Q&A: 'The To Do List' star Aubrey Plaza

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“The To Do List” star Aubrey Plaza has stated she approaches some interviews as performance art pieces. This may explain why during a recent phone interview she claimed to be on a canoe in the middle of a lake.

“It just makes me more relaxed,” the 29-year-old said, “and I’m more open to answering questions.”

Actually, she was in a Beverly Hills hotel room and wasn't quite as open as her character in the 1993-set “The To Do List,” opening Friday. In the film, Brandy (Plaza) aspires to learn and complete a list of sex acts as homework so she can be practiced and confident when she begins her freshman year of college in the fall.

Plaza, who has a regular gig on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” took the movie part to showcase her physical comedy skills and personality dynamics that are more sincere and motivated than her usual characters.

She has said the film could rub some people the wrong way because they might not want to watch a girl learn to do the things on the list. RedEye got a different take from the actress, who said the film taught her what “the shocker” was.

“I don’t know why anyone would say that,” she said of her previous statement, joking, “I think the movie will rub people the right way. Know what I’m sayin’?”

Brandy has some bad things happen to her on the job at the pool. What’s the worst on-the-job accident you’ve ever had?
That’s a really good question. One time I worked at a Joe’s Crab Shack and someone stole all my CDs out of my car. But that’s not something I did. [Laughs.] I mean, look, I’m trying to be honest. I can’t remember anything else.
 
So nothing has ever gone wrong on the job?
I’m sure things go wrong anywhere I work. I just don’t remember because I have a terrible memory. [Laughs]
 
What did you do when all the CDs were stolen?
I called the police, and then I quit. I walked around the restaurant and I was like, “One of you did this.” Because whoever it was went into my purse in the hostess stand, got my keys out to my car, went in my car, stole all my [bleep] and then left my keys in the door. I was like, “You should have stolen my car, idiot.” Then the cops came and they couldn’t find anyone, so I said, “I quit.” And I’ve never stepped foot in a Joe’s Crab Shack again. And I never will.
 
Do you know if anything ever came of that? If anyone was fired or arrested?
No. I know that I had a lot of mix CDs that were important to me that someone has, and I want them back.
 
I’m sorry to hear about that.
It still hurts when I think about it.
 
How would you compare the nervousness of first sexual experiences with the nervousness of filming them onscreen?
Definitely a different kind of nervousness, but I knew what I was getting myself into. I read the script, and I thought it was really funny, but you can’t be fully prepared for something like that because you don’t know how it’s going to feel when you’re actually in the moment doing it. But we were shooting at such a fast pace that I didn’t really have time to think about it. I just had to kind of do it.
 
It’s rare to have movies about female sexuality in this way. Why is that?
Probably because there’s not as many female filmmakers. I think it has a lot to do with Maggie [Carey] directing the movie and writing it. I don’t think there’s a lot of male directors that would be able to write a movie like this with that kind of point of view.
 
Would you even want a male filmmaker to try, or would it just be inherently off?
Well, I’m not against it, but I’m not betting my money on it either.
 
It’s nice this isn’t another movie that suggests female characters need men to support themselves.
Yeah, I thought that was cool too. In the end, the female relationships are more focused on. Her mending those relationships becomes more important, and I think that’s a cool message.
 
Do you think we’ll ever have a time when a movie can actually be titled “The Hand Job,” as “The To Do List” was originally called?
I don’t know. I hope so; that’s the movie I want to sign up for. It’s just a hand and a job.
 
If they just put the words farther apart from each other on the poster …
Yeah. They’re just words, people. “Book Table.” [Laughs.] That was bad. “Book Vacation.”
 
The movie touches on a lot that people remember from the early ’90s. What are some of the best and worst pop culture items from that period?
Well, I’m really into skorts, so I think those are pretty great. I thought there was some really bad hair. Any of the beauty stuff could just go away in my book. But I really like Doc Martens, and I liked “Reality Bites.” That kind of stuff was really good.
 
It seems like society might not agree with you about skorts.
Yeah, right! They’re totally coming back. They’re selling them in Zara right now. I just saw someone wearing them yesterday.
 
That goes to show what I know about fashion.
I thought this was fashion.com? Who are you? [Laughs]
 
I’m a huge fan of “Parks and Rec.” Last time we spoke you told me you wanted April to be pregnant, and in the season finale I thought you had pulled it off.
Yeah, me too.
 
Is that something you’re still trying to push, or have you given up?
Yeah! I keep texting [showrunner] Mike Schur about it, and he won’t respond to me.
 
What would April say if she saw “The To Do List”?
Um, that’s a really weird question. [Laughs.] What do I think a character I play in something else would think about … she’d probably think it was stupid. I don’t know.
 
Why would she think it was stupid?
[Laughs] I don’t know. She’d probably love it! It’d probably be her favorite movie.
 
How much do you share Brandy’s honesty with her parents about everything that she does?
Oh, I’m an excellent liar. My mother’s a lawyer, and growing up I had to learn how to get away with everything and get out scot-free.
 
Can you give an example?
No.
 
Come on; tell me a story.
I don’t know. [Laughs.]
 
What’s something you lied about? How did you refine your skills?
I don’t remember! Just stupid stuff. I didn’t kill anyone. But just like spending the night at my boyfriend’s house when I was supposedly at a girl’s house. Stuff like that.
 
Oh, I thought the lie was that you were spending the night at your boyfriend’s house when you were actually doing something much worse.
Maybe. Like robbing a bank or something.
 
If you could say one thing to the person who stole your mixtapes, what would you say to them?
I’d say, “Sleep with one eye open.” [Laughs.] “Because I’m coming after you.”
 
Because you told your mom you were at your boyfriend’s house, and you’re planning to do something worse.
That’s right. I never forget. And I will hold a grudge ‘til I die.
 
Plus:
Brandy is unsure what certain terms mean, so we threw out some stuff and asked Plaza to indicate if it has a sexual connotation, musical connotation or both.
Pink Floyd: “Musical.”
Reverse cowgirl: “Sexual.”
Bush: “Political. Is political an option?”
Naked walrus: “Scientific. No, sexual. No, National Geographic. Wait, what are my options? Naked walrus, [that sounds like] a band. Musical.”
Fill in the blank: I want to do __ with ___.
“I want to do something with someone.” [Laughs]
I don’t want to do ____ with ____.
“I don’t want to do nothing with Nicolas Cage.”

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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