An Awkward First Date With Aubrey Plaza
Over the past three seasons of NBC cult hit Parks and Recreation, Aubrey Plaza has grown from sulking teenager, sullenly breaking the fourth wall with an exaggerated eye roll, to integral cog in the show’s ensemble machinery — with a love story that’s not tacked on nor contrived. Her role’s grown so much, in fact, that she’s enslaved part of the cast. “Nick Offerman and Rob Lowe are like my servants on the show,” says 26-year-old Plaza wryly. “My character is getting a lot more screen time, and that means people pay a lot more attention to me as a person. I have more power.”
The dry wit of her screen characters obviously comes from a real place in Plaza’s comedic range. Yet in the actual real world, the Delaware native and former Upright Citizen’s Brigade member offsets laconic drollery with genuine sincerity and a rather focused career ambition. One that includes conquering the comedic world and exploring more-dramatic fare. So if Paul Thomas Anderson or Steven Soderbergh came knocking? “Nope, I don’t want to work with them,” she says, hurriedly following with, “No, I’m kidding, of course.”
Plaza pulls off the girl-next-door look while still seeming like one of the boys. It’s this amalgam of traits that’s made her a topic of conversation in geekier sets of guys. Perhaps they would call her the thinking man’s muse. But beware, if you see her on the street, she’s probably not into you. “Guys think I’m flirting with them because I’m saying weird stuff or making them laugh,” she says as I laugh. “But really, I’m just weird.” And while a decisive rejection, it’s hard not to see some diehard fans not taking cues. Like, oh ... me. “I haven’t had any real stalkers, but I wish that I did. I hope that happens.”
We decided to go on a first date with the most unattainable dateable girl on television. Here’s how it went.
Hello there, Aubrey. My name is Jared and I’m kind of nervous.
Keep in mind that I don’t think I’ve ever been on a first date. So, let’s do this.
I will most definitely suck on this date.
Okay, me too.
This is gonna rule. What do you do for a living and where are you from?
I... am... an actor. Yes, I know. Ha-ha-ha-ha. And I’m from Wilmington, DE. “A place to be somebody”: That’s the town motto.
They have a big bridge there, right?
Yeah. Oh, my God, you know something about Delaware. That makes me like you.
Wow, look, I’m already making progress here.
Well, I like your beard, too. You already get five points for having a beard.
Do you go out a lot or are you more of a homebody? Do you like hitting the bars or making it a Blockbuster night?
What’s Blockbuster? I’ve never heard of that.
Wow, you must be young.
I’m reeeaaally young. Are you into that? But I don’t like to go out that much. I would prefer to watch movies, on a couch. Preferably bad movies.
What kind of movies on what kind of couch?
A really broken-in leather couch and movies that are fun to watch because they’re so terrible, like Troll 2 or The Room. Or a really good movie. I like all movies. I go out to the movies a lot.
But there’s bed bugs in movie theaters now.
I love bed bugs.
I love to read. Are you a reader? What are you reading now?
I’m reading a paperback copy of The Vengeful Virgin, which is an erotic novel about a virgin who is vengeful. Actually, I don’t like to read.
That’s weird, an erotic novel about a vengeful ... virgin.
I know, but it gets really spicy, so don’t judge a book by its cover.
Wow, I’m having fun so far. This is just gangbusters. I’ve never used the word gangbusters, but it’s gonna be that. Wow, how old are you?
I said I was young but you seem really old. I don’t know if this is legal.
Oh, great! You’re like a weird, old, creepy professor. How’s your 401(k), Mr. Professor Guy? ’Cause that’s important to me.
You need to know my financial standing?
Yeaaah, what’s your salary like? Are you unemployed?
Uh, anyway, moving on. Do you have a tattoo? Do you like tattoos?
No, and I don’t like tattoos. I’m so inconsistent in everything in my life that I could never decide on anything I’d want to keep. I would change my mind immediately. Unless it was like a witch’s hat. Nevermind, I’ll get a witch’s hat across my face.
You’ve brought up witches a lot.
Yeah, you know, like, witches, hags. Maybe its because I’m from Delaware.
Because you’re from Delaware?
Delaware is kind of a really witchy state.
Have you been to Salem?
That was one of the only trips I’ve ever gone on.
And you went into the little museum with all the weird things?
Yes, we went into the little museum with all the weird things.
I have two middle names. Cool, huh? What’s yours and what’s it mean?
My middle name is Christina, and I don’t know why. I have no connection to that name and I don’t really use it that much. Although it has the word Christ in it, so that’s cool.
It makes you holy.
Yep, holier than, uh, thou.
Wow, really? Well-played.
Ah, thank you.
So were you cool in high school?
What’d you think?
Wait, don’t answer that.
I was cool in my own way. I was definitely popular. I don’t know if I was popular for the traditional reasons that people are popular, a.k.a. hotness and coolness. I would consider myself a leader. I held a lot of leadership positions and people liked me.
And Seinfeld ...What would you rate Seinfeld on a scale of one to 10?
Seinfeld is very important to me. I’ve seen probably every episode. So, like a 14.
Are you tweeting about this right now?
Is tweeting still cool?
It’s kind of getting lame.
I don’t like hashtags.
I don’t even like that word.
#hashtagidontlikehastags. I’m gonna get meta on Twitter, then we’ll see what happens.
If you could close your eyes, then open them and be anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would be in a magical forest full of wood nymphs and creatures. Wait, no, Italy.
What’s your favorite thing about flying?
I like to watch people and I like to watch them fly. I’d love to watch you fly sometime.
I actually can fly.
What does that mean?
I have no idea.
I do have a tattoo of an airplane, does that count? This is over. I’m leaving.
Wait, no, have a drink? What’s your drink?
Whiskey sour, just like my grandma.
They have a magical kitchen here. You can get any dish you want.
Dish. Or wait, fish is your answer?
Did you say fish?
Ooohhh, any dish. Something with pumpkin. I like pumpkin. Pumpkin ravioli.
What would you say are the things that make up your ideal boyfriend? Does he have a mustache?
I like all kinds of facial hair. If you can grow it, I’ll like it. Ideal boyfriend? Availability and a great, warm embrace. Wait, no consistency and spiciness. Wait, no... a great sense of humor and a green thumb.
Having a garden is important?
Of course. Actually, that’s a metaphor.
Oooh. I don’t get it.
Yeah, me neither.
So, do you believe in soul mates?
This was great, are you free on Saturday night?
I’m always free, baby.
(This article originally appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of ANTENNA.)