In the comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, actress Aubrey Plaza (TV’s Parks and Recreation) plays Darius, a young magazine intern investigating the story behind a classified ad placed by a guy (Mark Duplass) searching for a partner interested in going time traveling with him. During an interview with me at the South by Southwest Film Festival this past March, Plaza and Duplass talked about the sci-fi aspects of the movie and how Plaza would work out as a director.
Safety Not Guaranteed opens in Austin today.
If you could go back in time, what decade would you like to visit?
Aubrey Plaza: I always change my answer on this one. It’s the most popular question I’m asked.
I’ll try to be more original next time. Forget that question. What year would you least like to go back to?
What was going on then?
AP: (Laughs) I don’t know. I just picked a year because it’s not that long ago.
Mark Duplass: Not long enough ago to be retro or interesting, but a year where you’d be a slightly less successful, less intelligent version of yourself.
Did the sci-fi aspects attract either of you to the movie?
MD: To me, the movie is very un-sci-fi. It’s a relationship movie first seen through the prism of time travel as a way to contextualize it. It attracted me only in what time travel means. It’s a way for these characters to escape and maybe get to a happier place. If you’re coming in to see straight up Back to the Future, this is not that kind of movie.
Is your character based on anyone?
MD: There were some references for the physical aspects of the character. One of my favorite heroes of all time is Mark Borchardt, the subject in the documentary American Movie. To me he’s the ultimate lovable loser. So, I pulled some things from him.
Aubrey, as a young comedian do you feel you have to have an online presence to stay relevant in the industry?
AP: No, but I feel very grateful to the internet in general because I wouldn’t be where I am without it. It helped me out a lot. I did a lot of sketch comedy videos. I did stand up online. I would send my links all around and that helped me get an agent.
I’m assuming since everyone wants to be discovered online these days, that must make for a lot more competition for everyone.
AP: I think so. I think people have realized it’s a way to get their stuff out there.
Mark, Aubrey has mentioned she went to NYU for writing and directing. What kind of director do you think she would be?
MD: I think she would be the kind of director that makes very odd things. I think she would be very hands off and not say a lot to her actors and maybe confuse them a little. She’d come out and be like, “A touch more pineapple, a little less fire hydrant.”
AP: That’s right. Maybe like Woody Allen.
Would you go to the Oscars though? Woody never goes.
AP: Really? I didn’t know that. Yeah, I’m going to go to the Oscars. I’d be in the front row.
Aubrey, you have some Puerto Rican heritage
AP: Oh, I thought you were going to say I had something on my face.
MD: You have some Puerto Rican heritage on your face.
Does your heritage play an important role in your life? Not many people know about it.
AP: Yeah, every day when I look in the mirror. I mean, half of my family is Puerto Rican, so it plays a big part of my life. I don’t like to go out salsa dancing every night.
MD: Your neighborhood is Los Feliz.
AP: That’s right. Los Feliz. I feel very lucky to be part of that community. Just recently I’ve gotten to do a lot of things because I’m Puerto Rican. I went to the Alma Awards and I was nominated for a Hispanic Media Coalition Award.
MD: I didn’t know that!
AP: Yeah, I gave a speech. It was awesome. It was a lot of fun. I’m really glad I’m Hispanic. I get to enjoy the benefits of that and get to eat great food and enjoy my family.
What’s the most Latina thing about you?
AP: Maybe my love of drinking.
MD: And homemade corn tortillas!