Since Parks and Recreation ended, that show’s supporting cast has been in demand like few I’ve ever seen, and they’ve made some really interesting and diverse choices. Chris Pratt is one of the biggest movie stars in the world, Aziz Ansari co-created and starred in a very personal Netflix comedy series, Adam Scott and Nick Offerman are seemingly everywhere (whether in the flesh or as voice actors), Rashida Jones is producing a lot while also starring in Angie Tribeca, etc.
Aubrey Plaza, meanwhile, has done some movies (Dirty Grandpa, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), and tonight made her debut on FX’s Legion as Lenny, best friend to the show’s hero, in an episode that brought Lenny to a surprising place by the end. Spoilers for what happened (I reviewed the premiere here), followed by a conversation I had with Plaza last month at press tour, coming up just as soon as I fart too loud…
So, Lenny is dead, having been accidentally teleported inside a wall due to David’s powers going haywire after a body swap (because of course). But where this might seem like a case of a show hiring an actor who’s seemingly too high-profile for the part, just to get some shock value out of killing off that character, Plaza remains a series regular on Legion, and Lenny continues appearing in the other episodes I’ve seen, in a manner I’ll leave you to find out. But, like most things about the show, and about what Plaza has done of late in her career, it’s fun.
This will be something that will run after the premiere, so you don’t have to worry about giving anything away.
I don’t know anything, anyway.
But you’re in it.
You’re in it for a little bit.
No, I’m in it. Just you wait.
Okay. Let’s just start with why you wanted to do this in the first place.
Well, I was, you know, hesitant to do any show, because I just came off of one of the greatest shows of all time, in my opinion. I would say it was a combination of things. I think Noah Hawley was a big part of that. I really liked the work that I’ve seen him do, and I like his writing. I think he’s smart. The character was originally written for a man, so when I read the script initially, I wasn’t thinking about playing that part. I was thinking about playing other parts. When he approached me to play that part and said he was going to switch it to a female, I thought, “Well, that’s kind of a cool move.” The fact that his mind is able to be open to something like that was very appealing to me. I thought, “Well, if he’s willing to do that, then he’s going to be willing to do a lot of things. I want to work with someone like that.”
Did you talk to Nick [Offerman], who was in Fargo season 2] at all about what Noah was like as a boss?
Yeah. I did. I talked to as many people as I could that had worked with him, to kind of make sure that he wasn’t full of shit. The answer I came back with was, “He’s the real deal.” I was like, “Sign me up.”
You’ve done a couple comic book things now, but are you a comic book person, or these are just jobs you’ve taken?
What is a comic book person?
Are you a reader of comic books? Had you ever even heard of the character before this?
Has Pratt prepared you for any of what this is going to be like?
You know, I did ask him about it, just about what it’s like being in the Marvel universe and the Marvel family. He kind of told me it’s great, and the fans are so smart and interested and loyal and fun, and it’s like a very positive thing to be a part of. That’s what he told me, and I was like, “Great.” I saw that at Comic Con. I was very impressed by the people in the audience, and how much they knew about the stories. I thought it was cool. I didn’t know that. I thought it was like, ah, a bunch of… I don’t know, people playing video games or something, but everyone, I think it’s cool. I like it.
I think back to Leslie’s Christmas gift to April, the Black Eyed Peas/Xena Warrior Princess thing, and it’s so hilarious that you and Pratt are now actually doing these comic book things.
I know. You know what, I was joking the other day about how I should do a remake of Xena: Warrior Princess. Have they ever done that?
They’re working on it now.
Are they really?
Oh. I don’t think my boobs are big enough for that metal thing, but maybe I could put a bunch of coconuts in there or something.
I think you’d have to move to New Zealand to do it. That’s the catch.
Well, me and New Zealand, we go way back.
In the original script that you read, when Lenny was still a man, Lenny still dies buried in a wall in that one?
Yeah, nothing changed. Actually, that’s what was cool about it. He said, “You know, I think I’m going to change Lenny to a woman, and I think you should play that part.” I said, “I’ll do it, as long as you don’t change a single thing about the script. Don’t change any of the dialogue. Don’t try to make it into anything. Just leave it how it is.” He was like, “Okay.”
So you’re like, “Okay, I’m taking on a job where I die in the first episode”?
I get in and get out. That’s kind of my thing.
But yet, we should expect more of you?
Oh yes. Lots more. More than you would ever think that you would see. Or hear.
What’s Noah like as a director?
He’s a man of little words, but very purposeful, intelligent words. He never speaks unless he has something really interesting and relevant to say. He’s very trustworthy. I really like working with him. I wasn’t sure. I thought maybe, you know, “This guy’s a writer. He’s going to be a writer. He’s not going to understand how to communicate to actors.” I was wrong about that. He was really, I really liked it. I like when someone gives you direction with a glance, you know? That’s, sometimes that’s all you need.
That first episode, you haven’t seen the final version, but the final version is really visually stunning, just the way it’s put together and edited.
Yeah. It does feel that way. It feels like, when we started getting into the costumes and being on the set, I felt like, “Wow, it’s like we’re in a live-action ’70s comic book.” Almost in a Kubrick-esque way as well. I felt very much like we were doing some kind of Clockwork Orange kind of… I don’t know. Something.
Even though, obviously, you’re not seeing the final version yet on set, you had a sense that this was going to look different from other things.
Yes. I had a sense. Just the attention to detail is insane. I’ve never really seen anything like that. The cinematographer, Dana Gonzalez, and just the camera department in general, I mean, the stuff that they were doing was kind of mind-blowing. Everything was interesting. They were doing shots that I’ve never seen or done before. I like that. I like filmmaking. It felt like we were shooting a movie, which is what I prefer.
When Parks ended, your profile was obviously a lot higher than it had been when the show began.What sort of things were you being offered immediately in the aftermath of having that obligation over with?
Nothing. Who gets offers? I want some of those. Nothing. I still had to fight for, you know. I mean, maybe I got offers. I don’t know. I don’t remember, honestly. Usually, I want what I can’t have. At that time it was Dirty Grandpa. I was like, “I’m going to fucking work with Robert De Niro if it kills me.” That’s what I was focused on.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org