An Awkward Chat With Aubrey Plaza About How Great It Is To Be Awkward

Aubrey Plaza’s awkward and weird, and she knows it. She recently revisited one of her most notoriously unwieldy characters in the reunion special for Parks and Recreation, and she’s found no shortage of various awkward and/or weird roles, from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World to Safety Not Guaranteed, and from Legion to Playing It Cool and so on. She further carries that vibe onto talk shows, where she’s showcased her famously deadpan humor to perfection. Now, Aubrey’s getting a little less strange alongside Kenan Thompson for a Barefoot Bubbly ad campaign, in which she indulges in a “#SummerDream in a can” with the brand’s Hard Seltzer and Spritzer drinks.

The Life After Beth zombie chatted with us about this ad gig and, in doing so, she was gracious enough to take a look back at her most awkward auditions. We also discussed her thirst to portray the She-Hulk lead (“I have a rage brewing within me”), and she passed on audition advice that, while useful for her, one probably doesn’t want to take. Oh, and Aubrey’s adept at roasting people, as we saw when she hosted this year’s Indie Spirit Awards, but I didn’t overlook that there was awkward dancing to talk about, too.

It’s excellent to be talking with a fellow awkward weirdo, especially one whose brand is strong in that department.

Oh my god. You are welcome in my awkward weirdo club. We need more members to make people feel uncomfortable.

Speaking of uncomfortable, Michael Schur once declared that you scored the April role on Parks and Rec by making him feel uncomfortable for an hour. Was that a strategy?

No, I swear to god. What’s so funny about that meeting is that I didn’t even realize the weight of that meeting. At the time, The Office was so popular, and I was a huge fan, and when I went to LA, the casting director asked me if I wanted to go meet them, and I was like, “Sure!” And she said they were on the set of The Office, so all I cared about was being on that set and seeing famous people from the cast. Because I was so starstruck, I kept seeing like Mindy Kaling walk by, and I was like, “I can’t believe I’m on the set of The Office.” So I guess I was being awkward because I wasn’t paying attention to him? I didn’t realize that they were actually making a TV show that I could be on. I never in a million years thought that I would end up on a TV show, I just thought I was just doing a weird general meeting, and I just kept looking out the door and trying to see people from The Office.

He played it off like you were doing the side-eye for an hour straight or something.

I know! I think I just wasn’t engaged in the way that maybe I should have been because most people would be like, “Oh, this is my big shot at being on a TV show.” But in my mind, I was like, “I don’t care about that! I care about meeting famous people.” But I guess it worked out!

Let’s awkwardly talk about the Barefoot canned beverages. What is the difference between the Barefoot hard seltzer and the Barefoot spritzer?

Okay, well, I’m an expert at this now, and I will tell you that the Barefoot hard seltzer is basically like sparkling water and wine. And it’s the best because I have to be on the Barefoot hard seltzer team because Kenan and I had to pick sides. So, that is my favorite, and Barefoot spritzers taste like wine with a splash of water, basically, so they’re a little bit more sweet and really good, but Barefoot hard seltzers have that crisp, refreshing sparkling water taste, and they’re also sweet.

Barefoot Bubbly

So if I’m the kind of person who drinks boxed wine, which would I like?

You would probably like the spritzers? Look, they are delicious. Wine with water sounds weird, but it’s actually really refreshing and good. The hard seltzers are more like if you’re into that carbonated bite-flavor, and it’s less calories and stuff, so if you’re watching your figure and don’t wanna get crazy, you might wanna opt for that. But the spritzers are so delicious that you might be like, “Fuck my figure, I need this.”

Can you dance while holding one of these cans?

Yeah, you can dance with them, and chug one and crush it up, and throw it in a bucket and make a game out of it. That’s what I would do. And then you recycle it because we have to be good.

Yes, we have to recycle. But now I’m thinking about how you once described your awkward dancing on Conan.

Oh god.

You were talking about your Irish heritage and how that reflected upon your dancing, like with Riverdance where they don’t move their arms.

Okay, so picture me with both of my arms pointing straight downward at the ground, but I have two hard seltzers in my hands and then only my feet are moving, and no one’s dancing with me because it’s weird. That’s pretty much what happens.

I need to see a Photoshop of that, which reminds me, there are Photoshops out there from Marvel fans who are dreamcasting She-Hulk. You’ve been talking about wanting that role for years. Is that still a dream?

Yes, of course! I would be honored to play She-Hulk. It’s such a fun character, and I think it would be perfect for me because people think that I’m very quiet and awkward, but I have a rage brewing within me, and it would give me an opportunity to let that out. And let my freak flag fly in a way that I could also… save the world? With my rage. Also, I really wanna be green.

Well, I saw how you throttled Michael Shannon in a The Lighthouse spoof, so I think we need to campaign for you to get that rage out somehow.

Thank you! This is what I’m talking about. No one believes in me, but I can do this! If you just give me a chance to be green and to rage out, but also be funny. I feel like I’ve got it all going on, but we’ll see what the Marvel gods want.

You got to get a little comic-book-y, if that is a word, with Legion.

Yeah, I got a taste of it.

How’d you get that role, which was meant for a middle-aged man?

I don’t know. Something about my aura, I guess. I wanted to get with Noah Hawley about playing the female lead, and then after he met one time, he offered me this one part. And after meeting me, I guess he thought, “Actually, Aubrey would be great at playing a middle-aged drug addict man in a mental institution.” I don’t remember what I said in that meeting, but I guess it was disturbing. Also, at the time, I had been recovering from ACL knee surgery, so I was on a lot of pain medication, so maybe I was, like, saying some crazy stuff on my meds and looked probably insane because I was walking on crutches. I just looked like a crazy person, and he was like, “Perfect!”

That part about the meds almost makes too much sense.

Yes, always go to an audition after you’ve had major surgery.

Great career advice there. You also hosted the Independent Spirit Awards again this year, and in doing so, you made the case that award show hosts might not be a dying breed. How did you tackle your channeling of an icon, Judy Garland?

That’s like my 12-year-old dream come true. Honestly, one of the reasons why I decided to host again is because Judy was nominated because I was so obsessed with her when I was little that I thought, “This is my chance!” To do a Judy celebration, one that I could get away with because it’s relevant. So, I just went for it. I decided, “You know what? I’m gonna be selfish about this, I’m gonna write something that I wanna do.” I thought that it also fit in with the Jojo Rabbit kind-of vibe where you have an imaginary friend, and I just combined that with Judy. And I also wanted to do an opening number, so I just leaned into the Judy-ness. I was just hoping it wouldn’t come off crazy and embarrassing.

It really did fit the Jojo Rabbit vibe, now that I think back.

Thank you! And I wanted it to be different than last year, which was a little more in line with the persona that people think of me as, like a witchy, demonic incantation, but this year, I was like, “You know what? Fuck it. I’m gonna put on a show, just like Judy would do!” And I’m nostalgic for the Billy Crystal Oscar openings. I think people remember those shows because of him, you know? And when you don’t have a host, there’s nothing to remember the show by. I hate to lose that. I think it’s important.

Do you think there’s any way to move back into having an Oscar host, with how politicized it’s all become? Old tweets get dug up, and hosts get picked apart.

I hope so! I don’t know. I think we’re living in a kind-of scary time when people are so afraid to be in the spotlight. I would hope that people would be open to someone just taking a shot at it, and there would be a way for someone to get up there and do something that doesn’t have to be some huge political statement. I don’t really do that in the shows that I do because I’m more interested in celebrating art. And art is complicated, and we can’t make everything political all the time. There’s a time and place for it, but can’t we just celebrate movies?

You clearly enjoy roasting people, so is there anyone who you’d love to roast but haven’t done yet? And who would you not want to roast?

Robert De Niro gave away the final award of that show, and I wanted him to be sitting in the audience and in the front row, so I could roast him, and that would be really funny because he did a movie called Dirty Grandpa, which is ridiculous in and of itself. I would love to roast him someday if given the chance, but who’s someone who I wouldn’t want to roast? Hmm, Meryl Streep.

Yeah, she’s untouchable.

She’s untouchable, and she’s the coolest. I want to be her, so I can’t roast her.

Watch Aubrey Plaza and Kenan Thompson’s Barefoot Wine and Bubbly #SummerDream commercial below.