Aubrey Plaza is no one trick pony. In fact, in this Friday's "The To Do List," she proves that she has all kinds of versatile skills up her sleeve in the role of Brandy Klark, an ambitious, self-serious, college-bound valedictorian who feels she has a little bit more learning to do before she heads off to college. She may have received sex ed in school but her practical experience is lacking, to say the least. Armed with a Trapper Keeper containing a filthy list of sex acts and very little know-how, Brandy sets out to get it — and herself — done before college. Summa cum laude, indeed.
Playing Brandy is a departure from Plaza's usual gig as scowly April Ludgate on NBC's "Parks and Recreation" — and even from her most high-profile film gig thus far, "Safety Not Guaranteed." NextMovie caught up with Plaza on a rooftop in San Diego's Gaslamp District during this year's Comic-Con to discuss her new movie, the nuances of skorts and how to make realistic fake semen.
"Safety Not Guaranteed" was written with you in mind, and so was this one, correct?
It wasn't written for me, but I think Maggie always had it in mind that I could play the part. 'Cause we met a long time ago.
You guys did "The Jeannie Tate Show" together, right?
Yeah. That's awesome that people know about it.
Is this your first Comic-Con?
No, I was here with "Scott Pilgrim," like two years ago.
Is it overwhelming? What's it like for you?
No, it's pretty fun. I love it. If I wasn't here for this movie, I feel like I would wanna be here anyway, because I'm a big fan of all the movies that are here and the people that are here, so it's fun.
Do you get to do any fun fan things here, or are you always wrapped up in press?
Um, I don’t know. I think there's a couple of times that I can wander around and I think I'm gonna try to find some kind of mask, like a cool costume and join the people.
Are you going to pull a Bill Murray and surprise people? The whole "nobody will ever believe you" thing?
I don't even think I could, 'cause Bill Murray is the king. I don't know if I could do whatever he does, and I don't know people would care as much about me as they do about Bill Murray, but I don't know.
What would you dress up as?
Ooooh, maybe Wonder Woman, that could be cool.
Are you good with a lasso?
Yeah, oh yeah.
You sound like you practice.
Oh yeah. Yeah, it's my lasso time.
How similar are you to Brandy, your character from "The To Do List"? Is there anything taken from your own life?
I mean, not specifically, but you know there's always I think there's always a time in a teenager's life when they're kind of, like, figuring all that stuff out, sexual stuff, and I definitely drew on some of my personal experiences. I went through that, you know? There's a first time for everything. So I kind of definitely related to that. And I wasn't a teenager in the '90s, but I do remember wearing some terrible '90s skorts, skort outfits and whatnot, so I related to that as well.
Skorts could come back, actually.
I think they are, yeah.
I think romper is maybe one degree from skorts.
Honestly, I saw someone wearing skorts the other day, and I asked her where she got them from, and she said Zara. Like, no big deal. And I was like, okay, there you go.
And then you ran to Zara and bought four skorts.
Skorti? What's the plural of skorts?
I'm skorting right now.
OK, and there's a part in the movie where you come up with a very inventive and intimate use for movie theater popcorn butter.
Oh right, oh god. (Laughs) Ahh, this whole movie, I just have flashbacks of like, "Oh my God, people are gonna see that."
Was there anything where you were like, this is too gross?
I mean, yeah … the scene in the movie theater when I give a handjob, and like, there's stuff on my hand, that was one of the most gross moments for me. That was gross. 'Cause I had … They were like, "Let's get a close-up of you moving your hand around." And I did it in a very Brandy way, where I was like, scientifically like, "This is very interesting … uh … matter." But you know, there's just semen on my hand, and that's just, that's weird.
Do you know what they made it out of?
I think it was hair gel, but I could be wrong about that. But I'm pretty sure it was something along the lines of hair gel. Something like that. I'm not the expert on semen reproduction, but …
No, you're right. I am, I am. I am a scientist, and my specialty is semen.
Just own it. What is the best thing about the '90s? You were probably in middle school then?
Yeah, late '90s I was in middle school. Late '90s is very different from early '90s. The best thing about the late '90s, I feel like, were the grunge kind of, like, Doc Martens and purple lipstick and flannels look. That was kind of awesome. "Reality Bites" is one of my favorite '90s movies. I was a big fan of Winona Ryder in the '90s. I think she's kind of the s**t.
Is there anything that you feel like you missed when you were a kid that you found out about while working on the movie?
Yeah, totally. 'Cause we got to listen to all the music from the soundtrack, and wear the clothes and have posters of, like, Jeff Goldblum on our walls, and it totally brought me back. It was really fun.
I saw you quoted that doing the sex scene was a nightmare, which I can imagine.
Yeah, I think I … yeah, I don't know who wrote that but I think I was saying that in a sarcastic way, but yeah, it wasn't a nightmare, it was more of just, it was, ehhh … it's just, when you read something on paper, it's very different than showing up and being like, "Okay, well now I have to masturbate in my underwear in front of everyone." That's different than reading it and laughing. When you're the person that has to do it, it's … I wouldn't say a nightmare, but maybe a strange dream. [Laughs]
A surreal daydream.
I talked to the director, Maggie Carey, the other day. Do you think that it would've been harder to have anyone else directing?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, first off, the movie was very loosely based on her own personal experiences. So having her was kind of key in getting into the character and the story, because she kind of gave us a lot of resources to draw upon, so that was really helpful. And yeah, I don't know if a guy could direct a movie like this because I think there are certain things that girls experience when it comes to sex that guys don't. Guys might not have the same eye when it comes to figuring out how to shoot a scene or what to focus on, and girls, we kind of have a different experience, so having a female director was totally instrumental in making that story come to life in the right way.
Plus I can't imagine an adult man standing over you and directing you on how to masturbate.
"Now, put both your hands in your pants and realistically masturbate. Action."
Kathryn Bigelow directed "Point Break".
Yeah, that's true. I'm open to it all.
There can be good gender crossover. And of course we had some iconic TV characters in the cast, apart from yourself – did you watch "Friday Night Lights"?
Yes, I did. And I know that I watched it, but I wasn’t as totally caught up as Maggie Carey and Bill Hader were. They're super fans of the show. So I had worked with Scott Porter on a different movie, which was when I kind of got the idea of having him in our movie, but I didn’t realize he was on "Friday Night Lights" at the time, but Maggie — I was like, "Do you know this actor Scott Porter?" like thinking maybe she wouldn’t know who he was, and she was like, "Oh my God, yeah, I know him." And so that was kind of a gift. And Connie Britton, obviously. It was like, we just wanted that whole cast to get in on our movie.
Did Connie Britton give you any Mrs. Coach advice or hair tips?
Besides "Here's lube"? Um, no. It was a cool character because she's this sexy liberal mom, so having her dole out advice and drawing me penis diagrams was something I'll never forget.
I have to ask about the MTV Movie Awards — how many degrees do you think you are from Kanye West now?
Ohhhh, I think that is best to remain a mystery. I do love a good mystery.
Using the formula of your first pet and your street name, what is your porn name?
I grew up on so many streets. Noel Bankroft.
Will you take a selfie for us?
Does it have to be my whole face?
You do you.