Aubrey Plaza is the Queen of Deadpan, an actress best known for her sulky, sarcastic turn as April Ludgate on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. In reality, Plaza is plenty expressive—just dry-humored and a little awkward. She took steps to shake the typecasting with a role on FX’s Legion earlier this year, portraying the evil and seductive Lenny, a character much wilder than anyone on Parks and Rec. And now, with her starring turn in Matt Spicer’s black comedy Ingrid Goes West, Plaza has left April permanently in the dust.
With nods to classic stalker flicks Single White Female and The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ingrid Goes West updates the story to reflect obsession in the digital age. Plaza stars as Ingrid, a young woman who moves to Los Angeles intent on befriending a beautiful Instagram celebrity, Taylor Sloane. Played by Elizabeth Olsen, Sloane has the seemingly perfect profile: She knows the right hashtags to use, brands to collaborate with, and angles from which to photograph her boho-chic ensembles. Her #DesertVibes aesthetic is emphasized during frequent trips to Joshua Tree and in the muted colors and cacti décor of the home she shares with a hipster artist husband. Ingrid falls for Taylor’s carefully curated lifestyle hook, line, and sinker.
Plaza goes to dark places with Ingrid, a character who is not only dour and self-destructive but also mentally ill. While her attempts to become Taylor’s bestie grow increasingly dangerous and disturbing, we can’t help but identify with Ingrid’s lonely longing to be cool. Plaza breathes the right amount of spunk and humor into the role (plus a dose of great physical comedy—watch for the scene where Ingrid saunters up to Taylor in a bookstore). This is a heroine who exists outside the artificial constructs of social media, despite her best efforts to join in. We spoke to Plaza about why she went cold turkey on her personal Twitter account, her new role as producer, and what emoji she’ll never use.
You’ve had a mixed relationship with social media. You quit Twitter for a while but recently came back. What happened there? I got off at like 11:55pm on New Year’s. So there was an element of a New Year’s resolution to it. I think I got to a point last year, especially amidst the election and all of the political stuff going on, where it started to feel more negative than positive. Whenever I would go on Twitter, it ended up making me feel bad. So I thought I’d get off. But it turns out, you can’t actually get off. It takes a lot of effort. They make it hard, which is kind of creepy and scary. You can’t get off Twitter for like 12 months or something; you can deactivate your account, but it’s not deleted. They keep it alive for a year. And they constantly send you emails going, “Are you sure? Your friends are saying this. You’re missing out on this.” It’s really enticing. You feel like you’re being left out of something that’s happening in the world. So I did get back on, and I also got a public Instagram at the beginning of this year. Truthfully, because I had two movies I produced that were coming out, that I was excited about, and Lizzie [Elisabeth Olsen] and I both had a different feeling about Instagram after we shot this movie. It opened us up a little about it; we realized that yes, there are negative things, it can foster toxic behavior, but it can also be a fun way to connect with people. So, I don’t know… It’s complicated, as Facebook says.
Why did you pick “evil hag” for your Twitter handle?
When I first signed onto Twitter, it was a long time ago, probably almost 10 years ago. That’s why I got that handle—I was super early. I had a comedy blog—this was way back when people had Blogspot—from the point of view of a sea hag.
Like, in the ocean?Yeah, like an ocean witch. It’s a kind of character I had in my mind that I thought was really funny, so I would write jokes in her voice. And Twitter was just an extension of that for me. I thought it was boring to have your own name. I also wasn’t famous at the time, so I never thought I’d have any followers. That was a personal account for me to try out jokes on. When I become more of a public figure and I was verified, I didn’t change it.