Breaking the Hollywood Mold: The Truth About Aubrey Plaza

Many people know Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, the emotionless intern from Parks and Recreation, or the sarcastic Julie Powers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. However, there is a lot more to the actress and comedian than her many straight-faced roles. Her deadpan stares and sarcastic sense of humor led Plaza to stardom.

Aubrey Plaza and Michael Cera / Aubrey Plaza / Jeff Baena and Aubrey Plaza / Amy Poehler and Aubrey Plaza
Source: Getty Images

Plaza has ushered in a new kind of humor because of her snarky, dark take on comedy. She’s not just a funny character but an amazing human as well. Find out more about the weird girl who wandered into a meeting one day and became a star.

She Loved Comedy

Born in Wilmington, Delaware, Plaza had an early obsession with comedy. She wanted to make people laugh, and after discovering Saturday Night Live, Plaza became fixated on landing a spot on the show. Plaza formed a plan to get to SNL, but she had to complete high school first.

A photo of Aubrey Plaza in high school.
Source: Reddit

Plaza attended an all-girls Catholic high school, where she said she was “popular but not necessarily cool.” She played volleyball and softball, was student council president and wore costumes to the mall just for the fun of it. She was naturally quirky and weird, like the characters she would later play.

Going to the Big Apple

While in school, Plaza took improv classes in Philadelphia to follow in the footsteps of her SNL idols. And once she graduated, she moved to New York, where SNL was filmed. Plaza was one step closer to her dream, so she enrolled in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in 2006.

Aubrey Plaza performs improv on stage.
Source: Tumblr

Plaza figured being close to the set of SNL would help her get a part on the show. She continued her improv training at the Upright Citizens Brigade, founded by SNL’s Amy Poehler and Horatio Sanz. Thanks to UCB, Plaza had the opportunity to get on stage with John Mulaney and Aziz Ansari.

She Got Nervous

It seemed like Plaza was destined to reach her goal because she got an internship for SNL and had a chance to join the cast. UCB held a showcase for Seth Meyers and Lorne Michaels, but Plaza was so scared. She said, “It was a preliminary showcase before they’d bring you to the studio.”

Aubrey Plaza sits on a stoop.
Source: NBC

Plaza was so close to achieving her goal but got too nervous and didn’t make the cast. Although she didn’t get a spot on SNL, Plaza’s career would soon take off. She just had to keep practicing, which she did while working as a waitress to support herself.

She Practiced Her Craft

While waiting for her career to take off, Plaza worked at a restaurant in Queens. She said cycling through waitressing jobs helped her practice her skills. Plaza explained that every table “was like a new performance and opportunity for a performance” because she didn’t have to be herself.

Aubrey Plaza attends a baseball game.
Photo by Noel Vasquez/GC Images/Getty Images

Plaza worked as a hostess and a cocktail waitress, interacting with several people daily. She took every opportunity to “perform,” getting one step closer to a big break. Plaza shared that her hosting job was memorable, but she and the staff had to dance to certain songs, which still bothers her.

She Had a Stroke

Plaza faced her fair share of setbacks, including a time when a potential agent told her she had too many young white female actresses. However, that minor setback was nothing compared to a scary day in 2004. At 20 years old, Plaza suffered a stroke, temporarily losing movement on her right side.

Plaza is in a hospital bed.
Source: NBC

She struggled to speak but regained her speech within a couple of days. Plaza’s other symptoms subsided over a few weeks, and she had no residual effects. The doctors didn’t know what caused the stroke, but she had another mini one a few years later on the set of Parks and Rec.

A Big Opportunity

Shortly after the UCB showcase, Plaza got a call about an audition she had gone on. Judd Apatow wanted to cast her in his 2009 film Funny People. She decided to take the role and moved to LA to start filming. Plaza only planned to stay in town for five months.

Aubrey Plaza and Seth Rogen in Funny People.
Source: Universal Studios

She thought she would move back to the East Coast and return to the comedy scene. Maybe Plaza would take another shot at SNL. But she stayed in the Days Inn on Hollywood Boulevard and eventually had to find a more permanent place to live.

A Busy Year

Instead of moving back to New York, Plaza was cast in Parks and Recreation and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in the same week. She had no regrets because she got to perform comedy with the best people in the industry.

Poehler and Plaza in a still from Parks & Recreation.
Source: NBC

Plaza said, “Amy Poehler was my hero when I was a child, so the fact that I got cast on Parks and Rec where I got to play opposite her was a dream come true.” She added that Poehler taught her everything she knew.

Made for the Part

Fans of Parks and Rec might be surprised to find out that the part of April Ludgate was written specifically for Plaza. She was invited to a meeting by show creator Michael Shur and charmed him by oversharing her opinions and being herself.

Nick Offerman and Aubrey Plaza in a still from Parks & Recreation.
Source: NBC

When forming the character of April Ludgate, Plaza used her sister Natalie as inspiration. She said her sister’s conversation with her friends helped her character stay young and fresh. Natalie would talk about what was cool and what wasn’t, and Plaza liked that idea for April.

She Suffered an Attack

Although Plaza recovered from her stroke, the blood clot area in her brain will never heal. It also left some lasting issues. In the years since her stroke, she has suffered from transient ischemic attacks, which Plaza describes as small strokes.

A promo photo of the cast of Parks & Recreation.
Source: NBC

She dealt with them while filming Parks and Rec, but it didn’t affect her performance. Plaza said she was lucky it happened when she was young because she recovered faster. Plaza believed birth control caused the strokes, but she’s unsure, explaining, “Something’s up with my blood.”

Stealing From the Set

Plaza’s performance as April Ludgate was iconic, and the actress enjoyed her time working with her comedy hero. She wanted to commemorate the show’s seven successful seasons by keeping something from the set. Plaza decided to steal Janet Snakehole’s cigarette holder.

Plaza as Janet Snakehole.
Source: NBC

Plaza said she always keeps the cigarette holder in her backpack “in case she needs it.” She also took Andy Dwyer’s (Chris Pratt) aviator sunglasses. Plaza admitted that she stuffed them in a drawer in her kitchen and would sell them if her career flopped.

Following Adam Sandler

While filming Funny People in 2009, Judd Apatow invited Plaza to join the cast at a comedy show. Her costars, Jonah Hill and Adam Sandler, were performing, and she thought she would watch in the audience. However, Apatow secretly added Plaza to the lineup.

Plaza, Hill, and Sandler pose on the red carpet.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

The director told her she would follow Sandler, which was more than intimidating. It was only her fourth time doing standup, and Sandler told her, “You’re going to die out there.” He was messing with her. She didn’t think it would go well, but she was a hit.

She Felt Awkward

Plaza went from being an unknown name to an overnight sensation. When she started getting attention, she had to do interviews on talk shows, which she felt awkward about. One of her first big interviews was with Ellen DeGeneres, and she felt out of place the entire show.

Plaza is dressed as a witch while on the Ellen Show.
Source: Warner Bros.

Plaza said she tells herself to “be normal, be likable. Get in there, show them what you got, and get out.” She has made being awkward part of her sense of humor, so she embraces it. Although it was an awkward interview, Ellen said Plaza was one of her favorite people.

Inspiration From an Old Job

A few years before landing the role of an intern in Parks and Rec, Plaza was an intern in real life at NBC. She also made an appearance as an intern on 30 Rock. Plaza admitted she didn’t last in the job and was encouraged to leave the intern program.

Aubrey Plaza attends NBC’s 80th Page Program Anniversary Celebration.
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Plaza said she wasn’t outright fired but encouraged to leave. She got into trouble because her job was giving tours of the studios, and she would make up outlandish stories about the soundstages. Plaza sealed her fate with a joke about “Jesus being crucified.”

Humiliated in Front of Ryan Gosling

While most women have dreamed about being asked out by Ryan Gosling, Plaza turned him down twice and humiliated herself in the process. During the height of her Parks and Rec fame, Plaza met Gosling at a juice bar. He told her how much he loved the show.

Plaza talks to the press.
Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

Plaza said she didn’t recognize him and asked, “Are you an actor?” Gosling smirked and told her his name was Ryan. It was uncomfortable, but she apologized by writing a note on a napkin and giving it to the producers for his movie Drive.

Enemies On-Screen, Lovers Off-Screen

Although Plaza and Michael Cera’s characters couldn’t stand each other in Scott Pilgrim, the two were in a real-life relationship off-screen. Plaza said she and Cera dated for about a year and a half after meeting while filming the movie.

Aubrey Plaza and Michael Cera arrive at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Plaza shared that the two went on a cross-country road trip and toyed with the idea of eloping in Las Vegas. Despite breaking up, Plaza clarified that she and Cera love each other and are still great friends. She said, “He’s a weird little freak, and we speak the same language.”

Kicked Out of the MTV Awards

The MTV Awards are known for shocking on-stage antics, like when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift. Since that was an iconic moment, Plaza’s similar incident is often forgotten. However, she will not forget it because her antics got her kicked out of the 2013 award show.

Plaza is trying to grab Ferrell’s award out of his hands.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

Plaza walked on stage while Will Ferrell was giving his acceptance speech for the Comedic Genius Award. She tried to take his award, but Ferrell wouldn’t let go. Ferrell tried to say that he and Plaza rehearsed the cringey moment, but producers knew that wasn’t true and kicked her out.

A Love for Grumpy Cat

For many years, Plaza openly expressed her love for the internet sensation Grumpy Cat. She even voiced the cat in Lifetime’s Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. Plaza said she had fun with the role when she realized the cat’s mouth didn’t move.

Plaza holds Grumpy Cat in her arms.
Source: YouTube

Although the movie was a flop, Plaza didn’t care. She loved Grumpy Cat and was sad when she died in 2019. Plaza said she had written a movie for her and Grumpy Cat to star in, but that couldn’t happen since the cat passed away.

She’s an A-List Baller

Plaza was fairly athletic in high school and has continued to play sports even as an adult. She heard about the Pistol Shrimps basketball team through friends and decided to join. The LA basketball team gained a huge online following once Plaza joined the team.

Plaza and her basketball team.
Source: YouTube

Plaza was on Jimmy Fallon’s show, and he asked what she was up to. Plaza didn’t know what to say, so she started talking about the basketball team. The clip went viral and brought more attention to the team. It also interested other entertainers who wanted to join the team.

Finding True Love

Things might not have worked out with Michael Cera, but Plaza found true love shortly after their breakup. She met Jeff Baena sometime in 2011 and starred in his 2014 film Life After Beth. The two started dating in secret and have kept their relationship fairly private.

Jeff Baena and Aubrey Plaza attend Lisa Edelstein's Birthday Party.
Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

The two have many things in common, and they enjoy working together. Plaza said, “We’re obsessed with movies. That’s why we’re making movies together.” The two spent much of their free time watching DVDs from Baena’s alphabetized library. They were so in love.

They Tied the Knot

After a decade together, Plaza and Baena secretly tied the knot. She likes her private life to stay under the radar, which is why her wedding was a secret until she called Baena her husband on Instagram. Plaza said the two were bored one night, so they got married.

Plaza and Baena attend an event.
Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images

Plaza shared, “We got married, and I’ll tell you how: That’s real; look it up.” They exchanged vows on their tenth anniversary. Plaza and Baena had a small ceremony in their backyard, and the officiant notably wore a Hawaiian shirt.

She Always Wanted to Play This Character

Plaza has played many roles throughout her career, but one role she still wants a shot at is Catwoman. Many talented actresses have taken on the role, including Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Anne Hathaway, and Halle Berry. But who’s to say that Plaza wouldn’t be a good fit?

Aubrey Plaza is wearing cat ears for a TV interview.
Source: YouTube

She told GQ, “I want to be Catwoman. I want my shot at Catwoman, and I want it soon.” We hope Plaza gets to fulfill her dream of playing Catwoman because she could bring something new to the role. Her dream could still come true.

Her Favorite Movie Is a Classic

Plaza has always loved film, and one of her favorite movies is the classic A Star Is Born, starring Judy Garland. The 1954 film, written by Moss Hart, was Plaza’s favorite version of the movie, which has been remade several times with talented actors, including Barbara Streisand and Bradley Cooper.

A portrait of Aubrey Plaza
Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

The actress told W magazine, “A Star Is Born is probably one of my all-time favorite movies. I was obsessed with Judy Garland growing up.” Plaza was inspired by Garland’s career and always wanted to achieve the same level of success.

A Natural Leader

During her school years, Plaza was the president of the student council and many other clubs. She was a natural leader, and that trait stuck with her in adulthood. She realized she was drawn to leadership roles when she got the opportunity to produce a project.

Aubrey Plaza attends the 2019 MTV Movie and TV Awards.
Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Plaza tends to take charge when she’s on set and has expressed a deep interest in directing. She said, “Once I produced something and realized how much of an impact I can have, I could never go back. I’ve always gravitated toward a leadership position in whatever I’m doing.”

Her Memorable First Kiss

Many people have had awkward first kisses, and Plaza is one of those people. She told W magazine that her first kiss was with a boy who ended up going to a juvenile detention center. Plaza said, “I remember that it tasted like metal,” and their teeth knocked together.

Aubrey Plaza is a guest on
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Plaza recalled that the boy had licked her teeth during their kiss. The boy was arrested a few years later for kicking people with a screwdriver taped to his foot. Luckily, kissing experiences have gotten better for Plaza since seventh grade.

She’s Named After a Song

Plaza’s parents knew their daughter would be someone special, so they wanted to give her a suitable name. They loved the song “Aubrey” by the 1970s band Bread, which had the lyric, “a not so very ordinary girl.” That’s fitting for Plaza’s personality.

Plaza attends an event.
Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images

The actress shared, “I think I’m the only Aubrey Plaza in the world; I’ve looked it up. I found out my name means ‘ruler of the elves.’ If you look it up in a baby book, it’s a man’s name, which means king of the elves.”

A Supportive Daughter

Although Plaza’s parents got divorced, she and her sisters were supportive of her father’s second marriage. They donned suits for their father’s wedding, and Plaza shared a photo from the special day. The black and white photo from 2017 featured Plaza and her sisters in stylish suits with sunglasses.

Aubrey and her sisters pose in suits with their father.
Source: Reddit

Plaza told Conan O’Brien, “It was a blast. My family loves to party, and that’s what we did all night long.” She also shared that her grandmother didn’t like the idea of her granddaughters wearing suits, but that didn’t stop the sisters from being groomswomen.

Her Parents Supported Her Dreams

While Plaza has supported her parents’ decisions, they were also supportive of her dreams. Her father was a financial advisor, and her mother was an attorney. Although most people’s parents want their children to follow in their footsteps, Plaza’s parents allowed her to pursue her passions.

Aubrey Plaza attends the Premiere of
Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

Her parents didn’t have any experience in the acting world, but they never stood in Plaza’s way. They gave her the freedom to be whoever she wanted to be. They made a good decision because the world would have been cheated out of an incredible actress and comedian.

An Animal Lover

Plaza loves animals. When she got one of her two dogs, she named it after her favorite actress. Her furry friend is named Frances, aka Frankie, after Judy Garland’s real name, Frances Ethel Gum.

Plaza and her two dogs cuddle in bed.
Source: Tumblr

Plaza told Ellen DeGeneres that Frankie is a Dutch royal dog that was bread for Dutch royalty in the 18th century. Plaza rescued Frankie and her other dog Stevie, and she’s convinced Frankie had an epic past life. She thinks Frankie should live in a castle.

She’s Puerto Rican

Plaza’s father, David, is of Puerto Rican descent, which makes her half Puerto Rican. She shared that people are often surprised when they find out her ethnicity. She does speak Spanish, but not fluently. Plaza said being Puerto Rican is a big part of her identity.

Aubrey Plaza attends the 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Her ethnicity was used as a joke in Parks and Rec. In the Season 2 episode, April Ludgate speaks Spanish before quipping, “My mom’s Puerto Rican. That’s why I’m so lively and colorful.” Plaza’s ethnicity will also be featured in the Hulu show Olga Dies Dreaming.

She Has a Large Family

Thanks to her dad’s Puerto Rican roots, Plaza has a large family. Besides her two sisters, she has many aunts, uncles, and cousins on her dad’s side. She told Ellen DeGeneres that she spent many summers with her family and loved being around them.

Plaza and her sisters.
Source: YouTube

Plaza brought her Puerto Rican grandmother to the Latina Awards and “set her free on the red carpet.” Plaza said her grandma said many glowing things about Plaza to any reporter who would listen. Her grandmother was very excited to share the special moment with Plaza.

Not What You Think

Many of Plaza’s popular roles are sarcastic characters, but she is not that harsh in real life. She admitted that people assume she will be mean when she meets them, but they are surprised that she is kind. Plaza is actually a people pleaser.

Aubrey Plaza speaks onstage during the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards
Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

However, Plaza wishes people would stop assuming that she will do that “Aubrey Plaza thing” in real life and on screen. She doesn’t want to get pigeonholed into one character because it can be challenging to land different types of roles.

Asked Out in Style

Although she is married now, Plaza shared that a talented young man once asked her out in an over-the-top way in high school. The man serenaded her in front of a crowd of people, which must have been incredibly awkward given her general demeanor.

Aubrey Plaza attends Comic-Con.
Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

It seems like a very romantic gesture, but Plaza wasn’t responsive to his efforts. The two never ended up going out. He should have considered her personality before making a grand gesture in front of an audience because it probably made her uncomfortable.

Everyone Makes Assumptions

Due to her often deadpan and sarcastic humor, Plaza has had many moments when she will say something sincere, and people think she is making a joke. During an interview with The Independent, Plaza blew her nose for 20 seconds, and the interviewer thought she was doing a bit.

Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate from Parks & Recreation.
Source: NBC

So many people think she is messing with them because of her characters, including April Ludgate on Parks and Rec, Julie Powers in Scott Pilgrim, or her character in Dirty Grandpa. People always make assumptions about her, but she recently took a role that broke that mold.

People Know Her From Talk Shows

Although she has been in many popular films and TV shows, most people know Plaza from her appearances on talk shows. YouTube has several compilation videos of Plaza on talk shows titled “Aubrey Plaza being crazy for 12 minutes.” These videos have racked up millions of views.

Plaza is being carried out on a man’s shoulder from a late night show.
Source: YouTube

The videos are mostly comprised of Plaza making male talk show hosts uncomfortable. She thinks it’s hilarious that people know her from talk shows rather than her actual work. Plaza pretended to be a cat and licked Stephen Colbert’s face, and she once pointed out all her insect bites.

She Was Never a Fan of Horror Movies

Although Plaza starred in the reboot of 1988’s Child’s Play, she was never a fan of horror movies. She worked at a video store as a teen but didn’t gravitate toward horror films. However, she does believe in ghosts because she grew up next to a cemetery.

Plaza in a still from Legion.
Source: Marvel Entertainment

Plaza said her cat was hit by a car once and crawled out of the cemetery a few weeks later. It came to the back door of her parents’ home, so she let it in. Plaza wondered if it was his seventh or ninth life.

A Dramatic New Role

While Plaza typically plays a specific type of character, she recently took on a dramatic role in the film Black Bear. The film, set in and around a remote lake house, is a thriller starring Plaza as “a deconstruction of this persona that people project on to me.”

Plaza in a still from Black Bear.
Source: Momentum Pictures

During the second half of the film, her character turns into an unstable actor, being emotionally manipulated by her director husband. Her husband in the film believes pushing her to the edge will coax out a better performance. It’s very different than anything Plaza has ever done.

She Felt Bad for Her Character

Plaza admitted that she felt bad for her character. She told The Independent that her character believes suffering will fuel her performance. Plaza said, “It’s so heartbreaking because I want to shake her and go, ‘No, you don’t need to suffer!’ But it has become normal.”

Aubrey Plaza attends a private dinner for
Photo by Owen Hoffmann/Getty Images

The film made Plaza question why people feel it’s necessary to suffer to make art. She admitted that she has believed suffering is necessary sometimes and has had a hard time “navigating the toxicity of those relationships where you’re making art.”

A Hard Movie to Make

Plaza liked trying something different while filming Black Bear, but she admitted that it was a tough movie to make. She wanted to dive into her character, but she went too deep. She had to do many night shoots, pretending to be catastrophically drunk, crying, and hurling herself at walls.

Plaza breaksdown and clings to someones leg in a still from Black Bear.
Source: Momentum Pictures

She knew the process would be chaotic and hard, but it was worse than she thought. Plaza admitted that the film left her feeling burnt out, like “a shell of a person.” She said she would never do anything like it again because she didn’t want to put herself in that position.

She Wanted to Do It a Long Time Ago

Six months after filming Black Bear, Plaza was on set shooting Happiest Season. It was a much less traumatic experience than the previous film. The Christmas movie was a rom-com featuring a same-sex couple, starring Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis.

Plaza and Stewart in a still from Happiest Season.
Source: Tristar Pictures

Plaza felt a movie like this should have come out long ago. She had called her agency years ago suggesting they make a rom-com about two women that focused on the love story rather than them being gay. However, her idea was turned down because people thought audiences would be confused.

They Thought She Was Joking

After the Christmas film, Plaza starred in a Guy Ritchie action comedy. She had fun making the movie, but no one believed her. She told the film’s writer that she loved Jason Statham and working with him, but they didn’t believe her.

Plaza and Statham in a still from Operation Fortune
Source: STX Entertainment

The writer thought she was being sarcastic as usual, but Plaza was sincere. She was slightly frustrated because no one ever believes her when she says something nice. Plaza hasn’t figured out how to change people’s assumptions about her. That “Aubrey Plaza thing” isn’t going anywhere.

How Much Is Aubrey Plaza Worth?

The actress has starred in successful TV shows and films, but Plaza is only worth $6 million. Most of her net worth came from her work in Parks and Rec and films including Funny People, Life After Beth, Happiest Season, Scott Pilgrim, and Dirty Grandpa.

Plaza is spotted walking the street.
Photo by Gotham/GC Images/Getty Images

Plaza has also started working as a producer because she loves her work behind the camera. She might not have a net worth as large as other Hollywood stars, but Plaza is content with her life. She doesn’t need fancy cars and houses to be happy with her work and life.

What’s Next for Her?

Plaza is staying busy with many upcoming projects. In January 2022, it was announced that she would star in the second season of HBO’s White Lotus. The show recently won several Emmys for its first season, so people expect big things from Season 2.

Plaza and cast in a still from White Lotus season 2.
Source: HBO

She was also recently in Little Demon. Plaza starred alongside Danny and Lucy DeVito, and she served as an executive producer. The animated sitcom premiered on FXX in August 2022. Plaza has had a busy year because her films Emily the Criminal and Spin Me Round also premiered this year.