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As any avid “Saturday Night Live” fan can attest, Amy Poehler is at her best when she’s armed with a dark haired, deadpan foil (see: Tina Fey). Fortunately, Aubrey Plaza, Poehler’s co-star in the new NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation” premiering tonight, is a 24-year-old brunette who’s adept at playing it straight. The mockumentary-style series from the creators of “The Office” stars Poehler as an ambitious city employee in sleepy Pawnee, Ind., who has channeled her go get ’em attitude into building a municipal park. Plaza plays her gum-smacking, eye-rolling intern who couldn’t care less about the project. “Their energy is so different,” says Plaza. “There’s a lot of comedy that comes out of that dynamic.” (Some television critics have disagreed in recent reviews of the show.)
But Poehler seems to be pleased with her new partner-in-crime. “Aubrey is a smart woman who likes a good dumb joke,” she says, “and she’s a spicy little mama who plays hard. I adore her.”
Up next, Plaza will appear in Judd Apatow’s “Funny People,” which opens in theaters July 31. The flick stars Adam Sandler as a fatally ill stand-up comedian who is given one year to live. Sound like a riot? “It’s actually more like a serious movie about funny people,” the actress explains.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Plaza didn’t exactly have to dig deep to play the part of a bored intern. “I definitely know what it feels like to be at the bottom of the barrel — restocking the fridge, wasting time on the Internet for hours,” says the actress, who did her fair share of Xeroxing and coffee fetching as an undergrad at NYU. She even temped at Poehler’s old stomping ground, “Saturday Night Live.” But the two didn’t work as closely as their current characters do. “I had interactions with her in my head maybe,” says Plaza. “I’d get really excited and try to be near her in the hallway and then run away.”
DIFFERENT STROKES: The comedienne, who trained at prestigious New York improv theater Upright Citizens Brigade (where Poehler got her start), has been honing her comedic chops for years. “I was always doing weird things to get attention. That kind of defines my childhood. In high school instead of going to parties and stuff, I would drive around with my friends with a big stuffed bear and just sit on the side of the road,” says the Wilmington, Del., native, not offering any more explanation.
AMUSEMENT PARK: Though “Parks and Recreation” has Plaza spending much of her workday on location at a playground, the actress hasn’t exactly been inspired to hit a swing set in her downtime. “I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been to a park,” admits the starlet, who recently relocated to Los Angeles for production of the show. “Parks are filled with crazy people.”