Aubrey Plaza got her role on Parks And Recreation by wearing jean shorts and "acting weird"
Aubrey Plaza made her bones in Hollywood by playing weird, abrasive young women. It’s a success story that proves the old adage, “Be yourself!” Because in being delightfully weird and abrasive in real life, Plaza managed to land the first three major roles of her career all in the same week: Funny People, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and Parks And Recreation.
In a new interview with The New Yorker, Plaza explains that she was flown out to Los Angeles to test for Funny People after she faked being a stand-up comedian at her friend Donald Glover’s stand-up show. From there, casting director Allison Jones sent her on a few other meetings, including with Scott Pilgrim’s Edgar Wright and Parks’ Mike Schur and Greg Daniels. “Again, I had no idea that that was even an audition,” Plaza says of the latter. “I was wearing jean shorts and just acting weird, according to Mike Schur. I don’t know what I was doing that was weird; I just didn’t know how meaningful the meeting was.”
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Schur “always says, like, ‘And then I met the weirdest person I’ve ever met when she walked in.’ And I’m still, like, ‘What did I do that was so weird, other than just be myself?’” the actor elaborates. “All I remember is that I was a huge fan of The Office, the meeting was on the set of The Office, and I kept seeing Mindy Kaling and B. J. Novak walk by. I was, like, ‘Oh, my God. They’re on The Office.’ I couldn’t believe it. Because I had never been on set like that before. . . . so I was distracted.”
Luckily, Daniels entered and shifted the vibe back to strange, as he’s apparently someone who can match Plaza’s natural capacity for weird. “I don’t remember who started the conversation, but one of us said something along the lines of ‘What do you think happens when we die?’ Just an easy softball question. I also think there was a yo-yo involved—there was something that we were passing back and forth,” she recalls. “And then we were talking about death, things got really dark, and Mike was just sitting at the opposite side of the desk watching us, like, ‘What am I watching here?’ I think he’s probably used to people throwing themselves at him, like, ‘Oh, I gotta get this part.’ And my attitude was just, like, ‘I don’t care about you. I’m trying to figure out what’s gonna happen when we die, dude!’”
Schur and Daniels envisioned that she might play an “assistant character” for Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, but Plaza pitched April being a college intern coming off of her own recent experiences. “I mean, in the original pilot, the character’s name was Aubrey. They literally wrote the character as me—a heightened version of me, I would say,” she adds. “But then the funny part about that, too, is that I had to audition to play myself, because the network didn’t know who I was.”
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