The movie scene

Aubrey Plaza gets laughs in ‘The To Do List’

Aubrey Plaza
Aubrey Plaza
Charley Gallay / Getty Images for MAC Cosmetics

Aubrey Plaza knows you expect her to be mean. And some day, she’s going to take advantage of that.

“Sometimes I run into people on the street, and they just assume I’m going to say something rude,” says the comedian, who plays the acerbic, deadpan April Ludgate on NBC’s hilarious Parks and Recreation. “I think it’s funny. And then if I am in a bad mood I can get away with it more easily.”

Plaza puts her mean-girl role behind her for the moment in the raucous comedy The To Do List, which opens Friday. She plays straight-A but sexually naive high school grad Brandy Klark, who decides she needs some experience before she heads off to college. Her study buddy ( Johnny Simmons) is willing, but Brandy wants hot college guy Rusty Waters ( Scott Porter) to relieve her of her virginity. The movie, set in 1993, also stars Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, Connie Britton and Clark Gregg.

Plaza, 29, who made a splash in last year’s quirky Safety Not Guaranteed, had a good guide in writer/director Maggie Carey, who’s married to SNL alum Hader.

“We talked about her own experiences — the movie is loosely based on her past — and she gave me her diaries from high school, so I had insight into her experiences,” Plaza says. “We talked about growing up and John Hughes movies. Those movies were great and funny, but they had a lot of parts where characters were played in an honest way. That’s why people related to them. We wanted our movie to be like that and to treat those raunchy scenes in an honest way.”

“Raunchy” is putting it mildly; The To Do List does not pull punches. Plaza not only had to film her first sex scene; she had to film a couple of them.

“It’s definitely awkward, but I think it was supposed to be,” Plaza says. “I never really filmed a sex scene ever! It was intense to film a movie where I had to do a ton of them. But now I’ve got it all out of the way.”

Happily, working with a strong ensemble cast provided a solid support system.

“I love it,” says Plaza, who trained with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. “In the improv world you’re always in an ensemble. I love the supportive environment. It makes everyone funny, and everyone’s always helping you. It’s a great place to be funny.”

She’s less enamored of stand-up comedy, which she tried for the first time for her role in Judd Apatow’s Funny People.

“Stand-up is terrifying,” she admits. “But it’s really good for your brain. As a comedian, it’s the hardest thing to do. It challenges you to create something from scratch and to have complete ownership and accountability for it. It’s really intense training.”

Plaza has a few movies in the pipeline, but she’ll be back Thursday nights when Parks and Recreation returns this fall.

“I love it so much,” she says of the show. “I hope it lasts forever.”

Connie Ogle

Follow @OgleConnie on Twitter.

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