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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

I'm Audie Cornish. And Aubrey Plaza is busy. You can catch her on TV playing a cranky unhelpful assistant on the NBC comedy "Parks and Recreation." The actress also has roles in no fewer than four movies coming out in the next year. Plaza is 27 years old and a specialist at portraying sarcastic, disaffected young women.

Case in point, she plays a sour intern in the first of those four upcoming films, "Safety Not Guaranteed," out this weekend. NPR's Neda Ulaby caught up with Aubrey Plaza at a Los Angeles diner.

AUBREY PLAZA: I've just ordered a Coke float and Neda has just ordered a chocolate milkshake.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Aubrey Plaza, in real life, is milkshake-sweet and chatty.

PLAZA: You know, we shot a scene in "Safety Not Guaranteed" in a diner that's almost exactly like this.

ULABY: Plaza's character in the movie "Safety Not Guaranteed" starts off a lot like the one she plays on "Parks and Rec." April Ludgate is snarky, depressive, deadpan. She delights her libertarian boss by slyly putting off his meetings at his city government office.

(SOUNDBITE FROM "PARKS AND RECREATION")

PLAZA: (As April Ludgate) Hmm, how about June 50th?

NICK OFFERMAN: (As Rob Swanson) Sorry?

PLAZA: (As April Ludgate) Do you think you could come back today at 2:65? He's available then.

OFFERMAN: (As Rob Swanson) What's going on?

PLAZA: (As April Ludgate) Looks like the only other day he has open is March-tember 1-teenth. Does that work, sir?

ULABY: Plaza did not even audition to play April. She'd just gotten to Hollywood and took a meeting, just a meeting, with the guys then developing "Parks and Rec." They told her about the April character.

PLAZA: It was gonna be someone that was, like, kind of blonde and not the brightest person or something. And I pitched to them, like, what if it was someone that was really smart, but just like really didn't want to be there, like a college student that just kind of needed the credits and just kind of like happened upon it and was just like, fine, I'll intern with the Parks Department.

ULABY: April sleeps at work, ignores directions, mocks her colleagues.

(SOUNDBITE OF "PARKS AND RECREATION")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As April Ludgate) April, you know Spanish, right?

PLAZA: (As April) (speaking foreign language)

ULABY: And she'll undermine her boss by purposefully mangling a translation to foreign dignitaries while staying studiously blank-faced.

PLAZA: My mom's Puerto Rican. That's why I'm so lively and colorful.

ULABY: Plaza's father is Puerto Rican in real life. Her mother is white. She grew up in Delaware, studied acting at New York University, and was beginning to explore improv comedy when she had a stroke.

PLAZA: My two friends that were in the room with me at the time thought I was doing, like, a bit with them. And they kept saying like, stop it, like they thought I was joking or something.

ULABY: The stroke was caused by a clot in left temporal lobe of her brain. Plaza says she's completely recovered, and the stroke, she says, at least helped her put Hollywood's indignities and absurdites in perspective. Aubrey Plaza was first noticed in a web series where she played a rebellious teenaged stepdaughter to a preening soccer mom.

(SOUNDBITE FROM "THE JEANNIE TATE SHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Tina...

PLAZA: (As Tina) What?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: ...zip it.

PLAZA: (As Tina) What?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Zip it.

PLAZA: (As Tina) Why?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Shut your mouth hole.

PLAZA: (As Tina) Don't look at me.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Damn it, keep it shut.

PLAZA: (As Tina) What?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: That's the last time I'm going to tell you.

PLAZA: (As Tina) Eat your face, just eat your face.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Eat my face?

PLAZA: (as Tina) Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: What - fine.

ULABY: That led to more roles as loveably sardonic girls in movies like "Funny People" and "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World." But Aubrey Plaza says she keeps getting picked for those characters because she brings nuance, even joy, to the roles, not just a deliciously rotten attitude.

PLAZA: If I was just playing people that just hated everything and everyone, like, I think that would get old really fast.

ULABY: In her new movie, "Safety Not Guaranteed," Aubrey Plaza plays an all-too familiar millennial stereotype. She's a snotty intern at an alternative weekly newspaper. Just to get a story, she answers and criticizes a bizarre personal ad by someone claiming he knows how to time travel and needs a companion.

(SOUNDBITE FROM "SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED")

PLAZA: (As Darius) It's pretty sloppy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me?

PLAZA: (As Darius) You heard me. I hope you worked harder on your calibrations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My calibrations are flipping pinpoint, okay?

ULABY: She's only pretending to believe he can go back in time.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are people after me. How do I know you don't work for them?

PLAZA: (As Darius) Because I've never worked for anybody in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever faced certain death?

PLAZA: (As Darius) If it was so certain, I wouldn't be here, would I?

ULABY: The movie was actually written with Aubrey Plaza in mind.

SAM ADAMS: She's kind of perfect for it.

ULABY: Film critic Sam Adams says "Safety Not Guaranteed" is a charming summer romantic comedy distinguished by more than its science fiction elements.

ADAMS: More than having just to do with time travel, it's about having this kind of faith or belief in another person.

ULABY: That's the opposite of what actress Aubrey Plaza has displayed in the past. She's usually making fun of faith and belief. Adams says in this movie, watching her character move from cynicism to conviction is a lot like watching an actress move from one kind of career to another. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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