It’s hard not to like Aubrey Plaza. Even Millie Bobby Brown (AKA Stranger Things’ Eleven), who we bump into by the lifts after our interview in a London hotel, enthusiastically introduces herself when she realises who she’s stood next to. After years of sardonic, snarky roles in Parks And Recreation, Scott Pilgrim vs The World and Dirty Grandpa, Plaza has now graduated to leading lady status – but with her own idiosyncratic twist. In dark new indie comedy Ingrid Goes West, she plays the troubled Ingrid, who stalks and befriends Instagram celebrity and LA hippy-ster Elizabeth Olsen with disastrous results. We spoke to Aubrey about fake cocaine, Father John Misty and one of her most challenging roles to date – voicing an incontinent cat.
Ingrid is a troubled woman who does some extreme things – but she’s still very likeable. How did you go about creating this very human character?
“I never thought about making her likeable, but I remember when I read the script for the first time, I felt like, ‘I don’t want to play a character that is just “crazy”. I want to really dissect her actions and analyse her behaviour and find out why she’s doing the things she’s doing.’ When I started exploring that, you realise all these things come from a place of deep insecurities and things that we all struggle with. It’s just that some people can’t control themselves as much as other people.”
Did the movie make you re-evaluate anything about LA culture?
“I think the movie digs at California and LA culture but I think in some ways it’s a celebration of it also. The writer and the director [Matt Spicer] are very much into those things – [writer] David Branson Smith lives in Venice [Beach] and his wife is an Instagram influencer – they’re into it! They’re not trying to totally make fun of it. They are but they aren’t.”
There’s a scene in Ingrid Goes West where you take cocaine at a bar in the Joshua Tree desert – what are you really snorting?
“Sometimes they use B12 powder but I don’t think they do that anymore because I guess B12 powder actually gives you an energy bump of some kind. So I think we got the boring stuff, which is just glucose powder. I was just horrifying everybody because I was doing such a huge amount. I did a mound of it. People were like, ‘You’re doing too much!’ I was like, ‘But it’s funnier if I do!’”
You’re quite active on social media – did the film make you look at it in a different way?
“I have been on Twitter for a long time – I’ve always felt really complicated about social media, I’ve always been wary of it. Last year I made a whole thing about getting off Twitter because I was so disgusted by the negative hate vibes on there. Then I got on again.”
You have the best Twitter name: @evilhag. What’s the story?
“I started on Twitter before I was an actor – I never thought in my life I would be in an interview in London discussing my @evilhag handle! It was probably a drunk decision I made when I was 20 or something. I had a comedy blog around about that time where I would write from the point of view of an old sea hag witch, who lived in a cave and had a blog.”
Where is she now?
“She’s still lurking down there now. She kills snakes. She’s a huge anti-Trump activist.”
A few years ago you starred in the music video for Father John Misty’s intense ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’ video – how did that come about?
“That is one of the things I’m most proud of and I feel like no one knows that I did it! I met Josh Tillman [Father John] at a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner in Laurel Canyon; he was this funny, weird guy and we hit it off. The idea of the video sounded insane. He was speaking my language, he said he wanted me to break down on camera and go to a really dark place. I hadn’t had that opportunity in anything I was doing, because people were just throwing these deadpan sarcastic comedy roles at me all the time and I was really interested in doing more than that. I tried to get him to be in Ingrid Goes West – I’ll get him one day…”
One of your strangest roles was voicing celeb animal Grumpy Cat in the 2014 film Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever…
“I did months of preparation for that role. On all fours. On my hind legs. I s**t in a bunch of sandboxes…”
Did you get to meet the real Grumpy Cat?
“Oh yeah. Grumpy cannot control her urination so she peed on me a bunch.”
Ingrid Goes West is in cinemas November 17