Aubrey Plaza’s first turn as a leading lady is, predictably, a little quirky. Her upcoming film, “Safety Not Guaranteed,” is based on an ad-turned-Internet meme, which begins “Wanted: Someone to go back in time with me.”
So it makes sense that Plaza, sitting in the Tuscan-style restaurant of the Bowery Hotel, is now talking about time travel. This then leads to relaying a drunken debate she had with an old friend: “She was like, ‘Time travel’s racist!'” Plaza lets out a laugh and a bit of an eye roll. “Sorry,” she says. “This is the worst interview I’ve ever given.”
“Parks and Rec’s” dry-as-paper muse digresses. A lot. (Earlier, she explained how she talked her way into an NBC online dog-judging gig — and then lost it by blogging about ugly pooches as her Sea Hag alter-ego. “I’m still bitter about it,” she said in her signature drawl.)
While she stays true to her deadpan nature in “Safety,” Plaza does much more than frown and eye roll. Here, she plays Darius, a toilet-cleaning magazine intern who ends up on assignment — along with two others, (Jake Johnson and Karan Soni) — trying to track down the time traveling-hopeful, Kenneth, played by Mark Duplass.
Plaza sat down with Moviefone to discuss her upcoming role, breaking away from deadpan characters and how she and Bill Murray fell in love.
I think you own the copyright on the word “deadpan.” Is that at all frustrating?
Yes. [Silence] No. [Laughs] I don’t know how [being labeled as deadpan] happened, it doesn’t really frustrate me. It would only frustrate me if it prevented me from doing things that I want to do, but so far it really hasn’t. I mean, a little bit, but I don’t really mind it.
So you haven’t found it to be limiting?
Well, not yet, but I’m, like, right at that place in my career…I’m trying to make some moves. But in the next couple years, every part that I go out for that I don’t get or [if] people aren’t taking risks on me because they see me as the glasses-wearing, converse shoes-wearing deadpan person, that would suck. But hopefully that’s not going to happen.
You definitely have an emotional arc in “Safety Not Guaranteed.”
That’s why I wanted to do the movie because I recognized in the script that for me, as an actor, the cool thing about it is that it starts out in familiar territory, and I want to kind of be seen as someone who can do all kinds of things. But it’s hard to make that leap and to not be made fun of or to not be harshly criticized or something. So I’m hoping that doing something like “Safety Not Guaranteed” will bridge the gap, but who knows.
So will we see more emotion in your upcoming movies?
Well, the movie that I am in after “Safety Not Guaranteed” is called “The Hand Job” or “The To Do List”… [Ed’s note: The movie’s original working title was changed from “The Hand Job” to “The To Do List” last June]
Are you pulling for “The Hand Job?”
I’m pulling hard for “The Hand Job.” I’m pulling really hard and fast. Because I want that title, that’s the movie I signed up for, but we’ll see… In that movie, my character, you cannot really use the word deadpan to describe her in any way at all, whereas most of the characters I’ve done up until now you can. But I’m [playing] a type-A, valedictorian. There’s no sense of irony in anything I’m saying or doing. It’s a really different character.
I heard you were about to die from nervousness at the Sundance screening of “Safety”. Were you calmer when the movie screened at SXSW?
Well, I’d seen it at that point. At Sundance, I hadn’t seen it at all — and I hate watching myself to begin with — I’ll never do that again, I don’t think. I was just straight-up terrified at Sundance because I didn’t know how it ended, I just didn’t know. And I don’t trust anyone, anyway. Like, anyone that I work with it’s like, “The movie’s great! You’re going to love it!”… I just look at everyone as potential liars.
In “Safety,” your character deals with the notion of time travel. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Well, I was obsessed with Judy Garland growing up. Like, obsessed.
That’s really surprising.
I know. It’s a really weird little thing but I seriously, like, had a problem. You should see my bedroom growing up, it was [Judy] everywhere. So when I think about time traveling, I’d probably go to someplace where I could see a Judy Garland concert. Maybe in 1965 or something, like [at] the London Palace, and I could just sit there and smoke inside and watch her destroy herself.
Do you think you’re a part of the Judd Apatow crew?
I hope so. I mean, I haven’t been in any of his other movies yet, but I hope that I am in his arsenal. I hope that he sees me like that because I think we have a very special relationship — I really do feel like he changed my life in a lot of ways. His stamp [of approval] helped me get a lot of jobs and then I kind of went from there, so I’ll never forget that. And he’ll never let me forget it! [Laughs]… I consider myself a part of his posse but I could be delusional. Yeah, maybe he hates me.
You’re working with Jason Schwartzman again, and Bill Murray. How was that?
It was pretty amazing. It was one of the best experiences of my professional life. [Bill Murray] is the king of just the world and everything. He’s the funniest person I’ve ever been around. It was like I was on drugs when I was around him: I couldn’t get enough. And we liked each other — we kind of, like, had an understanding. I saw him for the first time in a makeup trailer, I was sitting in there and he came in and looked at me in the mirror and looked me up and down, no expression on his face at all. And I just looked back at him [and] didn’t say anything. I’m like, I’m not going to make a big deal about Bill f-cking Murray. I’m cool, too!
You were having a deadpan stare-off!
Yeah. We were definitely having a stare-off in the mirror. And he kind of just nodded and then left. And then I went to the set and I knew he was going to be there… and he was just sitting [on a couch] and I had these heels that were strappy that I was trying to put on and I needed to sit to do that. And I was like, I’m not afraid of Bill Murray; I’ll sit next to him, no big deal. So I went and sat right next to him. I didn’t say anything to him, I was just struggling with my heels and I was pretending I didn’t care that he was there. And after about a good five minutes he looked over and he went “Do you need help with those?” And then I said, “Yes.” And I put my feet in his lap and made him put my shoes on. And he spent ten minutes strapping my heels on my feet and I was just, like, laying in his lap. We hadn’t even said hi. And that’s when we fell in love.
It was one of the highlights of my life.
It sounds really sexy.
Yeah. It was very sexy. It was really sexy.
Would you support another ‘Ghostbusters’ movie?
Only if I was in it — I mean that with all my heart. I’m a very selfish person. If they made a “Ghostbusters” movie with anyone else in it and I wasn’t in it, shame on that movie. If I was in it, if they cast me as a Ghostbuster, it’d the best movie of the last 10 years. Hands down. That’s really how I feel.
“Safety Not Guaranteed” hits theaters June 8.