It’s been almost 8 years since we first met Aubrey Plaza as the Parks Department’s summer intern April Ludgate, who we fell in love with over 124 episodes of Amy Poehler’s mega hit show Parks and Recreation, and if we’ve learned anything since then, it’s that the Queen of Quirk is here to stay. But how much do you really know about the 32-year-old from Delaware? Did you know her success came on the heels of major failure? Or that she was lucky to make it through college alive? Below you’ll find a list of 15 facts that only her truest fans know, ranging from her true feelings on her character April, to her sexual orientation and even which celebrity mega hunk she denied TWICE! It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Aubrey, but her ability to handle adversity has allowed us to fall in love with her.
Since the end of her 6-year Parks and Rec stint, Plaza has been in high demand, in 2016 alone she has taken on 4 projects: Dirty Grandpa, Joshy, The Pistol Shrimps, and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, not to mention what seems like endless promotional work for her films, and a dozen or so TV appearances.
It’s clear you’re going to be seeing a lot of her, so you may as well learn why you should love her!
15. She Was Almost Stopped Before She Started
College is widely considered one of the most important times in a young adult’s life, with no shortage of experiences that monumentally shape the person you become. For Plaza, unfortunately, this meant surviving a serious health scare. In 2004, during a comedy improv class at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Plaza suffered a stroke, that left her temporarily paralyzed, as well as with expressive aphasia.
After being discharged from the hospital, she returned home to Delaware where she attacked her recovery, undergoing extensive speech therapy, and battling endless anxiety attacks. And at the end of the summer, despite her parent’s urging otherwise, she returned to work, ready to move on with her life. When talking about the experience, Plaza said
“It was one of the scariest things that has happened, but it never felt as if it was keeping me from doing anything. If anything, it made me more aggressive about getting things that I want. Maybe subconsciously I was feeling it was… not a near-death experience, but it put things in perspective.”
14. She Was An Intern Long Before Pawnee
Going to University used to mean that when you graduated you would have a cushy, well-paying job waiting for you. Unfortunately, for today’s post-secondary graduate it usually means paying your dues in your chosen field at extremely low, or sometimes non-paying role as the lowly intern. Aubrey is no stranger to rolling up her sleeves to earn her place and has been pretty candid about her internship at Saturday Night Live.
Aubrey Plaza is a dangerous kind of funny, so it should come as no surprise that she has a connection to the live sketch comedy show. Ironically, Plaza worked as an intern in the art department, despite — or if we know her well enough, because of — her clear lack of interest in it.
Plaza has also spoken in interviews about her experience, including one day when her entire job was to “Literally wallpaper a bathroom with Post-Its.” Maybe this is why April hates being an intern so much?
13. Her First Role On TV Was Actually Her Day Job
In 2006, Plaza made her television debut in a small role on an episode of 30 Rock as an NBC Page who was taking people on a tour of the studio. At the time, Plaza was working as an NBC Page in real life, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch for her to take on the tour guide role. Though, I must say it was weird to see her play the perky guide, given her dry humor.
The NBC Page Program is one way to break into television entertainment, either in front of the camera or behind the scenes. The one-year program has an impressive list of alumni including Willard Scott, and the late Joan Rivers. Plaza admitted in an interview with Jay Leno that her stint as a Page was short lived, she was eventually asked to leave for failing to fit in at the highly coveted job. How coveted you ask? Of the roughly 16,000 individuals who apply for the program each year, around 212 are invited to participate in the program, making it more competitive than getting into Harvard!
12. Her Breakout Role Was Literally Made For Her
April Ludgate is the only original main cast member to not appear in the first episode of Parks and Rec, but only the shrewdest fans know why. April wasn’t written into the original script, but after meeting with casting director Allison Jones it became clear to Jones that Plaza needed to be a part of the cast! Jones contacted series co-creator Michael Schur and said, “I just met the weirdest girl I’ve ever met in my life. You have to meet her and put her on your show.” Schur said he met with her and was taken so off-guard by her quiet and deadpan personality that he felt incredibly awkward and uncomfortable, spending the whole meeting trying to keep her entertained. Schur said that from that meeting on, he and fellow co-creator Greg Daniels knew they wanted to cast her. She was added to the cast so suddenly that in early copies of the script, Plaza’s character was referred to simply as ‘Aubrey.’
11. She Rejected Ryan Gosling… Twice!
You might be used to her Parks and Rec character April’s impenetrably hard edge, but she shocked even the hardest woman when she revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone that not only did she not cry, shake or propose like some of us would when he pulled out his infamous ‘Hey, girl’ charm, she didn’t even recognize the Canadian heartthrob!
Plaza explained,”I didn’t recognize him. He said, ‘I’m a big fan of the show,’ and I said, ‘Thank you. Are you an actor?’ He kind of smirked and said, ‘Yeahhh…’ I asked his name, and he said, ‘Ryan,’ but it didn’t click. I was like, ‘We worked together, didn’t we? You look so familiar.’ He kept smirking, like I was messing with him. I got my juice and left.”
He perused her a second time and invited her to a magic show, but she already had plans to attend a charity event hosted by Amy Poehler that night. I’m not sure how profitable the event was, but the situation turned out alright for Eva Mendes for sure! Gosling and Mendes have been dating since 2011 and have 2 daughters together.
10. She Uses Her Sisters For Inspiration
Among the many things Plaza shares with her Parks and Rec character April Ludgate is her large family. In the real world, Plaza has two sisters, Natalie and Renee, who she uses for inspiration to keep April young and fresh. In an interview with Latina Magazine, Plaza mentioned that she particularly uses her sister Natalie’s conversations with her friends as a guide.
She elaborated further in an interview saying “Just the way that she interacts with her friends and talks about what’s cool and what’s not cool, are people on Facebook or are they on MySpace…one time I heard her call someone ‘schwasty,’ and I was like, ‘Natalie, what does that mean?’ And she was like, ‘You know, schwasty.’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t know.’ But I’m gonna use it.” Coincidently Ludgate’s younger sister in Parks and Rec is also named Natalie, perhaps an homage to Plaza’s sister.
9. How She Really Feels About April
Her character April is known as a generally apathetic, darkly quirky individual that seems to take extreme pride in her ability to lash out at the people who care about her. But, how does she feel about the character that has garnered her so much recognition? She said in an interview for her alma mater’s newsletter:
“April is an awesome character because most of the time I can just pretend like I hate everyone and have zero energy and just kind of show up. Playing a character that is disinterested and doesn’t want to be there is a fairly easy job, but the fun part for me is when she has these sparks of happiness—like when Andy [actor Chris Pratt] makes her smile or she shows an emotion. That’s really fun for me because it means she has many layers.”
8. She Can’t Speak Spanish
Another thing April and Aubrey have in common are their Hispanic roots. Plaza is extremely proud of her half Puerto Rican heritage and said in an interview with the NY Daily News “I try to go every summer, because I have family there… I love the food and the people.”
But it seems yearly trips haven’t helped Plaza learn the lingo. In the same interview, she said “I wish I was fluent. My grandfather came over from Puerto Rico and raised his kids speaking English so that it would be easier for them to assimilate. My family speaks to me in Spanish, and I respond in English.”
7. She Pulled A “Kanye” At The 2013 MTV Awards
In April of 2013, Will Ferrell was awarded the inaugural Comedic Genius Award at the MTV Movie Awards. The legendary comedian took to the stage in a three-piece money suit to accept his Golden Popcorn when Plaza ran on to the stage, drink in hand, and tried to snatch Ferrell’s trophy. He seemed genuinely surprised by Plaza’s behaviour but with her front row seat and the name of her upcoming film The To-Do List scrawled across her chest fans think it was a publicity stunt to get people talking about the new film.
The Anchorman star tried to cover for her after she left the stage empty handed by saying her act was “Just like [they] rehearsed it,” and called it perfect. MTV News insists Plaza’s antics were unscripted and the barefoot Parks and Rec alum was asked to leave the show. To make matters worse, the seemingly drunken Plaza took to Twitter where she wrote “Thanks for the advice @kanyewest went better than planned!”
6. She Plays For Both Teams
In an interview with The Advocate in summer of 2016, Plaza was asked if she’s often pursued by women (on top of the millions of men who are more than happy to throw themselves at her) and she responded, “Oh, yeah. I don’t mind. I know I have an androgynous thing going on, and there’s something masculine about my energy. Girls are into me — that’s no secret. Hey, I’m into them too. I fall in love with girls and guys. I can’t help it.”
Plaza is one of many celebrities to come out this year, and said that growing up, she felt like she was meant to be an older gay man, saying in an interview “I think that’s truly who I really am. Like, I grew up obsessed with Judy Garland, and I was also obsessed with how much she meant to her following.”
Plaza went on to say “Being in a very Irish Catholic, Republican area, my community theater taught me at an early age that it’s OK to stand out and let your freak flag fly. I’ve always had this mission of disrupting social norms.”
5. She Was The Voice Of Grumpy Cat
In 2012, Grumpy Cat aka Tartar Sauce shot to instant fame after appearing in millions of deadpan comedic internet memes. He was literally EVERYWHERE. So naturally, the furry feline was given his own Lifetime movie, and Plaza gave him a voice.
The movie was filmed from start to finish before Plaza hit the studio to record her lines as Grumpy Cat, which gave Plaza the opportunity to re-write about 90% of her lines. She explained in an interview,
“Once I realized that the cat’s mouth wasn’t going to move, I just kind of went for it, and thought, ‘Well, if it’s just going to cut to the cat and I can say my line, then I can just comment on other things, too.’ The movie kind of has a Mystery Science Theater 3000 vibe to it, so it’s like you’re getting Grumpy’s commentary throughout the whole thing, but then Grumpy is also starring in the story.”
Unfortunately, the film was not well received. Its overall rating is 30% on Rotten Tomatoes, but you honestly can’t expect much more from a film with taglines like: “When it comes to the holiday spirit, all pets are off.” The movie is one-part Homeward Bound, one-part Home Alone, and the rest is a shameless cash grab.
4. She Stole From The White House
In 2012, Plaza was invited to the White House and had an audience with Vice President Joe Biden along with Parks and Rec co-stars Amy Poehler and Chris Pratt. While the trio were alone in VP Biden’s office Plaza noticed a hand-written cheat sheet with her name at the top, filled with talking points on her. In December of that year, she sat down with Conan O’Brien and admitted she stole it as a souvenir. She realized part way through the interview that she probably shouldn’t be admitting to stealing from the White House on national television, but she had already gone too far. Although, “Joe” as Plaza casually referred to him in her interview, doesn’t seem to be holding a grudge.
3. She’s An Athlete
She may play the awkward outcast better than anyone else, but Plaza surprised us all when she sat down with the other members of her rec league pick-up basketball team, The Pistol Shrimps, which is made up of some models, actresses, writers and their friends.
Her teammates include famous names such as: Melissa Stetten, Stephanie Allynne, Paisley Grey, Neelo Noory, Amanda Lund, Angela Trimbur, Maria Blasucci, Molly Hawkey, Paula Brunelle, Kelly Vallon, Tali Levi-Crouch, Tara Brydle, and Ally Stoltz, who affectionately refer to Plaza as ‘Lil Hag’. Naturally, they celebrate after most games with pizza.
Plaza told GQ, “I heard about the team through friends. I love organized sports and haven’t been on a team since high school, so I weaseled my way in.” though in an interview with Jimmy Fallon she admitted they’re terrible. The team did gain enough attention to have a documentary made which was released earlier this year.
2. She Was Rejected By SNL
A year before we met Plaza for the first time as April Ludgate, she auditioned for a spot on Saturday Night Live where she had worked as an intern three years prior. It was her dream job, as she had been introduced to the American Institution at a young by her mother.
In an interview with The Guardian in 2012, she said, “I wanted to be on that show for as long as I could remember.” She started taking improv classes in Philadelphia (the closest major city to Wilmington) during her high school years as preparation for her audition.
When talking about where she found her direction, Plaza said “Just by looking at people’s biographies online, I saw that a lot of them did sketch comedy. And I decided that’s what I was going to do.” But unfortunately, she was not invited to be a cast member.
However, that might have been one of the best things to happen to her. It was not long after that Plaza moved to work on Parks and Recreation, and Judd Apatow’s Funny People. In an interview with Conan O’Brien, she said she’s gotten past the loss saying “My dream used to be on SNL, now my dream is to host SNL.”
1. You Know Her High School Boyfriend
You know what’s cooler than your high school ex becoming a major success? You also becoming a major success. Lucky for Johnny Gallagher Jr, that is the storyline here. When Plaza was 13, Gallagher asked her out by singing a song on a stage in a room full of people and you can only assume the Tony award winner gave quite the performance. If that wasn’t already the most sickeningly sweet thing you’d ever heard, Plaza also has proof of their teenage dream-esque love affair, a cassette tape with a song he wrote for her called “When We Get Married.”
Gallagher hasn’t done too poorly for himself. After his award-winning run in Spring Awakening, he has continued to maintain an extremely busy Broadway schedule. He starred in productions of Port Authority, Farragut North, American Idiot and, Jerusalem but still found time to make guest appearances in episodes of The West Wing, The Newsroom, Law and Order, and NYPD Blue. Not to mention, finding time to play major roles on the big screen in 10 Cloverfield Lane, Short Term 12, and Hush. Not shockingly, he also plays the sociopath very very well.