Aubrey Plaza has Donald Glover to thank for helping her book her breakout role in Judd Apatow’s Funny People, which set her on a course of continued success from 2009 until now.
“Everything goes back to Donald Glover for some reason,” Plaza told MovieMaker in our Summer cover story.
The Parks and Rec star first met the multitalented Atlanta star, comedian, and musician when they were performing together at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. They are also both alums of New York University. Other UCB contemporaries of that time include The Office’s Ellie Kemper, Plaza’s Parks and Rec castmate Ben Schwartz, and Silicon Valley’s Zach Woods, who also stars alongside Plaza in Spin Me Round, a new film directed by her husband, Jeff Baena.
Plaza was actually acting with Glover in the 2009 comedy Mystery Team when she got the call to audition for her breakout role in Funny People opposite Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler. Mystery Team, directed by Dan Eckman, follows a group of former child detectives who set about solving a grown-up mystery.
“Donald actually taped my [Funny People] audition, which is really funny to think about now. He taped me and did Seth Rogen’s lines,” Plaza said.
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“I sent it in, and then Allison Jones, who was casting Funny People at the time, who’s like this huge comedy casting director, said, ‘Judd [Apatow] really likes your tape, but he needs to see you do standup because the character is a standup comedian, and they need to cast someone that does standup.’ I was not a standup comedian at the time, but I just decided, Okay, I’m just going to pretend to be a standup comedian,” Plaza continued.
So, she went to her good friend Glover for help.
“I asked Donald if I could do five minutes — everything goes back to Donald Glover for some reason — I asked Donald if I could do five minutes at his standup show in Long Island City, and I had my friend tape me. I basically just did five minutes of jokes that I wrote, and I sent that tape back just thinking, Oh, maybe they’ll believe I’m a standup. And then they believed it,” she said.
The next thing she knew, she was heading to Los Angeles for a chemistry read. That week, she ended up auditioning not only for Funny People, but also for Parks and Rec and Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
The rest, as they say, is history.
A version of this story first appeared in the Summer 2022 print issue of MovieMaker Magazine.
Main Image: (L-R) D.C. Pierson, Donald Glover and Dominic Dierkes in Mystery Team