Aubrey Plaza Used to Be Bitter About Typecasting — Now, It Fuels Her Post-Parks and Rec Career

Aubrey Plaza isn’t a comedy star. Or an action star. Or a sarcastic sidekick. She’s simply, and forever will be, an artistic chameleon. But that’s redundant, isn’t it?

The actress spoke with “Emily the Criminal” co-star Theo Rossi during a SAG-AFTRA Foundation screening and Q&A moderated by IndieWire’s Eric Kohn. Plaza, who has made headlines for drawing comparisons to “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” for her role in the credit card scam drama, addressed being typecast early in her career, especially coming off of hit sitcom “Parks and Recreation.” (Watch the panel in full below.)

“I don’t mind being typecast because I feel like I was so lucky to be on ‘Parks and Recreation,’ and that was one of my first really big jobs, and I am so heavily associated with that character,” Plaza said of famously playing scene-stealing sarcastic secretary April Ludgate. “I think there were years when I was on that show where I was like only getting offered those kinds of parts, and that’s just what happens. You do something, people respond to it, and they want to see you do it again, again, and again. I think you just have to be really proactive in changing that narrative for yourself.”

Plaza recalled auditioning for her first movie post-“Parks and Rec” fame, the Robert De Niro-led raunchy comedy “Dirty Grandpa.”

“The part they wanted me to audition for was the other [female] part, which was probably more in line with who I should have been,” Plaza explained. “But I was like, ‘No, I want to audition for the blond-haired, big-breasted promiscuous person that wants to have sex with an old man,’ or whatever the description was. But it was definitely on the page like, ‘No, you would never…’ And I got that part because I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to do my own twist on this.’”

The “Ingrid Goes West” star revealed that such typecasting “fueled” her to surprise audiences.

“It gave me motivation to prove myself,” Plaza said. “I think, for a while, I did feel like, ‘Aw man, I’m being put in a box, and I don’t like it, so I’m going to fight to get out of that and show people what I can do,’ or something. But then I started to look at it as a gift. If I convince people so well that I was that one thing and then I do something that’s totally different, it will be that much more satisfying to surprise them. So I started to try to think of it like that and be a little bit more positive and less bitter about it.”

Plaza summed up, “But you just have to do it yourself, create it yourself, because people will just keep putting you in a box. That’s what they do.”

Before assuming Plaza is only a quick-witted, deadpan comedic actress, the star shot back, “I actually don’t feel like I’ve done a comedy in a while. I don’t really approach them any different. To me, if it’s a comedy or a drama, I have the same process that I go through, and the audience can decide if it’s funny or not.”

The “Spin Me Round” standout pointed to the wise words of her seventh-grade hero, Rosie O’Donnell: “If you have a net, you will fall.” Comedy isn’t a net for Plaza, but rather, diving headfirst into whatever role she intuitively connects with next.

“I think you have to be some level of delusional to rationalize making that career choice,” Plaza joked about choosing acting. Delusional enough to turn Hollywood on its head.

“Emily the Criminal” is now in theaters.

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