Aubrey Plaza is best described as a renaissance woman. While some will always associate Plaza with her role in Parks and Recreation, most will always associate her with the role of Lenny on Legion or her various roles on Comedy Central’s Drunk History. She most recently gained critical acclaim for her fantastic performance as Allison in the film Black Bear. What most don’t realize is that Plaza isn’t just a fantastic actor and a great comedic talent; she’s also a student of film. Her most recent project, Cinema Toast, is now streaming on Showtime, and she both writes and directs the third episode of the first season.
This series of 10 individual episodes from the Duplass Brothers focuses on a particular theme where the director and voice actors take a film in the public domain and tweak it with new dialogue to create a whole new, and sometimes twistedly funny, narrative. Think MST3K meets Bad Lip Reading and featuring a voiceover cast that includes Fred Armisen, Alison Brie, Nicole Byer, Colman Domingo, Chloe Fineman, Jake Johnson, Chris Meloni, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Christina Ricci, Dan Stevens, Lorraine Toussaint and more.
We were able to talk to Aubrey over the phone recently about her work on the third episode of the first season. Plaza discussed what attracted her to this project and broke a bit of news as well.
DS: What was so appealing about this show in particular?
AP: Well, this project is way up my alley. I just loved just the concept of it. It almost felt like a new artform me like, it’s beyond just overdubbing a movie, it’s creating a new movie out of old stuff, and I don’t know, there’s just something very film noir and nerdish about it. To me, it talked to my film school brain. I, of course, have always wanted to direct, and I’m gearing up to direct a feature for the first time. It was an amazing concept at the height of the pandemic
DS: What drew you to Loretta Young?
AP: There was just something about her, and I started reading about her birth. And her story. And I couldn’t believe what I was reading, just really unbelievable to us and then I found out, oh wait a minute, she’s not only, you know, one of the biggest movie stars that time she starred in a television series that went on for eight seasons in the fifties hour-long episodes that she’s the star of and we’re talking like 20 episodes of the season. And I’m going like, and I guess she was the first, you know, was the first female LED hour-long series longest-running series ever so long. I don’t know, I just kept going down, Loretta Young rabbit hole, I fell in love with her, and I was starting to be very inspired by her and then on a practical level.
DS: Why don’t you write more? You are so damn talented!
AP: Thank you! I mean, I do write. My process was very inspired by the source material. I don’t know; it just came out of me, and It’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last.
DS: I see other streamers throwing money around to writers and directors where the final product ends up being less than great. Then I watched this and was like, they need to throw some of that money your way, especially if you are planning a feature.
AP: It’s still early stages. But I’ve been, I’ve been writing something for a while, that I never could finish. I would say the pandemic month gave me a shove. So I have something that I, that is, you know, brewing, and I’m getting close to getting it made. It’s like if I’m going to, I’m going to go big or go home, so I’m going for it.
DS: So any hints as to what I might be because you know fans will speculate.
AP: Let’s say I’m going to create my own kind of, you know, female Tim Burton kind of thing. And that’s all I’ll say about that, but you know maybe that’s the only way I can describe it that you know maybe John Waters for kids. I’m going to be very mysterious about it. Dewey, you are not going to get any more out of me. I need someone to give me a lot of money. That’s what I need. I need to make my dream come true.
DS: you’re obviously super close that you’re even willing to hint at it. Are you at the point where you’re considering meetings, or are meetings on the horizon?
AP: Dewey …. (laughs) perhaps. I mean, it’s all happening. We’ll see if it’s in the stars.
DS: Nothing more?
AP: These are the very first days of it, but darkness is brewing, Dewey.
DS: Are you lining people up? Are you thinking of directing yourself?
AP: I have a hunch that my debut will prominently feature myself, which is something that I’ve grappled with for a while. Do I want to direct myself? You know, can I do it? I can do it all, and that’s kind of where I landed. So we’ll start there and get some incredible people along for the ride, but it will have me all over it. That’s all I can say about that.
DS: I’ll help fund it; I’m good for 20 bucks.
AP: I don’t want your money. I don’t want any crowdfunding; I don’t want. I want to make this for the, you know, for everybody. And I’ll take someone else’s money.
DS: Get that bag! Are we talking a 100 million? 200 million?
AP: (laughs) I mean, I’ll take 30. 30 is fine. You know if you want to give me 40, I’ll take it. I really need enough to do this. I need those crane shots (laughs)
DS: Are those crane shots essential?
AP: I’m not going to fall into your trap Dewey! I’m not going to tell you what happens at the end.
DS: I know what happens; you and I meet, and we live happily ever after until my wife tells me to stop daydreaming and get back to writing this story.
AP: Oh, she’ll love it, invite me over, we’ll have dinner and see what happens.
All nine episodes of the first season of Cinema Toast are available to stream on Showtime.
Photo: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock