For six years, Aubrey Plaza played the cynical, detached, secretly loving and loyal April Ludgate on Parks And Recreation, undeniably one of the best and best-beloved comedies of the young century. She’s followed that up with a slew of projects that are all over the map. She played Aaron Burr on one of Drunk History’s best episodes. She produced and starred in the fascinating Ingrid Goes West. And she is, without a doubt, the best part of FX’s Legion, Noah Hawley’s visually ensorcelling, heady superhero deconstruction.
For years, and especially since Legion premiered, Plaza has been one of my go-to answers to the question, “Who do you wish got more critical and awards attention?” She’s a fascinating performer, and her turn on Legion takes advantage of all her most compelling on-screen qualities. That irresistible weirdness. Her off-kilter, playful approach to language and tempo. A knack for subverting expectations. Dry reserve that sometimes explodes into something exuberant and physical (think Janet Snakehole).
She’s one of my favorite performers, and a key part of one of the television shows that sits closest to my heart. With that in mind, please enjoy this brief retelling of what happened when I asked her if a hot dog is a sandwich.
The Takeout: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Aubrey Plaza: No.
TO: Why not?
AP: It’s a hot dog.
TO: Okay. And a hot dog is definitely not a sandwich.
AP: Sandwiches are flat.
TO: So it’s an issue of verticality?
AP: I mean, a sub is a sub. I don’t know.
TO: Okay! Thanks.
[Silence. Then, a look of such perfect, pure, utter disdain that the polish peeled off my fingernails. I mean, that probably happened because it had been kind of a while since I’d painted them, but they were looking mostly okay until I asked Aubrey Plaza if a hot dog is a sandwich—that’s all I’m saying. It was a look so sneering that I simultaneously recoiled and was drawn toward it. And I get it, it’s a silly question, and she was promoting Legion, a complex show which deals with some very heavy issues and on which she does a lot of heavy lifting. I understand the look. I do not blame her for the look. It is her undoubted right to give such a look. And even now, I can feel it in my bones.
That look was a thing of beauty. If it had been directed at someone else I’d be talking about it like it was Old Faithful, or the Grand Canyon, or a forest of towering redwoods. But it was aimed at me, so my wonder is of a piece with what I imagine staring into a black hole would be like: Magnificent, awe-inspiring, but also rich with dread and the certainty of my own undoing.
I will never be the same.
That may read like exaggeration. There’s a scene in the third season of Parks And Recreation in which Ron Swanson goes to a diner and orders “all of the bacon and eggs you have.” The guy at the counter turns away, and Swanson says:
I’m worried what you just heard was, “Give me a lot of bacon and eggs. What I said was, “Give me all the bacon and eggs you have.”
Do you understand?”
I’m worried what you just read was, “It was bad.” What I wrote was, “I will never be the same.” Do you understand?]