stand-up, so I kind of took it upon myself to start doing stand-up and taping myself and sending it to him. So that's kind of how I got the part. It was a three-step process, I guess, where the final step was, I think, the most important, sending bits of me actually doing jokes and having him actually see me on stage with a mic, in front of an audience, that it was possible that I could pull it off, to be this young, stand-up comedian.
You have an improv background, I believe. What was it like getting into stand-up mode, as opposed to your improv background?
Aubrey Plaza: It was really tough. Improv is so different, it's such a collaborative thing, you're working with other people, nothing is planned and it's kind of this community mentality, whereas stand-up, you're alone and it was really hard. Having to stand in front of an audience and have it be your job to make them laugh, you can't really look to anyone but yourself. It's what you wrote, what you said and how you said it, so it's kind of terrifying, but I liked it. When it goes well, it's the best feeling in the world. When it doesn't go well, it's the worst feeling, but once you get into the rhythm of it, I think it's really fun. Also it's a good exercise for writing, for me, using my brain in that different way.
I know the DVD and the Blu-ray that are coming out are both just packed with extras, with a lot of bonus stand-up material. Is there a lot of these unseen bits from your performances on here then?
Aubrey Plaza: Yeah, definitely. The first time I ever did stand-up was in Queens and it was the first time I had done it and I taped it and sent it to him. After I got the part, a couple of weeks later, he brought me out to L.A. and I immediately started doing shows with the rest of the cast, having never done it before. So I went from zero to performing with Adam Sandler in less than a month. It was really a crazy interaction to stand-up, but they had camera crews follow me to every show and tape every single show that I did. I went up multiple times a week and I did The Laugh Factory, all these open mic's and they sent camera crews everywhere. There's a ton of shows on the DVD, a lot of me bombing on stage, which I'm sure will be fun for me to watch (Laughs). So yeah, a lot of failure, but it will give you a good idea of how I got to where I am now.
This has to be just a dream movie for any comedic actor. What was a normal day on the set like with all these comedic heavyweights?
Aubrey Plaza: It was really surreal. Adam is one of my heroes and getting to work with Seth and Jonah (Hill) and Jason Schwartzman, every single person in the movie was amazing. It was really scary at first, but everyone was so welcoming. Judd, it's really important to Judd that everyone gets along and it's like a family atmosphere, so he really embraced me and everyone there did, so I felt comfortable immediately. Also coming from UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) and coming from a comedy community like that, it actually was a really smooth transition. It felt like just hanging out backstage with my comedy buddies in New York. Seth and Jonah and those guys, they're just normal, funny guys, you know, but I guess they're also famous movie stars.
I'm also a huge fan of Parks and Recreation and it was quite an interesting episode this past week. Will we see maybe a bit more of April and Andy's relationship continuing for the rest of the season?
Aubrey Plaza: Yeah, definitely. I can't give away too much, but you'll definitely see more scenes with myself and Andy. I'm glad you like the show, thanks.
Oh yeah. The show has really been hitting its stride this season.
Aubrey Plaza: Yes, definitely. I'm glad people are watching it.
I'm curious if there's any kind of cliffhanger planned for the midseason break, and if you have any thoughts about how your character might be evolving throughout the rest of the season?
Aubrey Plaza: Honestly, I have no idea (Laughs). I don't read any of the scripts until a week or two before, so I have no idea what's going to happen. I do know that there will be more April and Andy, but other than that, I don't know. The scripts are crazy. Each week, the stuff they have us get into, there's always something that totally surprises me, so whatever it is, I'm sure it's going to be really great. But I don't know what it is (Laughs).
There has been a lot of buzz about Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World as well. Can you talk about the overall experience on that film?
Aubrey Plaza: That movie was crazy. It was a crazy experience, working with Edgar (Wright), who I was such a huge fan of, and Bill Pope was the DP, who did The Matrix and Team America: World Police. He was this genius guy and Edgar's a genius and Michael Cera is like a comedy genius guy. I don't know, it was really crazy. It was really different, coming off of Funny People, it was really strange. The styles were so different. Edgar is so precise and everything is faster and really specific. Working with him was really awesome because I was learning how to work in a different way. I was so used to Judd just turning the camera on and just letting it roll forever, so yeah, it was a learning experience, for sure, but it was so much fun. I've seen 20 minutes of it and its like nothing I've ever seen before. I think it's going to blow people's minds when it comes out next summer.
Yeah, I read about that. I believe it was Jason Reitman that said he saw 20 minutes of it and couldn't stop raving about it. I'm really excited for it.
Aubrey Plaza: Yeah. It's really special. It's such a crazy combination of visuals, the comic book visuals with the awkward comedy with the action sequences. It's got everything and there are really great actors like Michael Cera and Mark Webber and Alison Pill. All of those guys are just amazing actors too, so it's got every ingredient. And Edgar puts his own touch to it, so it's going to be good. I don't even know how I ended up in that movie. I don't remember how that happened, but I'm glad it did.
To wrap up, what would you like to say to maybe your fans from Parks and Recreation or people who might not have seen Funny People about why they should pick up this DVD?
Aubrey Plaza: They should pick up the DVD so they can see me fail miserably on stage, over and over again (Laughs). They filmed every single stand-up show that I did when I was just starting out and it's going to be very hard for me to watch that, but for other people, I think they'll enjoy watching me totally bomb in front of strangers. I would watch it if it was someone else.
(Laughs) Well that's all the time I have. Thanks so much, Aubrey, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season of Parks and Recreation.
Aubrey Plaza: OK. Thanks a lot, man. Bye.
You can bring Aubrey Plaza and a ton of other Funny People home on DVD and Blu-ray on November 24.