Movies + TV

Aubrey Plaza: Phantom Raider

Our favorite stare master discusses her cheery alter ego, lab safety, and Justin Bieber’s subconscious penchant for vaginas.

Collage by Minna

If there are two things I find refreshing, they are milk with ice in it, and Aubrey Plaza. One of these items is especially refreshing because she brings us, on Parks and Recreation, April Ludgate, a good, dry, eye-rolling girl character the likes of which TV hasn’t seen in too long a time.

Also refreshing is the way she began her comedy career: by making web videos with a couple of friends out of suburban boredom.

This refreshing being then put up with older comedians grumbling about her success after Judd Apatow started getting her standup shows, and I think it’s refreshing that she just focused on how awesome she is and left other people to deal with it instead of apologizing.

When we started talking I was nervous in telling her I’d forgotten my questions and couldn’t improvise many good ones. But her inherent coolness refreshed my black heart, and by the end of our conversation, the inside of my chest cavity felt like a photograph on a water bottle label of flowers made out of Winterfresh gum blooming in May against the springs of Iceland.

Basically, she’s refreshing because she does a lot of cool stuff because she wants to, and we less interesting people get to benefit by having our culture livened up a bit, despite her deadpan delivery.

And now I bring you: my interview with a glass of milk.

Just kidding. It’s Aubrey Plaza.

Tavi: I wrote questions for you in my chemistry class but now I can only find my chemistry homework.

Aubrey: What chemistry class are you in?

The … bad one? I don’t know.

Wait, how old are you?

15.

My sister turns 15 today. She’s in the car with me.

Hi and happy birthday, sister!

Tavi says hi. Renee says hi.

Hello, Renee. It’s been a long day and my brain is farting so I might just have to ask you about lab safety instead of thinking of real questions.

That’s really weird, because I was a safety lab officer in chemistry class. I was really bad at science, and I just tried to talk my way through all those classes, so I asked my chem teacher if I could do extra credit because I was failing my tests and stuff, and she told me if I was safety lab officer I would get extra credit. I made T-shirts with my friend that said “Safety Lab Officer” on them, and then we would walk around and, like, tell other people how to handle their beakers. And somehow I passed that class.

That’s a very hefty responsibility.

I kept the T-shirt, too. I have it somewhere in a drawer. I sleep in that T-shirt whenever I’m sad.

If you could go back in time and be in any teen movie or TV show, which would it be?

I would be Janeane Garofalo in Reality Bites. Because she’s amazing, she was my hero, she’s so funny. She’s so funny in that movie. Or I would have to be Winona Ryder. I love Winona Ryder too. I would be either one of them. I would also totally be … oh, what’s her name? In Roseanne?

Darlene?

Darlene! I would totally be Darlene. She was awesome and I love that show so much.

All good roles. Have you ever gotten to meet Janeane Garofalo?

I did actually get to meet her. I did a standup show with her two years ago and it totally blew my mind, because she was actually the first person I ever saw do standup. In high school I drove up to Allentown, Pennsylvania, and saw her standup and I was so psyched about it and then I got to do a show with her and it was awesome. She was really cool.

That’s one of those weird moments where the universe is all together in one place for a moment.

It was really magical. I don’t really get star-struck that often, but she was someone who I was really nervous to be around.

What other comedians did you look up to?

Well, Adam Sandler was a big one for me, too. When I was growing up I watched Billy Madison like once a day, probably. And I loved him and then I got to meet him and that was pretty crazy.

Meet him? Weren’t you guys in a movie [Funny People, 2009] together?!

Yes! [Laughs]

When someone really cool guest-stars on Parks and Rec, is it easier to be relaxed about it at this point? Because I think I would forever have a continuous anxiety attack.

It’s weird, I don’t have the anxiety attack when I meet people in the makeup trailer, but then when I go and do a scene with them … like Parker Posey was on our show last season and I totally loved her growing up, too. I was obsessed with her. And when I met her in person I didn’t really freak out, but then when we were shooting the scene and she was in it and the cameras were rolling and we had lines with each other, I couldn’t even believe it. I was just like, I can’t believe I’m in a scene with her.

That seems pretty surreal. Are you guys done shooting the fourth season now?

No, we’re just in the beginning. I think next week we’re on episode five, so we’ve only done four.

And it’s going well?

Yeah, it’s going really well. We’ve already had some guest stars that have been really fun, like Patricia Clarkson was on two weeks ago. And we made out. Which was weird.

That is very weird and will be awesome.

[Laughs] Yeah, and Chris Pratt, who plays Andy, April’s husband, on the show—the two of us got to take a trip. I can’t tell you where because I was sworn to secrecy, but in one episode, Andy has a bucket list that April and Andy decided to complete, and there’s a crazy destination on this bucket list that we end up taking a road trip to. It was the first time that I ever got to travel to shoot the show, and it was so much fun.

That is fun. Wait, isn’t Patricia Clarkson going to play Tammy 1 or 2 or whichever one it is? [The Tammys are Ron’s ex-wives.]

Tammy 3. No—Tammy 2. No! Tammy 1! What am I talking about. Sorry … wait …

Now everyone will be mad at you.

I know! Shit. OK, so Tammy 1 is Patricia Clarkson, Tammy 2 is Megan Mullally, and then Tammy 0 is on the show, too—Ron’s mom.

Oh! That exists?!

That exists. And that’s something that no one knows. And they will be shocked to find out that there’s a Tammy 0, and Tammy 0 is [played by] Paula Pell, who is an actress-slash-writer on SNL and 30 Rock and she is amazing. She’s so funny.

Now someone has to start a band called the Tammys.

Fine, I’ll do it.

Good. What’ll you play?

I’ll play piano and you can play the drums. Or we can have an a cappella group called the Tammys.

Not to brag or anything but I’m, you know, in a very serious and popular a cappella group at school, so that should be, like, no problem.

Seriously? I always wanted to do that, but we didn’t have one.

I think in high school there are some nerdy things that you love but are a little ashamed of, and I’m glad I did this one.

I support you. That was my whole high school experience, doing nerdy things that I loved.

Like lab safety officer.

Exactly.

Were there any others?

Oh, so many things. We didn’t have a mascot, so I created a mascot for the school and made my own costume and I kept it in the trunk of my car, and I would drive around to all the games and show up as this character I created called the Phantom Raider, and I had, like, this mask on and a cape and stuff, and I would run around and get everyone pumped up and then I would get back in my car and drive away. And everyone knew it was me but I pretended I was this mystery.

Exactly like Hannah Montana.

That’s right. Me and Miley Cyrus have so much in common. It’s crazy.

Was this agreed on with the school? Now I’m so curious about it.

No, it wasn’t. I actually got in trouble. I climbed up the scaffolding in the gymnasium and I pretended like I was gonna fly off of it, and the nuns yelled at me. But then when I graduated, the school recognized the mascot. They’ve made it something now called the Spirit Officer, or something? And they pass the costume down to whoever is elected for that position. So now it’s like a legitimate tradition, and my sister was that person.

That’s a nice legacy. Did you say a nun yelled at you?

Yeah, we had nuns. I went to a really strict all-girls private Catholic school.

That’s so intense!

I know.

I’d want to do that for the aesthetic pleasure and then I would leave.

I feel the same way about public school. I’m still so jealous of people who went to the all-American high school. I was in an all-girls school my whole life up until college.

That’s why you have to play Darlene.

I know! I wish I could play Darlene.

Do you think that you would ever play a bubbly character?

Yeah. Actually, I just shot a movie called The Hand Job, where I play a character like I’ve never played before. She is not sarcastic or depressed or ironic in any way. She’s the valedictorian of her class and she’s really focused and determined and Type-A, like a cheerleader almost. It’s really different from anything I’ve done, and it was really, really fun for me to kind of get out of the April zone.

Do you ever go home after work and really feel like you hate everything? Like you’re so into the psychology of April?

No, I pick up the April suitcase when I go to work in the morning and I leave it at work when I come home. That was a bad analogy.

That makes sense. That’s good vibes I think.

Yeah. And also, April’s kind of evolved, you know? She doesn’t really hate everyone, she just has kind of an attitude problem—but secretly she really loves everyone.

That’s why the wedding episode is so heartwarming, and all of the subtly paternal Ron stuff … ah! OK, anyway. What is The Hand Job about?

The Hand Job is about a recent high school graduate who has spent all her time achieving academic awards and focusing on her homework, and she graduates and kind of realizes that she hasn’t really had any fun, and she hasn’t really done anything with guys. She’s warned by her older, kind of slutty sister, who’s played by Rachel Bilson, that she must learn how to do stuff with guys before college or she’ll be the laughingstock of Georgetown. So she takes this very seriously and decides to treat sex as like a homework assignment, like a summer work assignment. She basically makes a list of all these things that she wants to figure out how to do with guys, and then she takes it so seriously that she kind of becomes promiscuous without even realizing it, and it causes some tension with her friends. And it’s set in 1993, so it’s like a period piece, and there’s some really amazing awful skorts and clothes happening. It’s kind of like a female Superbad. Bill Hader’s in it, Andy Samberg’s in it. There’s a lot of really awesome people in it. Alia Shawkat is playing my best friend.

She’s awesome. She wrote some advice for getting through high school for us.

She’s one of my really good friends. It was fun to shoot a movie with her, because we got to just play.

1993 and graduation and promiscuity. It sounds kind of like you are playing Janeane Garofalo in Reality Bites.

Yeah, definitely. Kind of.

I can’t believe there’s a movie that takes place “in the past” but it’s 1993. I like it.

I know, that’s what everyone keeps saying, ’cause I keep calling it a period piece, which sounds funny, but it really is. I mean, there’s some pretty amazing art direction in the movie.

There’s this more recent Janeane Garofalo bit about how on Ghost Hunters and stuff, the ghosts are never from, like, the ’90s or the ’80s. But … yeah. I don’t really know where I was going with that. Except the other night, my friend and I did the Ouija board in my room and we actually got a ghost from the ’80s.

A guy or a girl?

A girl.

Really? Like someone that you knew?

No, sadly not.

I just did a Funny or Die video with my friend Allan [McLeod] called “Ghost Walkers.” It’s a parody of a ghost-hunting show and I play this weird witch girl and it’s really witchy and ghosty. You’d probably like it.

I probably would.

And Allan’s really funny. He’s really subtle but he’s really funny. I wanna know what you think about it.

I will watch that. And now the people who are reading this are on the Internet, because they’re reading this, so they’ll open up a new tab and watch it.

Oh, good. Click on that. Click on … this.

This word, right here. Is there anything else you’d like people reading this to look up right now? Just something you wish more people knew about?

I just saw something yesterday that was really funny. It’s this guy who works in one of those stock-photo companies and he pulled a prank on his co-worker where he Photoshopped Justin Bieber’s face into all of the stock photos. And you think it’s gonna be just, like, covering other faces, but he does it in a really weird way where if it’s a stock photo of a can of beans, Bieber’s face is one of the little beans. It’s really creepy, but it’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while, so you should link to it.

I’ll use my Internet skills and find it. [I found it. It’s here.]

Rashida Jones just gave me Justin Bieber’s … perfume, or whatever. The bottle kind of looks like a vagina. I think it’s supposed to be like a flower, like a rose. The petals are, like, rubber petals. It’s really weird and vaginal.

Does it smell all right?

It smells awful. Sorry, Bieber—I love you, but it smells really bad. ♦

The new season of Parks and Recreation premieres tonight on NBC.

29 Comments

  • Naomi September 22nd, 2011 3:17 PM

    wait, tavi, you drink milk with ICE in it?

  • Anna F. September 22nd, 2011 3:23 PM

    ewww, doesn’t the ice melt and make the milk all watery?

  • Marguerite September 22nd, 2011 3:58 PM

    EEEEWWWW! (water milk) – ha ha Justin Bieber’s face is funny :D

  • Hunter September 22nd, 2011 4:09 PM

    AH!!! I love Aubrey!!! This was fun and I read it with her voice in my head. I can’t wait til tonight. 4.5 hours til Season 4!!!!!! Also, I really want to see the Hand Job…

  • Rita Unicornia September 22nd, 2011 4:25 PM

    awesome collages and yes, milk+ ice is awesome… add some sugar.. it would be perfect.

    http://www.ritahasablog.blogspot.com

  • electricbixxh September 22nd, 2011 4:55 PM

    Milk with ice is the only way to drink milk. Once it starts getting warm, I can’t deal.

    This is amazing. Love Aubrey Plaza so much. Can’t wait for Parks and Recreation tonight! It’s like, the only show I’m looking forward to this season.

  • puffytoad September 22nd, 2011 5:16 PM

    I am deeply impressed that Aubrey created her own mascot and ran around doing ridiculous things for everyone’s entertainment. Also, I wish that links appeared under my words when I talk!

  • back2thepast September 22nd, 2011 5:50 PM

    Bahahaha my padre does that! He thinks it’s really smart and clever but it is not. He calls it liquid ice cream! I don’t know. But we still luuuurrve him. Awesome interview! It’s nice to know that other people watch Parks and Rec :]

  • Ginny September 22nd, 2011 6:18 PM

    *DELAWARE PRIDE*

    Also, I will be sure to try milk with ice soon.

  • Charlene D. September 22nd, 2011 6:40 PM

    Hey Tavi!

    There IS actually a 60s girl group called the Tammys, and they are awesome, almost as awesome as the Shangri-La’s!

    But then, you could make covers with Aubrey!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0tU1IZtKEo&feature=related

    but my two faves are:

    Egyptian Shumba (about day dreaming about dancing on the nile)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZWeaSzovHs&feature=related

    and off course Gipsy (on how to get answers about love with…a Gipsy!)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqL63rJNmUs&NR=1

  • Whatsername September 22nd, 2011 6:41 PM

    Ice in milk? Eeeewww.

    Ohmygod I loved Aubrey in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and Parks and Rec is just SO great. Those Justin Bieber pics are cracking me up btw. Great article! <3

  • Bren September 22nd, 2011 7:16 PM

    I love that what most everyone is getting out of this is the Ice + Milk part.

    I can understand that, milk is AWFUl when it gets warmer than ice cold, so problem solved.

    I love Aubrey, I’m still sad I have yet to watch Parks and Rec, but it’s on my very long watch list.

  • September 22nd, 2011 7:19 PM

    Your refreshingly original line of questioning elicited [;-))] some very interesting (and funny) answers, Tavi. And an excellent call on your drink of choice – with summer coming up here, I’ll be trying that for sure <3

  • Tavi September 22nd, 2011 7:44 PM

    MILK + ICE 4EVER OK

    • back2thepast October 3rd, 2011 8:41 PM

      Omigosh. You drink milk with ice???? (cough cough sarcasm intended cough cough for those who didn’t catch that ehhem.)

  • rhymeswithorange September 22nd, 2011 7:48 PM

    That just filled my mega-awesome portion of my day.
    <3 parks and rec! and aubrey!

  • Kailey September 22nd, 2011 9:09 PM

    I loveee Parks and Recreation – such a breath of fresh air when it comes to TV comedies! This interview is wonderfulll, Aubrey is lovely + that collage is gorge :D

  • Laia September 22nd, 2011 11:05 PM

    i loved everything about this but the real issue is ICE & MILK?? nooooo. #thenewnotatomato

  • Peachie September 23rd, 2011 8:32 AM

    I LOVE MILK WITH ICE! I couldn’t drink it any other way.

  • finn September 23rd, 2011 11:32 AM

    I am so excited to know I’m not the only one at an all-girl’s Catholic school to be jealous of the kids at ‘normal’ high schools.
    Thanks Rookie, as well as just being plain amazing you’re also getting me to relate everything to all of my feelings about everything ever (and by that I mean feel less alone).
    Also, The Hand Job sounds awesome.

  • Etiolate September 23rd, 2011 11:15 PM

    Can’t you freeze milk ice cubes?

  • Staceface September 24th, 2011 2:44 AM

    That’s a really good question.
    Aubrey Plaza is quite literally one of the funniest people currently working, righteous interview!

  • Alu September 24th, 2011 8:50 PM

    Love her! Makes me wanna be friends with her!

  • Rachel September 26th, 2011 12:07 AM

    I’m with Ginny.. DELAWARE PRIDE. :)

  • Rose September 26th, 2011 2:23 PM

    The tammys is real!!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZWeaSzovHs

  • Betsey September 29th, 2011 10:33 AM

    This is interview gold. What a great read.

    xo

  • AineFey September 30th, 2011 9:54 PM

    Great interview! I loved her in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

  • saranev October 3rd, 2011 4:50 PM

    OH APRIL!

  • ohcrapafanboy October 5th, 2011 5:35 PM

    Now I wanna read your interview with a glass of milk