Aubrey Plaza: ‘I’d Rather Humiliate Myself’ for Roles to Make Audiences Feel More Confident

Aubrey Plaza doesn’t shy away from less than savory characters, as exemplified by roles in “Bad Grandpa,” “The White Lotus,” and the upcoming “Liarmouth.”

Plaza revealed some insight into her selection process for finding the “outcast” parts that she identifies with. Turns out, Plaza is taking one for the audience’s team and trying to emphasize empathy onscreen.

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“I think one thing that I really love about acting and about putting myself out there is to wear those icky feelings and portray all of those things that everybody feels, because it’s a universal feeling,” Plaza told Deadline. “It makes people feel seen. And I think with a lot of the characters that I choose to play, there is an underlying sense of wanting people to feel seen. I felt that way when I did ‘Emily the Criminal’ and ‘Ingrid Goes West’ too.”

Plaza, who recently announced she will produce a TV adaptation of indie film “Emily the Criminal,” actually enjoys embracing her “freak” side, even if it means “humiliating” herself in certain roles.

“Personally, I relate to those characters in the way that I think a lot of people do. And it’s all those feelings of feeling like an outsider, whatever it is, not good enough, or a freak, or whatever,” Plaza said. “I feel like I definitely over the years, have embraced those things because I have this impulse: I’d rather humiliate myself and put myself in the line of fire for the good, so everyone else can sit back and feel like, ‘I’m OK.’ It’s my own little way of trying to make the world a better place.”

Even starting out in her own acting career proved to seemingly accentuate those aspects of herself. Plaza had no real industry credentials or connections prior to her breakout role in “Parks and Recreation.”

“I think there’s always been a sense of feeling out of place in that way. I’m sure so many people feel that way,” Plaza said. “I always felt like something was different about me. I think I’ve always had this sense of strangeness, or feeling like I’m an alien or something. But I think also, that feeling has helped me always connect with other people that feel that way.”

Plaza previously told IndieWire that she wanted to combat typecasting and constantly surprise audiences.

“I think, for a while, I did feel like, ‘Aw man, I’m being put in a box, and I don’t like it, so I’m going to fight to get out of that and show people what I can do,’ or something. But then I started to look at it as a gift,” Plaza said in 2022. “If I convince people so well that I was that one thing and then I do something that’s totally different, it will be that much more satisfying to surprise them. So I started to try to think of it like that and be a little bit more positive and less bitter about it.”

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