Aubrey Plaza is an established actress but her persona is so intertwined with that of her most famous role that it’s easy to assume she’s just as impassive but one conversation with her and that assumption quickly fades. The polite and friendly 34-year-old actress is currently starring in a remake of the 1988 slasher classic, Child’s Play coming out June 21. The revamped version features a Smart Chucky doll who uses technology to terrorize.
She’s most famous for her role as April Ludgate in Parks & Recreation, which she starred in alongside Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones and Chris Pratt from 2009 to 2015. She played the disaffected intern with a dark sense of humor and like Plaza, is also half Latina though it was never something they really played into on the show.
“I asked the producers of Parks & Recreation to have April Ludgate be half Hispanic just to kind of show that here’s a character that’s not a stereotype and happens to be Latina too,” she told HipLatina during a phone interview.
For Plaza, this character felt a little closer to home than her role as Karen Barclay, the widowed mother of 13-year-old Andy, a deaf boy who receives the Chucky doll as a birthday gift. This role is full of firsts: her first role as a mom, her first time working with a child, and her first horror film.
“That was the biggest challenge, kind of bringing that new version of myself to the screen. Also, obviously the circumstances are so insane and scary that that was also a challenge.”
But, like most TV actors inevitably tied to their most famous role, she’s not shying away from the offbeat or off-brand, showcasing her abilities beyond deadpan humor.
She starred in the black comedy-drama Ingrid Goes West as a mentally unstable woman with a social media obsession, she played a foul-mouthed nun in the medieval comedy The Little Hours, and a stereotypical sorority girl with a penchant for older men in Dirty Grandpa.
When asked if there’s any iconic Latina character she’d like to portray, she can’t think of one, in particular, instead, she says she’s open to doing anything good.
“For me anything that is challenging is fun, I don’t like doing the same thing over and over again so it is fun for me to kind of stretch myself and do something I hadn’t done before.”
She’s surprised to learn that Lynda Carter, who famously portrayed Wonder Woman, is also half Latina (her mom was Mexican-American) and excitedly states she’d take on the role if the opportunity came.
Her Latinidad has always been on the outskirts of her identity in Hollywood but she’s never shied away from it.
Growing up in Wilmington, Delaware meant she grew up in an environment that wasn’t very diverse so being light-skinned and Latina meant she dealt with ignorant comments. She spoke with Latina magazine in 2014 about winning a Hispanic teenager of the year award and feeling terrible since she felt she wasn’t deserving being only half Latina.
“I was winning the diversity awards and people were always calling bullshit on me,” she said. The concept of being “half Latina” or that being too dark or light skinned somehow delegitimizes your heritage is all too common in Latinx culture.
But Plaza’s efforts to represent the atypical Latina are evident from her push to have Ludgate be half Latina to her mere existence as a light-skinned woman of Puerto Rican descent in Hollywood.
“A lot of people don’t assume I’m Puerto Rican because I’m fair skinned,” the actress told Cosmopolitan for Latinas. “But I feel very connected to that side of my family.”
Taking on the iconic role wouldn’t be too much of a stretch, considering she has some experience in the comic book realm with her role as mutant villain Lenore “Lenny” Busker on the FX series Legion. Originally, the character was written as a middle-aged man, but Plaza got the part and made it her own.
In the series, she got to perform a short dance sequence which already has more than a million views on Youtube and was considered a fan favorite moment. Dancing and singing are two talents she’s not known for but once again she’s proving she’s capable of more and hopes to one day star in a musical.
Her favorite musical film is A Star is Born by Judy Garland, though she also enjoyed the Lady Gaga version and went to see it opening night.
“That would be very different and fun. I used to do musical theater as a kid but I haven’t done it as an adult,” she says.
Given the opportunity to remake another classic from her youth, her choices are both surprising and somehow on brand: One Fine Day, the rom-com about two single working parents and Serial Mom a comedy crime film about an All-American mom on a murdering spree. In the meantime, she’s more focused on developing projects she’s passionate about and more creatively involved in.
“I think I’m now getting to the point where I’d like to make my own movie. So that’s hopefully something I’ll do soon,” she says.
But she’s also making an effort to go at her own pace and now that she’s more established she feels better about saying no to certain projects. In a time when millennial burnout is a real thing, she’s focused on taking the reins. She’s a big advocate of therapy and says she’s working on finding time to be quiet and connect with herself in the midst of her chaotic work schedule.
“At a certain point, I felt like I was so scared that I would never work again if I didn’t keep going and going. Now I feel a little more like no, I should only do the things that I’m really, really passionate about,” she said. “I don’t need to keep pleasing other people and doing things because that’s what people want me to do. I should be authentic and true to myself and only do things I’m proud of.”
She’s also been a vocal advocate for diversity in Hollywood, including when she called out the Oscars for never having awarded a Best Actress nod to a Latina actress in its more than 90-year history during her 2018 acceptance speech for the National Hispanic Media Coalition Impact Award for her role in Ingrid Goes West.
“I’m going to accept the leading best actress award on behalf of the Oscars ceremony because I heard a fun fact tonight that I never knew before, which is that no Latina actress has ever won best actress at the Oscars. Ever. So I’m going to accept that tonight to manifest that energy,” she had said.
Though we have shows like Jane the Virgin and Vida and films like last year’s critically acclaimed Roma with Yalitza Aparicio, Latinos still only played 2.7 percent of roles in the top movies of the year in 2016.
“I think there are strides being made with diversity in film and television. I think people are making an effort but I still don’t think the Hispanic community is being represented enough and I think there needs to be more kinds of roles and fewer stereotypes. We still need that so we still have a long way to go,” Plaza concludes.